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Title card for Owl Street Studio's blog article, "Logo Definition: See Why You're Probably Wrong"
Photo of Owl Street Studio's founder, Brian Rawson
Brian Rawson \
September 12, 2020
Photo of Owl Street Studio's founder, Brian Rawson

Yes How to Define a Logo Matters

What if?

What if you pour buckets of sweat into your business, your organization, your passion, and your dream and…

- You don’t reach anyone,
- You don’t get a click, a buy, a call, or an email. Not one.

What if you pour out everything you have and no one can even remember your name?
/
\
But what if everyone can remember your name? What if your name isn’t just memorable, what if it stands miles out from the pack, grabs everyone’s attention, pulls them in, and makes them never want to leave?

Wouldn’t that make all your effort worthwhile?

Well then, what’s the point of all your hard work just to slap a lousy logo on it? A logo that’s confusing to read? A logo that’s dead dull and boring? A logo that no one will remember?

Don’t worry, even with these high stakes, making a great logo isn’t nearly as tough as it sounds (I mean - it’s not exactly a picnic, but it’s not exactly like scaling Mount Everest).

To make a great logo, you’ve got to start with the basics. You’ve got to start by understanding the definition of a logo, by understanding:
- WHAT A LOGO IS
- WHAT A LOGO IS NOT,
- WHAT A LOGO’S SUPPOSED TO DO AND
- WHAT A LOGO’S NOT SUPPOSED TO DO.


So, let’s get to basics. Let’s learn about the definition of a logo. And let’s ensure that all your hard work will all be worth it.


No. This is Not What a Logo Should Do

Let’s knock out the easy stuff first. Let’s knock out some logo myths.

Here’s what most people believe a logo should do and what a logo should be:

A logo should:
- BE COOL
- BE COMPLICATED
- BE GENERIC
- BE A MINI-BIOGRAPHY.



Sorry, but these beliefs are all wrong.

When we say wrong, we mean ineffective. When you believe your logo should do any one of these myths, you make a logo that is entirely ineffective, a logo that is confusing or forgettable. You make a logo that fails to get people to remember your name, fails to help grow your business.

For example, let’s unpack why a logo’s purpose has nothing to do with being cool.

Well, to start, there is actually no such thing as a “cool” logo.

Yes, people call this logo or that logo cool like, “man, that Nike logo, that Google logo, that Facebook logo, that Amazon logo, that Fedex logo, that Netflix logo is sooo cool.”

But, sorry. No, no they’re not, and here’s why:

The word “cool” means so many different things all at the same time that it ends up meaning nothing. It’s too subjective.

For example,
\ Is the logo “cool” because you think it’s aesthetically pleasing? \ Is it “cool” just because you like how it looks? \ Or is it “cool” because it tries to convey the company's entire backstory in a single image? \ Or is it “cool” just because you like the product or service so much? \ Is Nike’s logo really “cool”? \ Or do you just really like your new sneakers?

“Cool” logos don’t exist because “cool” is just an opinion. And, we trust you know full well how opinions are just a dime a dozen, which means they’re pretty much worthless.

So, if a logo isn’t supposed to be: cool \ complicated \ generic \ or a mini-biography of the business -

What is a logo supposed to be?

This:

Logo Definition

So, if a logo isn’t supposed to be “cool”? Then what is it supposed to be? Effective.

A logo isn’t a piece of art. It's a machine. It has a specific purpose. It has a job to do. Thus, what separates a great logo from a “meh” logo is its effectiveness.

And to see how effective a logo is or is not, we have to establish the purpose of a logo, the goal, the job it has to do.  

The definition of a logo:
A LOGO’S PURPOSE IS TO IDENTIFY AND PROJECT YOUR BRAND TO YOUR MARKETPLACE.

We know - that logo definition sounds a little anticlimactic. But trust us, there’s a lotttt crammed in there.

So, let’s get unpacking.

Let’s examine each section of that definition to learn what makes a logo effective instead of just a boring sticker.

A Logo's Purpose is to:

Identify

A sample of logos created by Owl Street Studio
A sample of logos created by Owl Street Studio



First, a logo should get people to notice you.

Your logo should identify you in the crowd. People should never have to guess, squint, or wonder if that’s really you over there.

Your logo must make you stand out and set you apart from others (but not in a socially awkward way).

In other words -
YOUR LOGO SHOULD MAKE YOU LOOK LIKE YOU BELONG NEXT TO YOUR COMPETITORS WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY SETTING YOU APART FROM YOUR COMPETITORS.


A Logo's Purpose is to:

Project

The final logo made for Defy Domestic Abuse Beloit as part of their branding project with Owl Street Studio.
A snapshot from the logo-scape  made for Defy Domestic Abuse Beloit as part of their branding project with Owl Street Studio.
A snapshot from the logo-scape  made for Defy Domestic Abuse Beloit as part of their branding project with Owl Street Studio.




Next, your logo should project the emotions you want your brand to convey; and it should project the emotions that matter most to your customers and clients.

Just like a movie projector sends out light to create images on the wall, your logo sends out a design (a specific combination of shape, color, typography, size and layout) to create feelings and emotions in people.

Sounds weird, we know, but seriously high-quality logos and brands evoke emotions.

- IS NIKE SOFT, PASSIVE, AND EASY-GOING?
- IS TESLA OLD-SCHOOL AND CONSERVATIVE?
- IS..(YOU GET THE IDEA).  


In other words, your logo should use shape, color, typography, and all of the other elements of graphic design to conjure up a real reaction in your customers and clients.

And a well-thought out, a well-designed logo conjures up the strong reaction - YOU WANT your customers and clients to have.


A Logo's Purpose is to:

Project Your Brand

A sample of logos created by Owl Street Studio
A sample of logos created by Owl Street Studio

A lot of people get their logo and their brand mixed up. Most people think their logo is their brand...and that is so wrong.

It’s wrong because your brand IS NOT ONE TANGIBLE THING.

Your brand is not just your logo. It’s also not just your name or just your image or just your product or service. Your brand’s an amalgam of several abstract things. It’s character, personality, reputation, and ideals all rolled into one.

To sort this out, think of your favorite shirt. Would you say your favorite shirt is the entire encapsulation of your personality and/or personhood? No way. It’s a shirt (a super cool one, we’ll give you that), but it’s just a shirt.

Your logo is like your favorite shirt and your entire personality is like your brand.

Your logo should make you look great but it’s never your whole brand. It’s a projection of your brand to the world, just like that shirt is a projection of your personality to everyone around you.

Your brand is kind of like you, the real you; and your logo is kind of like you wearing your best outfit.

But even though your logo is just one aspect of your brand, you want it to match your brand. Just like you want your clothes to match your real personality. For instance, wearing a mohawk and leather jacket communicates one thing while wearing a fedora and a Hawiian shirt communicates something totally different. And if you’re the Hawiian shirt type, for you, a mohawk and leather jacket might be hard to pull off.

Your logo should match your brand, just like your clothes should match your personality. But though your logo should match your brand, your logo will never be your brand.

A Logo's Purpose is to:

Identify and Project Your Brand to Your Marketplace

Logo made by Owl Street Studio  for Family Services of Beloit Wisconsin fundraiser event Build Resilience
Slideshows made by Owl Street Studio  for Family Services of Beloit Wisconsin fundraiser event Build Resilience
Slideshows made by Owl Street Studio  for Family Services of Beloit Wisconsin fundraiser event Build Resilience




And last but not least, your logo should speak to your audience. It should reach out and grab the attention of all the customers and clients walking past you. It should reach your marketplace.

Think of it like this: your marketplace is just like a farmer's market. There's all the people walking in the middle of the street (6 feet apart of course), and then there's all the vendors lining the street.

And your job is to convince the people in the middle to stop at your booth instead of at the one right next to you.

And a killer logo is your first selling point, your first convincing argument, because it’s the first thing people see from across the street. It’s the first thing that gets people’s attention and draws them in

(OR IT’S THE FIRST THING TO MAKE THEM WALK RIGHT ON BY).

How to Suss Out a Good Logo from a Bad One

A sample of logos design by Owl Street Studio



Establishing the definition of a logo sets a clear criterion for evaluating logos (including your own).

With a logo definition and understanding of that definition, you can easily see if a logo measures up or not. Now, finding a good or bad logo is as simple as going down a checklist like this:

To check if your logo is effective or lackluster, is aiding your business or is hindering it, ask:
- Does the logo quickly identify you from your competitors?
- Does the logo evoke any emotions and feelings?
- Does the logo evoke emotions and feelings that match your brand?
- Does the logo evoke the emotions and feelings that matter most to your customers and clients?
- Does the logo look like it belongs next to your competitors while still setting you apart from your competitors?

- (Bonus: can the logo easily scale to big and small sizes and still be recognizable? i.e. can people still tell it’s your logo when you shrink to an app icon and when you blow it up to a city billboard? Read why logo scalability matters a whole helluva lot - right here).

How to Make a Logo Without Losing Your Mind

Yes now, after going through the definition of a logo, you have a simple logo checklist. Yes, now it’s easy to go down that list and answer, “Yes,” “No,” to see if your logo cuts the mustard or not. But we also know that turning that “No” into a “Yes” ain’t exactly a picnic.

And with everything going in your life, from adjusting to a new normal and a new work/life balance - turning that “No” into a “Yes” definitely isn’t a picnic.

So, how can you ensure you make a great logo? How can you ensure your logo gets people to remember who you are? Ensure that your logo adds momentum to your business instead of adding obstacles to your business? And how can you add this assurance without breaking a sweat or losing your sanity?

Easy.

Give us a call.

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