One of my favorite questions to have ever encountered (and to continue to ask) is, “What makes ‘good’ design, ‘good’ design?” Today, I’d like to apply that to logo design. As a Senior at Drexel, I’ve been tasked with far more projects this year than I have in previous years at Drexel. More importantly, this year, I’ve had to create logos for them as well. With the exception of for Senior Design, they’ve been for fictional companies. I doubt any of them would win any design awards, but I like to think they were designed with the company’s image in mind. For that, I’ve tried to make them “clever.”
But what is it that makes a logo clever? Does it necessarily have to be one that reflects the brand? Now, keep in mind I ask this as an Information Technology major. I’m not a designer. Eleven years ago now (side note, wow) I took a class on desktop publishing. I’ve taken two human-computer interaction courses at Drexel, both of which were 11 weeks long. That’s my design knowledge. So am I an expert in design?
Hell no. But it’s a topic that interests me. So, let’s use ai|music as an example in logo design. Do they exist? Not officially as far as I know, they’re the “label” I used to “release” old reorchestrations I did under. (If you actually exist as a real company, sorry.) Let’s start with a logo that is simply the company name.
Boom. There’s a logo for you. Is it exciting? No. Does it inspire? Doubtful. Does it reflect what the company is about? If they actually existed, no. Not even close.
Now let’s look at another example. I’m only going to make one change, and it’s a change in attempt to be clever about the logo.
Did you notice it? If you’re unfamiliar with musical notation, perhaps not. And even if you are, maybe that answer is still no. What I did was replace the line that divides “ai” and “music” with a repeat symbol. To be specific, that’s the symbol used to mark where a repeated section should start. An end repeat is flipped so that the colon part is on the left.
So why did I choose a repeat sign? And why the start repeat? This design was made with the idea that the company wants listeners to love the music they release so much, they keep repeating it. Not stop repeating, but always start.
Here’s another design with a completely different idea:
This time, I’m using a quarter rest. Why? The idea for this one was, “Music you take a break with.” Alternatively, take a quick rest from a busy day and relax. Tune out and take in the music (but please do so safely and responsibly.)
Here’s my last example:
That’s an eighth note, and probably the most recognizable of the symbols I experimented with above. That’s exactly the reason why I chose it – it’s hopefully recognizable without any detailed musical knowledge. Should a music company expect their consumers to know about music? If they are a label, I should think no. If they sell instruments or musical software, than I hope that yes, their customers do. But, the company we’re dealing with here is a label. They’re not a big name in the industry, nor have they been around since, let’s say the 60’s. They’re new, and other than the logo with just a bar, this one is likely the simplest, but also the most playful and, hopefully, “clever.”
So, with all of that in mind, should a company have to have a clever logo? I would say no, but I welcome those who try. However, I think that a successfully clever logo is one that is simple and one that people can recognize easily. For example, did you know there is a right arrow in the FedEx logo? If you didn’t, take a close look at the spacing between the “Ex” part of the logo. It’s the way it is on purpose.
Or how about the Amazon logo? Do you know why there’s an arrow from the A to the Z? Amazon: For everything from A, to Z. Amazon also started as a book seller and books at the time were alphabetized. Today, Amazon’s slogan is “And you’re done.”
Both Amazon and FedEx do have clever logos, but what’s clever about them may not be considered obvious by everyone. And I think that’s key. Neither good design nor clever design are easy things to pull off. They take remarkable skill, and I applaud those who are good at it.