Logo Design – What is it worth?

Ask any designer what they think about sites such as fiverr.com regarding their logo design and I can almost guarantee that you will get the same disgruntled look that I’m wearing just thinking about them. Fiverr is a website where you can pick up a logo for… you guessed it, a fiver! Sounds good right? I can totally see where people come from when they are on a tight budget, after all, starting up a business isn’t cheap but we are talking about the face of your business here, it’s not something that should be so easily overlooked.

You have to ask yourself, can a suitable logo be designed for your company even before then invention of the company itself? Absolutely not. If you are building a company based purely upon a logo then you should probably take a step back and have a good hard think about your business plan because chances are, it will fail.

To back up my statement I would like to present some well-known logos and highlight the meaning behind them leading to them being created the way that they were and furthermore, to showcase why they have stood the test of time.

Show any 5 year old a car badge and they will more than likely be able to tell you which company it belongs too, these logos are seen worldwide and the design process was not one to be taken likely.

Audi’s logo is simple and clean. The four rings of the logo represent four car companies (Audi, Horch, DKW, and Wanderer) that merged in 1932 to create Audi’s predecessor company, Auto Union. BMW is an interesting logo, the central blue and white circle is often mistakenly thought to represent a spinning aeroplane propeller. In fact, what the blue and white quadrants represent is the Bavarian Free State colours – but in the opposed order – because it was illegal to use national symbols in a commercial trademark.

I used to think that the Mitsubishi logo was a throwback to its heritage with aircraft during the second world war with what looks to be a white propeller placed in a red triangle. The colours of the logo are representative of the Japanese flag which is often seen on the wingtips of Japans military aircraft in the traditional elipse, so you can perhaps forgive me for seeing such things. According to Yataro Iwasaki, founder of the old Mitsubishi organization, the mark is suggestive of the three-leaf crest of the Tosa Clan, Yataro’s first employer, and also of the three stacked rhombuses of the Iwasaki family crest. The logo has been registered since 1914 and hasn’t changed since, how’s that for longevity?

Departing from the topic of cars, I’m going to move things onto technology behemoths, Apple. Apple’s original logo was a little less familiar, it depicted Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree, we all know how that one ends. The logo was very old fashioned and didn’t suit a promising tech company, needless to say the logo only lasted a year before Steve Jobs commissioned Rob Janoff to freshen the brand up.

Enter the ‘rainbow apple’ that we all know and are so well accustomed to. Rob Janoff added the bite to the logo so that people would be able to tell it was an apple and not a tomato, the bite also added a nerdy play on words with bite and byte, a more than fitting reference given what they do.

Steve Jobs is said to have wanted to incorporate bright colours to ‘humanise’ the company. There is no apparent reason for the order of the colours, designer Rob Janoff just expressed that the top colour had to be green for the leaf.

Former Apple executive and BeOS founder, Jean-Louis Gassée said the following about the logo:

“One of the deep mysteries to me is our logo, the symbol of lust and knowledge, bitten into, all crossed with the colors of the rainbow in the wrong order. You couldn’t dream a more appropriate logo: lust, knowledge, hope and anarchy.” 

The logo still stands more iconic than ever today, the colours were however binned in 1998 when Apple released its line of brightly coloured iMacs and iBooks. The logo now didn’t sit right and looked ever so slightly childish with a clash of bright colours. Steve Jobs wanted a bigger logo to enforce the brand and instead opted for the well-known monochrome logo.

Have you ever noticed the arrow in the negative space of the Fedex logo? Smart isn’t it, that’s what you get with true design intuition, an arrow representing the delivery process cleverly tucked away in a sleek logo. What more could you want for a leading courier company?

When you look at logos designed for well established companies, you can start to see the hard work and thought process that has been tirelessly worked into the final product.

Amazon have subtly incorporated a curved line linking the A and the Z in their logo, suffice to say Amazon offers everything from A to Z, genius! Another great example is Sony Vaio. Sony Vaio’s logo cleverly spells out ‘Vaio’ by turning an analog wave shown in the ‘V’ and the ‘A’  into a ‘1’ and a ‘0’ (I and O), the two digits used in binary code, the digital.

This sort of ingenious craft is simply not bought for £5 and hell, if it is I can’t imagine many people would feel too comfortable in paying so little for something so special.

Despite my clear dislike for cheap, nasty, discount logos I have very much enjoyed writing this blog, looking at just a few logos that really have stood the test of time and finding out what makes them so special, I think I may just go away and do a bit more digging for the next installment.

Until then however, do yourself a favor and stay away from dodgy sites telling you that all of your brand identity problems can be solved by a brand logo design that looks like this!