Mike’s Rules

November 20, 2020

Rules….ugh!

One can reasonably assume that, with a name like Rogue, we aren’t terribly fond of rules. You can almost feel the drama of our over-exaggerated eye roll coming through the screen at the mere mention of the word. In reality, that’s pretty accurate… except when it comes to logo design.

We know this is a shock coming from us, but all truly great logos follow three very basic rules. We didn’t invent the rules, but we’ve learned to embrace, nay, to harness them for the betterment of brands everywhere. 

 

Rule No. 1

A logo should make its mark.

What does that even mean? Well, as we’ve already learned, a logo is often your first impression (link to previous blog). The trick is, that impression needs to be representative of the organization, not the business. 

In other words, the subject matter of the logo doesn’t have to be the subject matter of the business itself. Here’s what one of the forefathers of logo design, Paul Rand, has to say:

“The subject matter of a logo is of relatively little importance; nor, it seems, does appropriateness always play a significant role… This does not imply that appropriateness is undesirable. It merely indicates that a one-to-one relationship, between a symbol and what is symbolized, is very often impossible to achieve and, under certain conditions, may even be objectionable.”

Ultimately, the logo derives its meaning and worth from the quality of what it represents. If a company offers a sub-par product or service, those same qualities will eventually be applied to the logo. 

As consumers, we are conditioned to associate meaning with a logo based on our interactions with its associated organization. In other words, the Starbucks logo is not a pile of coffee beans, the Nike swoosh is literally just a swoosh, and once upon a time, an apple icon had nothing to do with computers.

 

Rule No. 2

If the logo doesn’t work small, it doesn’t work. 

A business card is 3.5 inches wide. Your social media profile pic only gets 110 pixels of screen width. The best advice we give surrounding logo design is to simplify. Simplify again. Then simplify one more time. Or more commonly… Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

A logo is a beacon and a simple reminder. Its role is to point with as little distraction as possible. A complex design or a fussy illustration have an inevitably short lifespan and ultimately lead to the self-destruction of a brand.

If you’re on the fence about whether a simple mark can represent an organization as complex and grand in scale as yours, we’d like to point out that McDonald’s has managed to get by using the letter “M” for more than 50 years.

 

Rule No. 3

A logo must work in black and white.

In its most basic form, a logo absolutely must work in one color. Once all of the fancy highlights, gradients, and drop shadows have been stripped away, your logo still needs to be instantly recognizable.

While this is the most obvious rule, it’s one that’s very often overlooked for convenience.

The Mercedes logo works beautifully as a one-color icon, molded elegantly into a single piece that can be affixed to the rear of a vehicle (or as a hood ornament for the folks from my generation). Their sleek, simple mark has helped to elevate their brand and has become synonymous with luxury and performance.

Simplicity in logo design doesn’t come easy. It takes time, thought, and effort. But it’s worth it. Because design creates a memory experience, and good design adds value. If a well-designed logo associates a positive memory with a brand interaction, the opposite must be true as well.

Before you consider calling that drawing of your dog holding a broken watering can standing on a star in the middle of an outline of your state your logo, please take it from us… some rules weren’t meant to be broken.

 

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