I Hate This Logo

While redesigning my website, I got the chance to go through my archives to decide what to share. I came across a lot of old work from my first few years as a designer. Most of that stuff is not fit to be shown off. I thought it'd be fun to revisit some of them with new eyes and see where I went wrong.

The first logo I ever designed professionally. I think I charged the client $50.

Before I begin tearing this logo apart, a little backstory. The year was 2005, I was working nights as a custodian at an elementary school in Brooklyn, New York. I was venturing out into the world of freelance graphic design and I was lost.

Back then, we didn’t have a plethora of resources the way we do today. The Internet wasn’t bursting at the seams with information, references, tutorials, etc. I can't remember how I got the word out that I was a graphic designer and ready for work. Nonetheless, this was the first logo that I have ever designed “professionally.”

As a new kid on the block, I was desperate to work and eager to please. I did everything the client asked for, and it's evident in the finished product. Yes, you want to give the client exactly what they want, but as the designer, you're also there to guide them with your expertise. I had none.

Single-color logos

Single-color logos

The first thing offending my sensibilities: too many colors. A logo, to be a great logo, should work in a single color, no matter how intricate, detailed or complex. If it doesn't look good in a one-color palette, that means the composition is weak. Fix it. Once you check off that criteria, adding colors should be no problem, but should still be kept to a minimum. I like to work with a max of 3. This one has 8 different colors.

Another thing I dislike about this logo is the inconsistency in the thickness of the lines. The line around the bowtie is different from the line around the hands, which is different from the line on the soles of the sneakers, and the white lines in the hat.

The text doesn't need the blue outline, and neither does the microphone. The image is too close to the name. There are entirely too many elements in this logo that will get lost or will be hard to read when scaled down.

The client was thrilled with the logo. We'd show it off proudly on his flyers I designed.

Obviously, when I first created this logo, I loved it, and so did the client. But I was young and inexperienced. I was in need of work, and in need of adding pieces to my portfolio. I didn't have the know-how to create industry-standard designs. They say hindsight is 20/20, and I'm seeing my mistakes with LASIK clarity.

Why Great Design is Important

We all have the innate ability to create. It is in us. Anyone of us can write a poem, or paint a portrait. Anyone of us can produce a podcast, or host a weekly video series. It's in our nature to make things.

With the proliferation of technology, now everyone can feel like a pro. Prometheus stealing fire from the Gods, etc. Anyone of us can download an app, or purchase software, and become a designer. However, not all of us have studied color theory or the golden ratio. Not all of us have looked into the Gestalt principles or the Fibonacci number. Not all of us understand basic graphic design elements like alignment, hierarchy, and balance.

brands_times_square.png

Now, more than ever, design is an important aspect of your business. Before we experience your product or service, we see it. It's in the aisles at our local supermarket. It's in the ads in our magazines. It's in a picture on our timeline while we scroll our phones. Your brand is the reputation that precedes your business. Do you really want to leave that in the hands of just anyone?

You may be a genius, and you may have thought of something that will change the world. But if you can't make it presentable, beautiful, and attractive to people, they're not going to get it. They're not going to listen. They're not going to care. You could lose millions in revenue simply because people don't like "the way it looks." Do you want to risk that?

You cooked a great meal for your family the other night, but nobody's hiring you to cater a wedding. Save time and money by letting an expert take care of it. In short, anyone can get the job done, but a professional will do it well.

Logo Clones

We're all working with the same finite amount of resources. There's only so many different permutations of colors, shapes, and patterns that can exist. No one is secretly holding on to a game changer; an unknown design element. As a result, that great idea you've been sitting on? There’s a good chance someone has come up with something similar.

An image of a bear. A blue/black color pallete. What are the odds?

An image of a bear. A blue/black color pallete. What are the odds?

There's a difference between something being a derivative, something being inspired, and a blatant ripoff. It's a fine line to straddle. Don't let similarities deter you from a good idea. Also, don't dress like everyone else and expect to stand out.

If the color red gives off the feeling of urgency that you're looking for, use it! If a skull communicates fully that idea of dread that you want to inspire, go for it! Just don't forget to set yourself apart.

The John Deere logo, and a deer-crossing sign.

The John Deere logo, and a deer-crossing sign.

In a video called "It Doesn't Have to be Unique," from the Lynda.com course "Graphic Design: Logo Design Tips and Tricks," John McWade talks about the similarities between the logos for household brand names such as Volvo, Honda, and Sony.

Font weight and color aren't the only things that differentiate these companies. So does their brand.

Font weight and color aren't the only things that differentiate these companies. So does their brand.

Each is set in an extended version of the typeface Clarendon, or something very similar. It’s an Egyptian style slab serif; all uppercase; practically the same number of letters. Sony is a little lighter, Volvo a little heavier. Pretty obviously, logo types don’t have to be unique.
— John McWade

This phenomenon isn't unique to just logos. Everywhere you look, everything you hear, it came from somewhere else. "Everything is a Remix," a video series by Kirby Ferguson, breaks down the way ideas build on previous ideas, making something new and fresh. You'll be surprised how many things are creative descendants of other things. Originality and creativity are not what we once thought.

"There's nothing new under the sun." You already knew that.