Purpose of Logo and Principle of Logo Design

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In the past several years, i realized i have a heart for logos. Probably because the nature of logo's simplicity, and often geometrical elegance, and my personal penchant toward these qualities.

Since i'm a programer by profession, and in many tech corporations, languages, software, all have logos just like in many other fields, i have often find some language or groups (often small communities (⁖ lisp, python, lojban)) have very bad logos. As a fan or neutral to the group, often i bring the issue up in the respective forum to let the community know, so to speak, that their logo sucks, or that they need one, as a betterment of the particular community.

However, people in these groups are tech geekers, and are often ignorant of anything other than computing technicalities. They usually do not understand the basic meaning or purpose of logos, or the basic principles of logo graphics design. But worse, that they often do not explicitly understand that these subject existed. So my voicing about logos often met with frustration.

The following is something i wrote a few times over the past 4 or so years, that i've discussed with the lojban, lisp, python, emacs, communities. I hope it'll elucidate a bit on the subject of logos.

Purpose of Logos

Logos, is a graphical representation of a entity. It is the visual analog of names. Logos are particularly important in our modern, capitalistic, corporate environment. Look around you, you can find tens of logos in your immediate surrounding, and recognize each of them or the company, without conscious thinking.

Logo is not a fashion statement. It has strong ties with marketing and public perception, which is a general property to anything representative, such as book covers, corporation's names, people's attires.

Principles of Logo Design

Not Generic

A good logo is not something generic, even if it is beautifully rendered.

Example of logos with this problem:

gnu hurd logo old bash-org pythonHi
Bad logos. Simplistic, generic, un-impressive.
cvs logo cvs logo 2
CVS logos. Better, but still too generic.

Symbolic

One quality of good logo is that it is reminiscent to what it represents. Here are some good examples:

Distinct

ATT logo Apache HTTPD GE logo ATI Logo Coca-Cola logo
Distinctive logos.

Good logo should be distinct, a impression lock, even if it isn't reminiscent of what it represents. For example: AT&T's death star (globe connotation), Apache Webserver's plume (panache). General Electric's curlicue typeface in circle. Even typeface alone can do very good if in distinctive style: IBM stripped blue, Coke drink's cursive typeface, ATI's high-tech typeface, ebay and yahoo's colorful typefaces.

Note that many of the good logos mentioned above are in fact designed by renowned graphics artists.

Note that the logo of popular corporations are not necessarily good. Examples are: SONY, JVC, TOSHIBA, RCA, Microsoft, Google. These are just simple typefaces that are unremarkable.

Simple

Good logo should not be overly complex. It shouldn't be photographic or complex drawings.

Artistic Quality

Besides all the above general principles, a good logo has some artistic merits and quality in its execution. Good logos are often created by experienced graphics designers who have years of experience. A ugly drawing, even if satisfying all the above principles, does not make a good logo.

Further readings

In addition, your local libraries probably have many books about logos and logo history. Alternatively, ask a friend who is a full-time professional graphics designer, or a art student, she'll probably show you colorful books and periodicals and logo collections, and logo design social awards etc you didn't know existed.

PS: Logos, as a subject among human animal's activities and histories, is rather a trivial subject. And, of course, different person can have different esthetic tastes. Nor are logos a critical matter in view of the whole human endeavor. However, a minimal understanding of logos, and logo's design principles, is good to have as a general knowledge in our complex modern society inundated with computer graphics and corporate logos. (actually, recently i found out that there are academicians who calk up the issue to a term visual literacy with full discourse, which i think is overboard.)

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