Why changing your logo won’t save your web business.

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Website owners often think they’re the clone of their audience. Of course, they aren’t. We’re all different and have different perspectives and opinions for many reasons. That’s good. Otherwise, this would be a pretty boring world.

Logos make little difference in the outcome of client profitability. They have other benefits but it’s not money.

“Can you make the logo bigger?” In most venues, a logo is pretty meaningless – except for the owners who see it as a “flag”. A flag can be good for morale. But a good trade name carries more weight (potent meaning) with a small audience than a clever logo. Then as long as the name is memorable, readable, and pronounceable, it *might* make a difference. For many businesses, a logo is a mere decorative element. When is the last time you paid for a solitary dingbat?

Dingbats are ornamental or decorative type characters. Dingbats are directional signage informing the reader what is important. They can also serve as graphic elements or exaggerated illustration. They work fine as a temporary symbol.

Logos can be fraught with emotional upheaval causing unneeded, repeated presentations. “Does it represent me?” Uh. It’s not supposed to represent that deep of a psychological burden. Arguments and doubt could go on forever with that as the goal.

There are three marketing components needed for success. You can succeed with any two – but it’s best if all three are present to some degree. They are: 1) the offer, 2) the market need, and 3) the design. If any two are missing, it’s a sure failure. Notice the logo is not one of the three but a subordinate part of design. In the hierarchy of what makes a difference, a logo will not guarantee much. Yes, it’s possible to succeed with bad design. It can even be more memorable for the wrong reason!

But if no one needs the client’s product or service, or the price is too high and delivery too long (bad offer) – even fantastic design cannot save the venture. Stupid ideas especially cannot be saved by design (let alone by a logo). Statistically, half of all businesses fail in the first year whether they have everything right or not. It’s a coin toss. Great design will never make up for a flawed business model or product/market fit. Some erroneously think design can be the difference between crushing your competitors, or being left in the dust. Often, it will suck your new business of its precious limited resources.

Nonetheless, design is a secret weapon giving companies an edge over competitors. If they have a good product and a market that needs it. When we say market, we mean names and addresses – a list of individuals with common needs.

We like an attractive logo. It feels good to own one. It feels nice to own a new, fancy car, too. We don’t invest much money or credence in logos. We realize ideas are disposable sometimes. If the business idea survives it’s first year then maybe it’s time to get out the check book. But you don’t need a logo when starting up. You can just use type and maybe a dingbat. With little or no investment in your company *identity*, you won’t weep so much if things fail.


Christian: I don’t get excited about logos, because I think the importance of logos is way overstated…except in the case of huge outfits like Coca-Cola, IBM, Apple, etc. Who cares what your logo looks like? Who cares what my logo looks like? Who really cares what San Diego National Bank’s logo looks like? No one.

Steve: Surprisingly, Christian and I completely agree. Logos are overrated and are useless deliverables sold by designers because small-business clients insist on one. It’s usually vanity and pride driven. There are millions and millions of logos. For a small company with limited resources, they’re a waste of time, energy, and money. The days of creating a world-recognizable Coca-Cola logo are gone for small to medium-sized companies. It simply costs too much hard, cold cash. I do believe your company name is important much more than a logo and needs more consideration.

Christian: Company name is more important than the logo…but not by much. What matters is the quality of your work…but even *more* important is your ability to market and *sell*…that’s where it’s at…that’s what will make you successful or not in the crowded arena of design these days. A logo is not going to make any big impression on your customers. As long as it doesn’t look horrible, I don’t have a problem with it.

I prefer heavier font weights because it helps the logo stand out on your web page or in a brochure or whatever. But avoid generic type. If I had to choose between two typefaces in a logo I would go for a heavier weight. For a logo, I would want a more distinctive type.

Steve: I’m always curious about the goals for a logo.

Christian: As Steve has wondered…what do you want your logo to do? If the answer is…”Just something to put on my stuff because everyone else has a logo, so I need one, too,” I’d say, “OK…this does the job. It’s all you need. Now get started on a more worthwhile project.” If your logo has to do more than that…I’d say…Fuhgeddaboudditt…it doesn’t matter…no logo will do more than that. No logo is going to make customers flock to you…
…stop wasting your brain power.

Steve: This is all true. It shocks designers to hear Christian and I who are designers ourselves say something so radical and unconventional as “Forget the logo drain.” In the end, type compatibility is *practically* insignificant. It will not alter results one iota. Yet, Christian on occasions has insisted we NOT use certain font combinations because they clash and are in poor taste. So continuity does matter to him. I have to call him out on the carpet sometimes. Want to make an adjustment, Christian?

Christian: Nothing to adjust. Yes, continuity matters. And font combinations are very important. Some combinations work and some don’t…peanut butter and jelly works but peanut butter and tomatoes probably doesn’t work…gin and tonic works but gin and coke probably doesn’t. The choice of font combinations is *very* important…and I say this not based on anything I learned as a typographer (I know you were waiting for that…sorry)…but I learned it based on my experience as a graphic designer.

But none of that matters when it comes to the typeface used in a logo. The logo is just a small part of most projects. Very small. Tucked away in the upper left-hand corner of something…or lower right-hand corner of an ad…whatever…and the typeface used in that logo matters not one iota regarding the combination of typefaces used in the project itself.

See why Steve and I get along so well? Ha ha ha…we are like evil twins…we keep each other alive while at the same time always trying to kill each other.

Steve: We’re definitely evil twins. Which is the evil one? Shall we vote on it?

Christian: So my final comment about logos is: relax…choose the logo version you like best…make sure it’s readable on a web page and in other uses, and be done with it. Steve and I have been applying the Pareto principle to website design…maybe you’ve heard of it…related to the 80 – 20 rule…I recommend you read up on that, and think for a few minutes about how that principle might apply to the amount of time and work you probably are putting into your logo project….see if you think it’s worth it.

Steve: Our philosophy is a great example of where reducing expenditure (optimization) can prevent ulcers and sleepless nights.

Christian: Designers spend countless hours and hours thinking about logos and constructing the logo, etc…time and energy that would have been much better used on other projects. Forget about evil twins…Steve and I are like Siamese twins on this one.


Logos trigger our ranting and emotion. Here’s why:

Bullying clients have egotistical needs for a bigger, better, more intricate logo. It’s absurd and wasteful conflict and a power struggle. These are toxic clients. They suppose their logo is *them.* A simple dingbat would do. Toxic clients over invest and get ulcers. They delay projects and create “distracting noise.” What is most important for real-world results? Getting family members and employees to vote on a new logo is a cop-out (like they will tell owners the truth).

Real audiences care very little about a logo. It doesn’t matter whether they paid 1 million dollars or got it from freeware clipart.

Microsoft paid Paula Scher 1 million dollars for the new one-color Windows logo done in 2012.

Ridiculous! Do you think that logo made Microsoft money? We doubt it. But the technical upside was it loaded faster on mobile devices. So better? Maybe?

We’ve also bought logos from greedy designers. After getting our deposit, they went to the Bahamas vacationing with their partners. That happened. They preyed on our design naivety and vanity. They overcharged us and were opportunists – if not pirates. So we see the world of logos as artificial and trite – droll and inefficient.

The mere word “logo” is an emotional trigger for us now. Say, “logo” or “logotype” and we have visceral spasms and froth at the mouth with eyes glowing red.

We apologize for going ballistic about your precious logo. A logo is an expected, repetitive design element or accessorized decoration. What it changes is intangible, abstract, and immeasurable.

Logos rarely (never?) move the profit needle. If they do, someone spent too much money forcing the symbol to have meaning and relevance.

With that said, better logos are cliché. Then they become a shortcut to human understanding. But generally, they are too poetic or abstract or ornate.

Godspeed-

Steve Teare
performance engineer
May 2021

 

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