Kirkpatrick Communications Kirkpatrick Communications
Only the Logo 

When you think of a company, many times the first thing that comes to mind is its logo. Think of IBM and the logo comes to mind before the product line, or Louis Gerstner, or a computer. Think of McDonald's and does anything precede the golden arches? Intel and the dropped "e"?

With something as obviously important as the single visual impression of the company, there is much controversy on the importance of the logo. Some say it's only a symbol, some say product and quality count for much more, some say only in consumer products do logos matter. Keep in mind that logos, like any piece of art, are very subjective. Some people like Picasso, some don't. Same holds true for logos - and their importance.

When considering a new logo, or changing your current one, remember these points:

Think About Image First

What image do you want to present to your market? That's the first goal of a good logo. IBM means business and the logo is simple, well defined, straight to the point, basic blue. The bull in the Merrill Lynch logo stands for aggressiveness, charging forward. What's a "bull" market mean? Heading up, aggressive, charging forward.

Does your logo represent your company? When a customer looks at the logo do they get the impression you want to convey?


Two words about color in logos. Stay basic. Red, blue, black, white and that's about it. Green, yellow, brown, purple maybe, but be careful. Stay with what people are least offended by and that's red, blue, black and white.

And stay away from trendy. Teal is very fashionable and hip today. Just look at the success the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Mighty Ducks hockey teams have had selling team logo merchandise. Maybe since both men and women like the color (that's why it was chosen in those two cases), it will eventually slide into the ranks of traditional. But it's the exception, not the rule.

Using all four basic colors can work on logos, but it's expensive to reproduce. Consider the effectiveness of the once bitten piece of fruit in the Apple Computer logo. Nice touch, but they pay for four color printing every time the logo is reproduced. Now they have gone to an all white logo.

How Much Exposure Does the Logo Receive?

Pepsi has a million ways to get exposure for their corporate symbol. Advertisements, billboards, dispensing machines, scoreboards, etc., etc., ad nauseam. They can afford to change their logo often. People recognize a change quickly and therefore accept it more readily. Or they don't even notice a small subtle change, and small subtle changes over time can be an effective way to make big changes.

How many chances (read that "money") do you have to make an impact with a new logo? Will you confuse the consumer with a new look? For example, Office Depot, the warehouse office supply chain, has two separate logos. One in red, one in blue, both spelling out the name of the company in different script lettering. And they use them both at the same time. Huh? I don't get it. Which is which and why the difference?

Outdated vs. Traditional

There is often a fine line between outdated and traditional when it comes to logos. Many companies never change their logos because they are steeped in tradition. Don't change just for change sake. But if your logo looks like it was born in the 1960s, maybe it's time for a change. If the font, or lettering, or color is steeped in 1960, consider modifications. Remember, you can make subtle, minor changes and still accomplish modernization. Update the color, change the font style, eliminate a graphic.

Times to Update, Times to Overhaul

Does your logo need a slight modification or major surgery? Can an almost unnoticeable change in color, font or lettering accomplish the objective of bringing the logo into the new millennium? Or are you and the logo ready for a radical logo-ectomy?

Here's a good list of times to overhaul the symbol of your company:

  1. You've just gone through a major merger or acquisition and you need to reflect the new direction of the corporation.

  2. A big change is coming for the company and the logo will be leading the charge.

  3. The product line is much different now than when the logo was created.

  4. The company needs a facelift and it makes sense to start with the logo.

  5. It's time for a change. And everyone from the president to the accountant to the sales department agrees. (Take note: in many small companies, the president actually created the logo himself and would rather have his nose pierced than change "his baby"). (Take another note: consensus will be almost impossible; you might have to settle for a majority).

How to Produce the Logo

In this day and age of electronic art, production of the new or revised logo isn't as simple as days gone by. Reproducibility should be a major focus - can your logo be easily reproduced without interfering with the design and resolution?

Most graphic artists recommend that the logo be produced as an EPS file (for encapsulated post script). That type of file can be converted to another type of file most easily. Rather than using a convenient font for any text in the logo, have it created as a piece of artwork. When the logo is reproduced the original letters will appear as designed, rather than having the reproducing computer select a font substitute if the logo font is unavailable.

The Final Word

As in many marketing ideas, consensus is often right. If most people like an idea, it can work. The same can be said for logos. If all of this information has been more confusing than help, rely on the tried and true method. Ask a lot of people about your logo. Gather the feedback and develop an opinion. Then add a good dose of common sense and make your decision. As in most things in life, you can always change your mind and make it better if it doesn't work the first time. After all, it's only a logo.