(As published in the Sunday Star Times, August 10, 2014)
The swoosh. Three stripes. Five rings. An apple with a bite taken from it. A bunny in a bow tie. A sleek black leaping cat. One red circle inside another. Four silver rings, interlinked side by side. This list of images is an impressive roll call of the world’s most recognisable companies. What’s really impressive is that all of these logos are purely visual – they feature no words or company names and yet it only takes a single glance at them to recognize exactly what company they represent. How’s that for powerful branding and marketing?
And any parent knows how powerful those iconic golden arches are. Not only do they stand out against the twilight sky, they’re also high enough off the ground for the littlest person in the car to spy it from the back seat. Until now, I assumed the yellow M was simply a giant M for McDonald’s. Apparently not. They’re actually a reflection of the architecture of the first McDonald’s restaurants, which featured yellow arches either side of the building that looked like an M from a certain vantage point.
I also recently read the story behind another world-famous logo: Nike’s swoosh. These days, you see it emblazoned on everything, from shoes and sports gear to huge buildings. Its simple form is ambiguous enough that it could stand for so many things. Movement. Fluidity. A tick. Just do it – check. It’s the sort of logo you can imagine was devised over a month by a team of people with quite a substantial budget. Or not…
The swoosh was actually designed by an American woman named Carolyn Davidson, who helped out Nike founder Phil Knight with graphic design work. For $2 an hour, she’d “flash” up graphs and data for his meetings in the early 70s. One day he asked her to design a logo. She created a few options but the swoosh was her favourite. Knight wasn’t sold. His reaction to the now world-famous logo? “Well, I don’t love it, but maybe it will grow on me.”
With no time for Carolyn to refine the concept, the swoosh was put into production. The cost of creation? $35. That $35 logo is now one of the world’s most recognisable symbols.
Logos and branding are a bit like birthday presents – it’s not about how much they cost or who did them, but about the thought that goes into them.
When creating a company logo, there are 4 general rules you should keep in mind.
1. It should be simple. A simple shape, simple colours (which also makes printing more cost effective), simple in design.
2. It should be scaleable. That is, it should look good small on a business card as well as blown up on a billboard. It should also be scaleable for your business’ life – will it grow with you as you take your business to the next level?
3. It should be professional. No matter what your line of business, what customers you target or what quality of goods or services you offer, your logo should be professional to reflect the way your company (hopefully) acts.
4. It should be easily recognisable and different to that of your competitors. If you are an electrician, perhaps steer away from a plug or power point in your design or you’ll be competing with 92% of other electricians out there.
Your marketing material will hinge off your logo so make it count – put some thought into it. If you’re lucky, it will still be around in a few decades and perhaps internationally recognised! And, like the swoosh, it may be worth a fortune: years later, Nike invited Davidson to a special lunch in which they presented her with a gold ring in the shape of a swoosh and 500 Nike shares – which are now worth more than $640,000. Nice! So how happy are you with your logo?
Zac de Silva is a business coach and professional speaker. Contact him on email@example.com for business coaching, business strategy or speaking engagements.