Notes on the Logo Design Workbook

Just a few pages in and I can see that this book really is quite something. It has everything we could need and explains it all in a very nice and easy way to understand. Here are a few notes.


A strong logo and subsequent visual system is one of a corporation’s greatest assets. As the international corporate structure has expanded in the past fifty years, so has the need for distinct corporate identification.

The world is now filled with every imaginable icon and monogram, as well as all forms of logos. Our task, as designers, is to take the commonplace–letterforms, geometric shapes, and images–and make them distinctive and meaningful.

This is a unique time, however and we are now able to design in ways unimaginable in the past. The breath of opportunity and the possibilities for the designer’s involvement in multiple media, combined with the strategies of our clients’ business, make the logo more than a nice decoration; it becomes a vital component in a company’s success.

Why and What

Let us begin with motive. Man’s desire to claim ownership is inherent. Whether this is a result of pride, greed, or home of immortality is personal. We mark our names on childhood drawings. We develop a signature, unique to each of us, to protect our identity. We care our initials into tree trunks with a heart, hoping to make a union permanent. The logo is an extension of these acts. It redefines these motives from the individual to the collective.

Logo: a distinctive symbol of a company, object, publication, person service, or idea.

What is a Logo?

This seems like an easy question. A logo is a mark on the bottom of the television screen, the top of a cereal box, or the side of a letterhead. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The world “logo” has multiple meanings, and to make the issue more complex, different words are used to describe this thing we call a logo.


A recognizable symbol used to indicate ownership or origin of goods.


A name or symbol used to show that a product is made by a particular company and legally registered.


A distinctive mark, or combination of visual forms. A graphics standards manual may call for the “signature” to be applied to all brochures. This is simply a synonym for “logo.”


Mobil Logo

A wordmark uses the company name with proprietary letterforms.


Chase Manhattan Bank Logo

The symbol is the iconic portion of a logo: The Chase Manhattan Bank symbol, the Cingular man, the Time Warner Cable eye/ear. At times the logomark may exist without the wordmark, examples being the Nike swoosh, Apple’s apple, and the CBS eye.


Wisconsin Energies Logo

A design of one or more letters, usually the initials of a name, used to identify a company, publication, person, object, or idea.

10 rules

1. Answer who, what, why?

Before anything begins, the most basic questions that must be asked and answered are “Who is the client?” “Who is the audience?” “What is needed?” A logo should grow organically from the answers to these questions.

2. Identify, don’t explain

We are identified, in good company, with names like John, Maria, or Frank. We prefer to not be called “the guy who lives by Maple Street and works at the pharmacy” or “the woman who has a beehive hairstyle and runs a trucking company.” This is long-winded, confusing and forgettable. In the same way, a logo should not literally describe the client’s business; a logo is an identifier.

There are many companies who use illustrations, but have been convinced by well-meaning, but under-equipped designers that these are logos.

3. Understand limitations

Here is the bad news: A logo is not a magic lantern. It can’t make a bad product successful or save a poorly managed corporation. This is the good news: A well-designed logo will always help a good product realize its full potential.

Smart design, along with the power of repetition, can make an enormous impact.

Swastika Logo

Until the Nazis co-opted the symbol, the swastika was used by many cultures throughout the past 3,000 years to represent life, sun, power, strength and good luck. In 1920, Adolf Hitler adopted the swastika for the Nazi insignia and flag. The swastika, a primitive and simple geometric form, became a symbol of hate, anti-Semitism, violence, death, and murder.

4. Be seductive

There is an enormous amount of dialog in design education and design-oriented critical thinking about the irrelevant of pleasurable aesthetics. Over the past fifty years, the idea of logos as visually satisfying forms has been minimized. While this may play into fashionable cynicism, most people would prefer to be seduced by a mark than repulsed by one.

5. 0Make mnemonic value

When we deconstruct how memory is made, we find there are four critical attributes of the process:

  1. We see shape and color. All our visual recognitions are based on this. Is something square and red, or round and yellow?
  2. We position it within our understanding of historical continuity. We ask ourselves, “Does this look contemporary, Victorian or Medieval?”
  3. We then use the information we have from learned responses to form meaning. We are taught very specific ideas: blue is masculine and pink is feminine, a red light means “stop,” a green light means “go.”
  4. Mnemonic value is linked seamlessly with emotional association. This is the “wild card.” It is personal and difficult to predetermine. If a green car hit you when you were a child, you may have an aversion to green.

Muzak Logo

The muzak logo uses circular shapes referencing record albums and CDs. Even the negative shapes inside the counter of the letterforms are circular, echoing the containing form. Consistency of shape contributes to the power of this logo.

6. Pose a question

When we receive input from our senses, there is a question, “What is this taste?” and a response, “This is chocolate.” We also do this when we watch television, listen to music, or read a book. This is part of our thinking process. The books and television programs we find the most unsatisfying are often the most predictable. If the viewer is given all the facts there is little reason for him to process the information.

Alternatively, if the question is presented, and the viewer must provide an answer in his head, he will be intimate with it.

7. Design for longevity

Every hour we are barraged with an endless array of images and ideas. Our visual landscape is composed of billboards and signs, television commercials, magazine advertisements, messages on packaging, and other forms of visual communication.

Almost every one of these messages is combined with a logo, but many of these have little impact and are quickly forgotten. The ideas that connect are the ideas that resonate with us emotionally. Style and trends may be enticing, but they rarely have lasting emotional resonance. The logo must be able to convey its message over a long period of time and it must be able to adapt to cultural changes. It might be exciting to design a logo that is influenced by the typeface du jour, but it will quickly become embarrassing and will need to be redesigned in later years.

ABC Logo

The ABC logo, developed by Paul Rand, has been in continual use since 1962 and has never been modified. Rand said that he designed it for durability, function, usefulness, rightness, and beauty.

8. Make the logo the foundation of a system

Like the foundation of a building, the logo is the base for all other messages. When the designer is in the process of designing a logo, it will be the only item on his computer screen. Often, when presented to a client, it will be the only item on the page. This is a mistake.

The audience will never see the logo in a void. It will always be in context, accompanied by other visuals and ideas. It may be seen on business cards, on vans, and on top of buildings.

9. Design for a variety of media

Until the 1950s most logos needed to work technically in only one medium, print. The expansion of digital, broadcast and interactive media over the last fifty years has changed this. The logo should now be legible and clear on a one-color newspaper ad, a website, three-dimensional signage, and on television. Most clients will have a predisposed idea of the logo’s usage.

DVD and CD Packaging

10. Be strong

There is an often-told story about a well-known designer throwing a leather office chair across the room when a client rejected his design. Being strong is not about throwing chairs. That’s a temper tantrum. Being strong is understanding your role, the client’s role and maintaining a clear vision.

Design depends largely on constraints. -Charles Eames

The businessman will never respect the professional who does not believe in what he does. -Paul Rand

God helps them that help themselves. -Benjamin Franklin

Good designers make trouble. – Tibor Kalman

I reckon if I publish any more than that I could get sued. If the author (or some lawyers) stumble(s) upon this: please understand that I’m in a design course and I have to take notes.

You can learn more about this book on Google Book Search.


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