The talent of a good designer (in any discipline) is understanding restraint and when more is just…well…more. Here are some basic pointers to keep your logo concepts sharpened, or to explore simplifying an existing logo.
(1) Choose one key concept or brand personality aspect to communicate.
At the most two (if they are both essential.) Don’t try to “pack a suitcase.”
(2) Can your concept be abstracted, rather than literal?
(3) Purge unnecessary graphic elements.
Can it be said in less? Does this detail or that stroke add to the meaning or information? If not, take it out.
(4) Try removing shadows, gradients, textures, etc.
Is the mark still strong? Does the concept still hold together?
(5) Does the brand need a mark (symbol, icon, etc.) to be memorable?
If the brand name, typography, and treatment are distinctive enough, adding a symbol may be superfluous. (You see a lot of current national and global brands going in this direction, dropping separate brand marks altogether.)
(6) Limit your number of fonts and choose stronger, more distinctive typography.
Ideally something that can stand on its own (without a mark) and be fully recognizable if it needs to.
(7) Try limiting your number of colors.
Just because you can use an unlimited number of colors online, doesn’t mean you need to. A two- or three-color palette is not only easier to extend over non-digital applications, it can be a specific color “signature” that you can own in people’s minds.
(8) Is the logo as strong in black and white as in color?
That’s the foundation. If it works in black and white, it can always work by adding color. It’s not at all guaranteed the other way around.
(9) Cut through the noise.
Gang the logo with a selection of other logos from your industry, not just from the general marketplace. Does it hold its own? Does it stand out? Or does it communicate, “me too!”
(10) View the logo at a tiny scale.
Does it hold up to recognizability and readability? If not, it’s probably too complex either in typography, mark, or both.
And remember, simple doesn’t mean “boring.”
Simple can actually be very dynamic and can allow for more varied creative exploration and stylistic variability around a nice solid iconic mark that unmistakably identifies and anchors a brand. Think of Target’s cheeky and infinitely extendable use of the bulls-eye mark (something that but for it’s specific proportions and color differs very little from a common dingbat) but whose creative and consistent application moves easily from bold graphic patterning, to visual puns on gift cards, and whimsical, fashion-forward lifestyle ads.
In fact, if you want to use your logo in decidedly non-standard ways it’s almost a requirement that the logo be simple to do this successfully.
“Ultimate simplicity leads to purity.” —Food writer Yamamoto in the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi
For more on the trend toward simplification in logos, read “Why are logos getting simpler and more minimalist?”