Traditionally, I have not done a lot of logo design professionally. My little niche of the graphics/advertising/marketing field is such that I am usually contracted by companies that already have their basic marketing materials (such as logos) ready, and it is my job to create whatever they need and work within the framework their current branding dictates.
Lately, however, I have been doing business with a lot of start-ups or people in the market for a re-branding, and so recently have found myself doing a number of logos designs. I am quite happy with this development, as I have always enjoyed the challenge of logo design and always wanted to do more of it.
Now, any graphic artist out there knows the struggle entailed in creating a logo. Very rarely, you get a client that trusts you implicitly and gives you a totally free hand. This however, amounts to maybe one in a thousand, and is considered more precious than gold-plated diamonds with free satellite service. The real majority cases are those where the artist is fighting like mad to do good work, and the client is fighting equally hard to destroy it.
The problem with logos is that so many people don't seem to understand what they are for. The purpose of a logo is to become an identifier of your business. A hieroglyph that means "you". They should not, and indeed cannot, show your potential customers everything about you. The idea is that they be easily recognizable, so that you can use your other marketing materials to augment their meaning so that, in time, that logo, whether it be symbolic or type-based, comes to mean "you".
Consider the Nabisco logo. If you don't know what it is, go look in your pantry. Chances are something in there will have it. On any of their products, it will be in the upper-left corner. It is a red triangle with the word "NABISCO", surrounded by something that looks vaguely like an old fashioned T.V. antennae. Nothing about that thing (and incidentally, it is actually called "The Thing" in internal Nabisco marketing documentation) seems to say anything about what Nabisco does. Taken out of context, that thing does not say "Ritz" or "Nilla Wafers". Hell, it doesn't even say "snack food".
But we all know that it means Nabisco. We've been seeing it on the upper-left corner of boxes of crackers since we were children. That thing is possibly the ultimate logo ever created. Everyone knows what it means, that silly little oval and line sketch has become a symbol, a hieroglyph; a letter in our collective alphabet, if you will, that means "Nabisco".
Every time I start to design a logo, I have a box of Ritz crackers sitting on my desk to remind me how to do it right. That ultimate conjunction of style, utility, and awareness is something every logo should aspire to. A logo should be uncomplicated, spare, even (gasp) plain. During a recent design meeting, a client lamented that one of my design concepts kept attracting their attention, but they were wary of it because it was "plain". Does anyone else see the foolishness in that? This person is admitting straight up that this logo grabs their eye, makes them look, draws them in, yet they rejected it anyway, out of some bizarre idea that people would judge the business as uninteresting or boring based on a minimalist logo. I seriously almost screamed.
Variations of that scene get repeated almost every time I do this kind of work. It is perhaps the most frustrating experience in a designer's life (and that is saying a lot). As a commercial artist, just about everything I do gets changed or edited in some way on the client end. It is just part of the job. Tastes differ, and what makes good design is of course always highly subjective. Being asked to change the color palette of a design layout or to find different photos for a web page is just a normal part of my day, and those things rarely bug me, but the struggle with logo design is heartbreaking each and every time.
Is there a point to this? Not as such, no. I just needed to vent.
But if any of you out there reading this are in the market for a logo any time soon, remember what I said here. Listen to your designer. Trust their instincts.