Bonefrog Creative Services |

Logo...or Illustration?

by Michael Waite, Bonefrog Creative

"What we want for our logo," she told me, "is a string of llamas coming over hill, with the lead rope in the beak of an eagle soaring high above."

Despite my counsel otherwise, she insisted that this was what she'd have for her logo. She got it, of course.

Problem was, her newly minted logo—the graphical identity for her new llama ranch—went out into the business world a cripple, bereft of its strongest asset: versatility.

The job of a logo in the marketplace is a tough one. It's out there on the front lines, doing the heavy lifting for the company's branding efforts, tirelessly pushing to imprint itself into the minds-eye of consumer and client. Logos that succeed shine through the visual noise. Logos that succeed are instantly recognized and positively positioned in the mind. Logos that succeed whisper seductively to the mind of products and services without ever saying a word. A logo of this caliber is a powerful, strategic cog in an organization's life-pumping machinery.

But to be able to have such success, a logo needs a carefully-crafted versatility. A logo needs the ability go anywhere, be imprinted on anything. A logo must be able to function both billboard big and button-ad small. It must purr in full color and yet loose none of its beauty when asked to perform in black and white or as a knockout reverse.

That llama rancher's new logo couldn't do all that. Sure, it was technically a logo, used like a logo, but what it really was a complex illustration with the business name set beneath. The elements she dictated simply cannot be distilled into a graphical package that does all it must do.

Effective, hard-working logos must be inherently simple and boldly executed. No thin lines that blink out of existence when reduced, no tonal values that get blotched-up ugly when photocopied or scanned or printed on ink-thirsty newsprint.

Heck, a logo need not even have a graphical element beyond the typeface that carries the name itself. But if it does, be sure you're getting a versatile mark and not an overly-complex illustration. An example of well-executed logo with a simple illustrative element is that FedEx Home Delivery pup. He's cute, apt, and versatile. Big, small or low rez, that pup will hunt.

My llama-ranching client and others who use logos with heavily-illustrated elements will be fine as long as they recognize the limitations they face. The sign out front, the vehicle graphics and tee shirts, and even the small canvas of a business card can all handle the reproduction requirements of illustrative complexity, but the longer someone has to look at your logo in an attempt to discover out what you've got going on, the less likely they'll do it. Or remember it. Bottom line: complex illustrations are best left to the support role in the business-image arena. Use a logo that is built to carry the load you're asking it to carry.
phone: (208) 776-5210

© Michael Waite • (May be reprinted as long as contact information is included)