Not all logos are born equal. Like everything else, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly and as a professional I want to ensure that I avoid producing anything that can fit into the latter two categories!

A logo can be an introduction, a mark of quality, a cue to purchase, a status symbol or simply an indication of identity. In any case, a good one can go a long way to establishing a brand whereas a bad one can detract and become a regrettable, costly and even embarrassing blemish. It’s quite possible that it has been an expensive investment so making sure it’s as close to perfect as possible should be a given, however that is measured.

‘Perfect’ might be subjective, ‘good’ shouldn’t be. There are criteria we, as logo designers, should be bearing in mind and measuring against as we go about our work. How do we make sure our client’s investment is well handled? How do we define ‘good’?

‘Perfect’ might be subjective, ‘good’ shouldn’t be.

Not all of these questions will be answered in the positive every single time. A good logo might even fulfil just one of these criteria but it’s a case of weighing up the value of that criteria and the aim of the brief to know what can be sacrificed and what we should protect vigorously.

Is it relevant?

Your brief should form the foundation of your whole process. Making sure the logo is on-brief and relevant to the market (considering symbolism, style, colour etc.) is an essential part of creating a good logo. As long as you can point back to the brief and offer reasonable justification for any design decisions made, even if it’s to purposefully push in a new, unexpected decision, you should find that your logo achieves this basic level of quality.

Is it appropriate?

Check, check and double check! Don’t let something slip through the net that is crude, tasteless, taboo, controversial or easily misconstrued. There are a lot of pedants out there just waiting to pounce on any mistakes – don’t let a faux pas cause your logo to fall at the first hurdle.

Is it in-character?

Again, the brief you have been given and, hopefully, researched should have allowed you to really get to know the intimate details about the personality and positioning of your client’s business or organization – their brand. Whilst the logo itself can’t be completely responsible for communicating that brand, your client almost certainly has enough to worry about without the confusion or obstructions that can be caused by a logo that contradicts or doesn’t align with their brand character.

Is it original?

As mentioned, a logo should be a symbol that represents a brand and what brand wants to be known for being similar to something else? Dishonorable practices such as plagiarism and over-reliance on existing influences are clearly the extreme (yet all too common) but industry clichés and current trends can also be obstacles that prevent a logo ever really living up to their potential. A clear, original concept is the ideal and, although it can be hard to find, can really be the difference and capture the uniqueness of the client and their goals.

Is it ownable?

Following on from the previous point, a logo should be ‘ownable’. Many clients wish to protect their logo as a registered trademark and that’s very hard to do if there isn’t a certain amount of originality to the design and concept. Even if it’s not to be ratified legally, the client should be able to feel that their logo is something unique that they can feel ownership of.

Just how different is the concept? Is there an element that makes it truly identifiable? Even slight adjustments to letterforms can make the difference and I rarely use a font straight out of the can as part of a logo design for that reason.

Is it iconic?

Many of the best logos are simple and memorable. Often they can be scribbled roughly on a napkin and easily recognized – partly because they are so ingrained in our society (MacDonalds, Nike, Coca-Cola) but also because of the uncomplicated, familiar shapes that are used (Mercedes, HSBC, Vodafone).

MacDonalds don’t use a burger and Mercedes aren’t represented by a car – avoiding obvious, literal associations is a first step on creating something iconic rather than clichéd.

Is it well crafted?

A lot of logos fall down here. The concept may be great; the idea, iconic and the potential, huge but unless it’s rendered beautifully and fit-for-purpose it will still fall short. For a start, 99% of logos should be built in scaleable vector format, allowing them to be used on the front of a building, a newspaper, a business card or a website without losing quality.

They should also be recognisable in monotone as well as full colour, have smooth Bezier curves, accurate typography and a balanced layout. All these are essential to making sure it looks well considered and professionally produced.

These questions form a checklist I try to answer with all my logo designs – I even include the list on my summary of the brief and first presentation of ideas so that my clients can see what I’m aiming to achieve for them. In some instances some criteria may be sacrificed; even if a logo isn’t iconic or the concept groundbreaking, for example, its beautiful crafting could still make it a great logo.

Do you have similar list of principles? What makes a good logo for you?  Are there any logos that you’d consider good despite not ticking the majority of these boxes?