Logo Tutorial #8: One-Hit Blunder

People think alike. That’s the whole premise behind the Family Feud game show. They survey one-hundred people and typically fifty percent of those surveyed will respond with one of the top two answers. Those answers are easily guessed. The answers that fewer people give are much more difficult to figure out.

My pastor has said that the key to creativity is not going with your first idea. And that concept stuck with me. In his case, he follows this rule when coming up with sermon illustrations. When it comes to logo design, it only makes sense that the first concept you develop is the same concept many others would develop and have developed. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. But when it comes to branding and identity you want a level of uniqueness.

This concept applies on two levels: the concept and the execution.

Let’s face it. Some industries have a limited number of symbols that apply to them. So while I encourage you to not immediately settle on a hammer as your concept for a carpenter’s logo, that’s what you may end up using. The point isn’t that you cannot use your first idea. The point is that you should put serious effort into considering others. You may very well decide that your first idea was best.

But this rule is especially relevant when it comes to execution. If you decide the very stereotypical hammer is the best choice for your carpenter client’s logo, that’s absolutely fine. But now you need to execute. You need to determine how to integrate the hammer image and the company name. With stereotypical images, I consider your task to be a bit more difficult. There is no uniqueness in your image, so it needs to happen via your execution.

This is now your chance to exercise creativity. That doesn’t mean you go off the wall! Keep in mind the previous topics we discussed: stick to one concept, remember the importance of fonts, and don’t get too clever. People brainstorm in different ways, but I encourage you to step away from the computer. Sit down with paper and pencil and start scribbling down the ideas that come to mind. It doesn’t matter if you’re not good at sketching. That’s not the point. These scribbles do not have to look good. You’re simply documenting ideas so you can compare and refine. I sometimes get lazy and skip this step. But when I do come back to it, I’m always surprised by how quickly I end up with a concept I love.

When it comes to logo design, I’ve been telling you to keep it simple and not try too hard. This article challenges that advice and says, “Yeah, but push the limits a bit and make sure you don’t end up with something that’s lackluster.” Creative doesn’t mean crazy, and simple doesn’t mean boring. Strike a balance—you won’t nail it with your first idea. Develop a nose for creative simplicity and your results will soar.

Articles in this series on logo design

  1. No Photos, Please
  2. Vector Victory
  3. Don’t Be Literal
  4. Be Fontastic!
  5. Black & White
  6. Single Concept
  7. Never Clever
  8. One-Hit Blunder
  9. Client Headaches
  10. Forget Design

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