The history of logos is riddled with horrific miscues and outright stupidities. NBC retired its noble peacock in 1975, replacing it with two trapezoids forming an N. The Burbank execs shelled out the jaw dropping price of $1 million for the absurdly simple logo, which at the time would have purchased 154 new Corvette convertibles. The worst part was not the plainness of the design or the outrageous cost, but the fact that it was lifted from Nebraska’s PBS affiliates and cost NBC nearly another million dollars in a settlement! Changing a logo can be a wrenching experience for any company, but there are ways to ensure that the transition goes smoothly.

Microsoft & The Gap: What Were You Thinking?

Microsoft recently released its new super-plain logo for Windows 8 and it seemed as if it heralded another NBC-type fiasco. The barrage of negative online opinions started immediately with the winner of the snarkiest comment being “It’s 4 BSODs coming at ya!” Given the fact that for three decades Windows users have had the unpleasant experience of staring at Blue Screens Of Death when their operating systems crashed, this does not seem like the preferred OS aspect that Microsoft should be heralding. Unfortunately the Redmond giant is generally insensitive to public opinion as it stumbles along its own path. When The Gap replaced its traditional blue square and white ultra-condensed type with plain black letters and a small blue box about a year ago, the symphony of social media protests reached new heights on the gripe-o-meter, forcing the company to backtrack.

All of these examples were costly for their companies in both squandered budgets and public black eyes, so when it comes time for you to change logos, you would be well advised to follow these tips:

  1. Keep it simple – Shun overly complex or “olde tyme” designs for something simple and striking that not only is memorable but has a direct relationship to your brand’s products or services.
  2. Stick with vectors – It’s tempting to throw in drop shadows, embossing, graduated screens and the rest of the Photoshop effects library, but basic vectors reproduce best at any size.
  3. 2D, not 3D – It seems a shame with all of the new technology that makes designs pop off the page to stick with static flat designs, but they always work better and are more widely applicable than three-dimensional ones.
  4. Design for the future – Your basic logo should last you for decades, so select a logo that can be readily updated, as timeless designs will always be more appropriate than “trendy” ones.
  5. Primary preference – Primary colors work best on logos and are easy and inexpensive to reproduce, as requiring PMS match colors on business cards and stationary can triple the cost of printing!
  6. Be square – The best aspect ratio for a logo is as close to square as possible. When you try to use a more extreme shape it will be far more difficult to cram into smaller spots such as social media avatars.
  7. Avoid taglines – Your logo is a street sign, not an ad, so keep in mind that you’re not trying to describe what you’re selling, just identifying yourself among your competitors.
  8. B&W + inverts – If your logo looks great in color but turns into a blob when inverted or run in black and white, you need to redesign.
  9. 1 font, 2 at most – If you have to go with multiple fonts, your logo will look muddled and ill-defined, so you’re way better off finding a font that works and sticking with it. But the single greatest tip is invariably…
  10. Research & preview – Your logo has to be unique, so create mock-ups of the options and drag and drop them into Google Images to see if anything similar already exists. Once you have a number of designs that can be used, plunk them all up on your social media presence and let your followers vote on their favorite!

The proper logo can inspire consumer trust, confidence and loyalty – and the wrong one can demolish it all. So choose carefully!