Book Review: Logo Design Love

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March 25, 2010

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities by David Airey is a fantastic place to start if you're interested in creating logos that aren't just visually appealing, but are also memorable, easily recognizable, and timeless.

The book includes a ton of real-world examples from a variety of businesses; everything from the brands of Fortune 500 companies to local restaurants and other businesses have space devoted to them.

There are examples on virtually every page, lending credence to the points being discussed. Airey's extensive experience as a graphic designer shines through and lends even more credibility to the book.

It's essential reading for anyone looking to create better logo designs, whether they're just getting started or have been designing for years already.

Logo Design Love starts out with a brief history and study of iconic brands and their logos, as well as studies of lesser-known, yet still-iconic brands.

From their, Airey goes on to describe what makes an iconic brand, namely: simplicity, relevance, tradition, distinction, memorability, the ability to work at small sizes, and a single focus.

Using these seven tennets to guide your design helps to ensure the result is iconic.

While the first section focuses on design theory, Part 2 dives right into the mechanics and process of design. It stresses the importance of research and compiling an accurate design brief. A particularly useful section includes questions to ask clients to get to the heart of what they want and need.

Things like "What words do you want people to associate with your company?" and "Why does your audience need a new brand identity?" are included. It's kept simple and relevant, but goes beyond just the standard list of questions to ask and really delves into why you should ask them.

Rebranding efforts are covered in depth, mainly because there's often much more at stake in a rebranding effort than in a new brand.

While the lure of a high-paying redesign might initially seem like a win-win, it's critical that you understand from the outset why your client is looking to rebrand...rebranding simply for the sake of it or to follow the latest trends can result in disaster.

To further highlight that point, a couple of very well-known examples are included that demonstrate even large companies who pour large amounts of money into their rebranding campaigns get it wrong sometimes.

Tropicana, for instance, lost nearly $33 million in sales in two months because of a failed rebranding effort, switching back to their original packaging within roughly the same time period.

Of particular interest in this section, especially to new designers, is the chapter devoted to pricing. Airey proposes taking into consideration everything from your level of expertise to the current economy and the project specifications to determine your pricing structure, covering each with enough detail to give you a good idea of where your pricing should stand.

Also covered here are very set ideas on doing spec work and participating in online design contests:

The reality is that only one party will benefit from design contests, and that's the owner of the website hosting them...You might think that clients who host contests get value for money, but what they are presented with is a collection of designs made within minutes, with little to no regard for the goals, history, or competition of their business.

There's also a chapter that helps walk you through the entire design process, from mind-mapping with pen and paper to sketching initial concepts, to creating a finalized design. Airey even recommends using Photoshop to place the new logo design in context: on the sides of delivery trucks, on signs, and elsewhere the logo would be likely to be used in the real world.

This chapter will be of particular interest to designers who haven't had much experience in designing things like logos from scratch. It's an interesting process that focuses much more on initial concepts and coming up with a large number of ideas before narrowing it down to the couple that best fit what the company needs.

It's a slightly different workflow than is often used for other types of designs, where there are already set brand standards that have to be adhered to. Tons of real-world examples are included here, with images of actual sketches and the final logos that resulted from them.

Part 2 ends with a great chapter on how to deal with your clients, including how to have effective conversations. Branding often includes people from a variety of departments within a company, beyond many other design projects. You may be dealing with the marketing department, the CEO, the board of directors, and others within the company, and being able to effectively communicate with all of them will make the process much smoother.

Another vital point made here is that once you progress to actually presenting designs, it's important to deal directly with the decision makers at a company, even if up until that point you'd been dealing with a single point-of-contact, like a brand manager or project manager. The reason:

The last thing you want is for your carefully crafted explanations to devolve into a game of "phone tag," in which rationales are conveyed and usually quickly distorted through a mediator.

The final section of Logo Design Love deals with ongoing professional development. The first chapter in this section advocates that designers constantly update their skills and learn new skillsets to further their design work. It also talks about balancing work and life, especially in respect to not overworking yourself.

Another chapter is devoted to Q&A, covering things like usage rights, similar-looking logos, design revisions, research and handling workloads. If you read no other section of this book, read this one! Particularly relevant is the Q&A section on online portfolios. The point on background music is particularly relevant:

...Automatically loading background music is one way to have your potential client disappear before you can say, "Come ba... ." Just because there's an option to mute the sound, doesn't mean your client will bother..."

The final chapter is a list of 25 tips for logo design. They range from "Understand print costs" to "Step away from Photoshop" to "Don't be afraid of mistakes." All the tips are valuable, and include real-world examples to back up what they're saying.

Overall, Logo Design Love is an essential text for anyone who wants to expand their design skills and produce iconic logos and brand identities.

David Airey has presented a very thorough study of what makes an iconic, timeless logo in a way that's accessible even to those without an extensive design background. While it won't guarantee a successful logo design, it will certainly get you going in the right direction.

Logo Design Love, published by Peachpit Press, retails for $34.99US/CAD$41.99 and is available through For ongoing information on great logo design, check out Airey's Logo Design Love blog.

Reviewed exclusively for WDD by Cameron Chapman.

WDD Staff

WDD staff are proud to be able to bring you this daily blog about web design and development. If there's something you think we should be talking about let us know @DesignerDepot.

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