Understanding the Basics of Your Logo

If a company executes on the product, the service, the narrative, the user experience, and the many other things that go into a successful business, the easiest thing to get over is a logo. If your product sucks, your logo design means nothing.
— Gary Vaynerchuck

As GaryVee is alluding to, your logo matters, but only inasmuch as every single thing in your business matters. No more, no less.   

The odd thing about your logo is that it doesn’t actually mean anything until somebody gives it meaning. The Nike Swoosh is brilliant, unless Nike shoes fell apart after you did three box jumps. The Apple logo is iconic, unless their iPhones froze the first time you sent an emoji. Paul Rand, one of the most respected designers in the world, has said, “It is only by association with a product, a service, a business, or a corporation that a logo takes on any real meaning. It derives its meaning and usefulness from the quality of that which it symbolizes. If a company is second rate, the logo will eventually be perceived as second rate.”

So, your logo will be brilliant only if the value you add to the individual who is judging that logo is brilliant.

That said, there are some best practices to think about when looking to create or update your logo. They are:

Simplicity

Two of the biggest and most recognizable brands in our world include CrossFit HQ (of course) and Rogue Fitness. Let’s take a look at their logos:

CFlogo.png
RogueLogo.jpg

They have a lot in common, but perhaps nothing more-so than their absolute simplicity. If these logos were a clay sculpture of a head, you couldn’t reduce them any further without needing to chop an ear off or scrape of the nose. 

Keep your logo simple because simple is what will be most memorable.  

Distinctiveness

It’s important to remember that CrossFit Affiliates are local small businesses. In a world that feels increasingly and overwhelmingly digital (and therefore global), you need to recognize that your footprint is narrow. You exist within a 50 mile radius of your current and prospective clients. 

This means that your logo is not going to be placed beside every CrossFit logo on the planet, but instead only those two, three, or four other affiliates somebody might consider joining. Given that, it’s worth the time & effort to look at those logos, to determine how yours will be distinct & memorable.

Timelessness

Would your logo have looked good, distinctive, & appropriate in 2007 as it will in 2027? Aim for a design that satisfies that criteria and stay away from anything (or any designer) that aims to be “on trend.” 

Versatility

This one is more practical: Can your logo be useful in every place it will be used, from your avatar on social media, to your website, to the back of a t-shirt? Think about what happens when you shrink it to the size of a business card or blow it up to put on the side of the building. What gets lost? What calls too much attention to itself? Likewise, does your logo work when it’s black & white?  

One challenge you have as affiliates is, almost by default, the names of your business is longer than we’d like them to be. CrossFit New England, for example, is a mouthful, design-wise. It takes up far more real estate than you would prefer.

As a result, we default more often than not to an abbreviation: CFNE. (The irony, of course, being that when you say it out loud, CFNE is only one syllable shorter than saying CrossFit New England.) It’s outside the scope of my point here to dive into the pros and cons of abbreviating the name of your business, but suffice it to say that you’ll also want to consider creating a “child” logo (the “parent” being the full logo), for use where the sheer girth of your business name gets into the way of where you need it to live.

Appropriateness

Let’s take a look at the Harley Davidson logo:

harleylogo.jpg

You don’t have to be a designer to recognize that this logo isn’t aiming to appeal to teenage girls. When we talk about the appropriateness of a logo, what we’re really talking about is that: At first glance, can I tell if it’s “talking” to me or not? 

Writer Bernadette Jiwa says in Marketing: A Love Story, “In a world of finite time and infinite choices, it’s easier than ever before to rationalize walking past.” The job of your logo, then, is twofold: First & most obviously to be an attractive, appropriate representation of your business. Second & just as importantly, it has to avoid turning off prospective members by aligning with the story they are already telling themselves about who they are. This is because only when that story is in alignment with the story you are telling them about yourself can any progress be made. 

Are you a hardcore gym that doesn’t have heat in the winter, that doesn’t have showers in the bathroom, & that believes chalk is fancy? (No judgement.) If so, your logo should express that. Conversely, are you running a boutique gym with towel service, saunas, & a smoothie bar? Make sure your logo reflects that.

If I’m the kind of person who is attracted to loud music, cold mornings, and rusted metal plates, then your logo should signal to me that I belong there. If I like smoothies and steam baths, your logo should tell me I belong there instead. (If you have a gym that plays loud music, has rusted metal plates, & offers a smoothie bar, call me. I’d love to see that.)

Patrick Cummings