Categorized | design

When your logo goes terribly, terribly wrong

I normally don’t go for humor at the expense of people who are trying their best but don’t really know what they’re doing, so I would normally pass on passing on a link like this. But the grim reality is this: if you’re launching a new business on a shoestring, then it’s not like you can afford Walter Landor to design your logo (which would probably set you back five or six figures). You’re going to get some clown who just learned Photoshop (but doesn’t know fundamentals like kerning or color) or a starving student who’s got the skills but not the, shall we say, humility and temperance (students and young graphic designers tend to let their creativity get away with them and they forget about certain immovable objects like, oh, the audience).

And it’s not like you have the time to get the necessary training to figure out good typography, good design, logo applications, and suitability to your audience. Too often you have to fall back on your own subjective response, which is literally no help whatsoever in deciding on a good logo. The words, “I like it,” should be banished from all discussions of your logo unless you want to end up looking like a dunce.

So in that spirit (and not in the spirit at laughing at sincere people), we share with you the sarcastic, scatalogical, and sometimes simplistic, Your Logo Makes Me Barf — a blog name as subtle as it is wholesome.

After the jump, I’ll take you on a tour of my favorite spewriffic examples of logos gone terribly wrong.

Now, the problem I have with this site is that most of the logos are too easy. You don’t make fun of logos done by people who can’t design for people who can’t afford a logo. If you end up with logos like this, you need to throw them up. The real bad ones, though, are where the designer knows how to design, but doesn’t under basic logo applications, or gets the concept wrong, or just plain doesn’t look at what they’re designing. I can’t tell you how many times I see a startup’s logo, shake my head, and say “Weren’t they looking? Weren’t they thinking?”

So, in the “why didn’t they think” or “why didn’t they look” department, here are my favorite logo bloopers from Your Logo Makes Me Barf:

This is a classic example of a designer and a client looking with their ass rather than their eyes. The illustration is professionally done and downright cute. But didn’t anyone notice what it looks like the dog is doing to the cat? Really, you want to notice something like this rather than having your customers notice it later.

Probably the most serious challenge you face when putting together a logo is the designer-on-autopilot problem. Sometimes, designers just don’t have any ideas (sometimes they don’t have ideas for their entire career). This is a particular problem with the Web-based logo designers who offer you a custom logo for sixty, seventy, or a hundred bucks (we feature two such logo houses in our book, Shoestring Venture, but they’re actually pretty good). For the most part, however, the logo designers you hire “cheap” or the Web-based logo houses will just recycle standard logo ideas. And the most tired, most useless, most uninspired of hackneyed logo ideas is the swoosh or the swoosh-dot, like the one above. If a designer throws a logo like this at you, congratulations! Your logo looks just like seventy thousand other logos out there!

And speaking of swooshes:

It took a fair amount of skill to produce this mess. And you’ve got to hand it to the designer — this is a swoosh logo unlike any other in existence. What does all this stuff have to do with dentistry? Or cutting edge? Is Braun Dentistry some new, horrible sado-masochism torture dungeon? And here’s problem number three you face when developing a logo: the designer has no concept, just a design. Or worse — they get the concept totally wrong. A logo is simply one more tool for communicating. It doesn’t say much, but what it should say should be loud, clear, and unmistakable. “I’m going to poke your eyes out” isn’t the message you want a cutting edge dentistry logo to be saying.

And getting the concept wrong is what the next designer specializes in:

The first person who can explain what this graphic has to do with household interiors will win our first annual vacation to the looney bin. Again, what’s with the eye-poking torture devices?

And sometimes designers (and clients) not only get the concept wrong, they don’t look, either:

Mr. Stickman on the left is supposed to be casually leaning against the capital I. You know, a kind of, “What’s up? Who cares?” casual sort of coolness. “I’m not doing any work today” is probably not the best concept, but Mr. Stickman instead looks like he’s scratching his head in confusion. “What the hell? I’m soooo confused” is probably the last message any computer company wants to send to potential customers. Many moons ago, I was on a Frontier flight from San Francisco to Minneapolis. We landed abruptly in Salt Lake City because of mechanical problems and the airline offered us the opportunity of waiting for the plane to be fixed or taking a much, much later flight out. At that moment, I looked out the window and saw the mechanic staring into the jet engine — he had his baseball cap off and was scratching his head in befuddlement.

I, of course, chose the later flight.

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