Screwdrivers are crappy hammers

I get a lot of quote requests from people that have already figured out exactly what they want for a logo, they just need somebody to design it for them. Sometimes people actually come up with a good idea but more often than not their ideas aren’t very good, and sometimes they are downright awful;  here’s an example:

I’m starting a new business and I know exactly what I want, I’d like a picture of a big BBQ hitched to the back of a monster truck, and standing next to the monster truck is an alligator wearing cowboy boots, sunglasses and a chefs hat…

This is an actual request from somebody and while it is an extreme example it does serve as a good demonstration on how to design a really bad logo. What the customer is asking for isn’t a logo, it’s an explanation. What they are trying to do is convey a literal sense of the image they would like to project to people. This approach comes from a lack of understanding of what a logo is for. The primary purpose of a logo is to help your business be recognized and remembered.

A good logo is a simple thing, it doesn’t try to explain what your company does and it doesn’t try and sell anything. When a logo is used to explain a business  it stops being a logo and becomes an advertisement. A logo is meant to do one thing and an advertisement is meant to do another, they are different tools for different jobs. A hammer can’t drive screws and screwdriver can’t hammer nails. No matter what you are trying to build it’s going to go a lot smoother and turn out a lot nicer if you use the right tools for the job.

6 Responses

  1. I really liked how you explained what a logo is by first describing what it is not– an advertisement. I haven’t heard it from that angle before, but I think it makes it quite clear that a logo is to be simple, memorable, and relevant to the business it embodies. The next time I have a client who wants to include their catalog of products and services in their logo I will be sure to use your illustration to enlighten them.

  2. Halelujah brother. I once has someone ask me to create a logo for their lab. The professor said he wanted a square with dots in it to represent a lab that did work in cell biology. He could not elaborate on his idea, just a square with dots in it. so, I made him a square w dots in it. I knew it was foolish and ridiculous, but I didn’t need the money, it gave me more satisfaction to show hm how his communication about squares and dots was not really telling the story of his lab. A square w dots, could be anything. Could be an abstract representation of a dalmation going to a square dance for all I know. Too bad, I could have rocked him a logo, but he was convinced he wanted a square w dots in it. People pay big bucks to go to lawyers, they pay big bucks to go to accountants. For the most part, they listen to what the paid professional tells them. Not so with advertising. They pay the big bucks and insist on squares with dots in them. However.

  3. I would love to see the logo you came up with for that explanation!

    I get requests like that all the time. I was sent photographs of a rainbow, mountains, sunflowers, hearts, people smiling, happy families, etc. and was asked to turn it in to a ‘simple’ logo. Gotta love your clients 🙂

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