Beware of Complicated Logo Designs

I recently offended the proud owner of a brand new logo. She had just paid a lot of money to a well-respected design center for a logo in full-color with gradients, fine line work and copy-over-icon.
Even though it passed all the designer-important standards (good use of contrasting colors, relevant imagery, proper proportions, a distinctive typeface), it was too limiting for real-world applications.
There was no way you could have used the logo in a black & white ad. If it were reproduced smaller than an inch wide, it was illegible. There were no allowances for reproduction as jewelry or ad specialty applications. It had been designed to look good on fine paper and on the website, and without regard for any other application.

When I pointed that out, the owner accused me of being jealous and walked out. Sorry, she wouldn’t leave me a copy to show you.
Here’s another example of pushing an original logo design past its limits. Just south of Denver is a relatively new community, Highlands Ranch. It’s a planned community developed by big money. They went all out in designing streets, neighborhoods and, yes, their brand..

But their logo stinks.

They’ve taken a dramatic piece of art depicting an eagle (I think) taking off into the wind. Its feathers are in disarray just as they would be in nature. Quite dramatic. But then for almost every sign in the community – from major “entering” monolithic displays to street signs, they display the logo in silhouette as shown here.

Highlands Ranch logo - b&w

Without the explanation, I’ll bet you too would be hard-pressed to identify this icon, this symbol of a city.

A note: look at the small logo from Todd’s And Top 150 below my signature. In larger sizes, it’s a colorful, unusual and relevant logo. But look what’s happened to it when shrunk to a smaller size. You can’t read it or identify the Lego blocks as Lego blocks. Oh, well.

The moral is to ask your designer to design a logo that can be used in a variety of applications, from one-column “help-wanted” newspaper ads to four-color 24-sheet posters. Also ask them to sacrifice their “artistic” mind-set for something both relevant to the project and intelligible to viewers.

There are certain criteria I apply to logo design, but that’s the subject of a future blog.
Martin Jelsema

Power 150: ranked 118

2 thoughts on “Beware of Complicated Logo Designs

  1. This article is definitely worth considering as well before you start to purchase an online logo design service. Very enjoyable read. It’s by WIRED Magazine:
    They tested some logo design firms who cater to the online market (LogoLoft, Logo Company,, etc.). I’ve tried both LogoLioft and LogoDesignCreation. Both were good. If you’re on a budget and needs a fast yet professional logo design, choose LogoDesignCreation. But if you don’t have a budget and can spend as much as $300 for the same quality and uniqueness in terms of designs,

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