When Logos Go Bad: How to Avoid Designing a Dud

In the early stages of a business, it’s important to establish yourself in the market as quickly as possible. After building several businesses from the ground up and working hard to build that recognition with each new brand, I can attest to the struggles you may face. Nothing grabs that attention like a great logo, but even a simple graphic — when not properly vetted — can mean a PR nightmare for your company.

Logo design concept

Even massive undertakings like presidential campaigns can run into hot water with poorly executed designs. Candidates for the 2016 presidential race from both parties have faced design issues, from Hillary Clinton’s bland logo to Scott Walker’s possibly accidental rip-off.

Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign logoScott Walker 2016 vs. America's Best logo

With such large, well-staffed campaigns hitting controversy over their logos, how can a business of any size hope to establish its brand without fear? Take it from me — it’s not an easy task.

Avoiding the Pitfalls

Even if you do find an acceptable logo on one of the many “build your own” branding websites out there, the chances are fairly high that another business already uses a similar image. Pinching pennies in the beginning could cost you much more if you get slapped with a lawsuit for treading on the toes of someone else’s brand. Better to build your own and avoid that particular headache.

While creating your own logo dodges most copyright hassles, it does come with its own set of challenges. If you design a logo and start printing it on everything without getting proper feedback, you could be in for disaster. What you consider to be the perfect logo for your business might confuse others who don’t already know what your company does. Even worse, your logo might have a negative or newsworthy connotation that you didn’t catch, which can turn into a PR nightmare in an instant.

Losing money over a bad logo hurts, but for a new business trying to stand out, losing the time and opportunity for market exposure is much worse. Try to find out as much information as you can about logo creation. You can find a lot of good articles on Logaster’s blog, for instance, about necessary logo sizes for Website, Social Media or Printing here. Innocent errors in brand development can harm your business’s reputation before it can even establish one. Don’t be caught unprepared; take a lesson from the mistakes of the following three logo mishaps so your business doesn’t suffer the same fate:

1. Tokyo 2020 Olympics

In late July 2015, the people of Tokyo gathered to witness the unveiling of the logo for their bid to bring the Olympics to Japan in 2020. The negative press spread quickly, however, when similarities were drawn between their design and that of Belgium designer Olivier Debie’s design for the Théâtre de Liège.

Tokyo 2020 vs. Theatre de Liege logo

The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee claimed they “conducted long, extensive, and international verification through a transparent process” before submitting the design, but as of Sept. 1, Tokyo organizers scrapped their design amid plagiarism allegations.

2. Catholic Church Archdiocesan Youth Council

Developed in 1973, this simple logo won an award from the Los Angeles Art Directors Club for its depiction of support and community. After the Roman Catholic Church found itself in hot water in the early 2000s, the image came to mean something quite different to casual onlookers.

Archdiocesan Youth Council logo

Occasionally, logos turn sour through no fault of the designer. Logos often require repeated consideration and potential redesign to keep up with the times. If the Archdiocesan Youth Council had known the news that was coming later, they might have gone with an acronym instead.

3. The Kathrein Group

Don’t just abbreviate for abbreviation’s sake — especially if your name shortens to SatAn.

Kathrein SatAn logo brand

While many customers feel their satellite companies overcharge them, most people will stop short of making an actual deal with the devil to get premium channels. If it will help you avoid ridicule, don’t be afraid to make your target audience read an extra syllable or two.

Creating a Winning Logo

Paw Project logo by Gardner Design
via Dribbble

How can you avoid seeing your company’s logo in articles like this one? It all comes down to getting multiple perspectives.

  • Crowdsource Your Logo. Social media makes this a breeze today. Why not throw a contest and use the winner’s logo for your company? Assign a few people within your business to evaluate each submission based on different qualities like design, colors, fonts, and social relevance.
  • Get Feedback. Ask someone completely removed from the situation to look at your logo. Friends, family, and fellow business owners all work. See if your logo elicits a negative response, laughter, or — just as troublesome — nothing at all.

Don’t let your logo turn into the next PR embarrassment. Put in the time and set aside the budget to make sure your company stands out for the right reasons.