There is a big debate over the complexity of a logo. There are some obvious benefits to simple logos. They are by far the most versatile and easily identifiable. Just look at the logos of Apple, Sony, Honda, Nike, or Guci.
These logos are easy to reproduce in any size and any color, even black and white. They are easy to embroider or emboss on nearly any apparel or material. These logos are easy to make out from afar and easy to identify.
Not everything about simple logos is so great, though. It is extremely difficult to come up with a new shape and make it interesting. If you look at Nike’s logo, it is not a piece of art per say, but it is a unique shape, which makes the logo timeless and original.
From a client’s point of view paying money for a simple square or half a circle just isn’t worth it. We often hear our clients say: “Well this is not very creative” or “I could have made the same logo myself”. Indeed, simple logos (sometimes just a letter or a simple geometrical shape) just don’t look like much work has gone into them. And yet, take a look at the most famous and recognized logos out there: IBM, JVC, Google, DELL, IKEA...
No one would dare to say that these are bad logos, so why is there a conflict? I can only assume it stems from a lack of understanding of branding principles and designers’ work. As a logo designer with over 20 years of experience I can tell that the most difficult logo to make is a simple one. The challenge of it is to come up with a shape that no one else is using and that is applicable to your business. In our three-dimensional universe, we have too few simple two-dimensional shapes to use, and coming up with a new one may seem impossible. The designers start using tricks, manipulating standard shapes by combining or cutting or skewing them. But this is not all there is to it. Besides being original and simple, a logo must have a meaning or some sort of connection to the company’s name or field of business. A transportation business owner would be puzzled if his logo designer proposed him a logo made of two squares. Why would a transportation company have 2 squares for a logo? It is a legitimate question. This issue has already been touched on in the previous article “How a great logo made”.
So when you see a designer come up with something so simple that anyone could supposedly come up with it, just ask him what was the story behind it and why is it suitable for your business. Blindly choosing a shape that anyone can make is no good way to proceed, but neither is complaining about the design just because your logo is supposedly too simple.
On the other hand, one can sometimes see more complex logos, even extremely complex ones. The benefit of such a logo is that it does look very attractive and conveys the feeling that a lot of work went in to it. For example: Firefox, Porsche, Cadillac, Juicy Couture.
Those types of logos do have their “pros”, but they also come with a lot of “cons”: they do not look good in small sizes, they are hard to embroider, and they require multiple colors to print so you are limited in the choice of media where you can use them. Another con is that these logos tend to get outdated. For example, Cadillac’s logo has already seen several transformations from its original crest design, and it gets simplified a little more each time the company updates it. Many complex logos in the past have gone through a dramatic transformation into a much simpler one, for example Fiat, Peugeot, even Reebok have dumped graphics completely in favor of a clean shapeless text design.
The question you should ask yourself is: what is the purpose of your logo? Do you want to impress your audience with a piece of art, or you want to have an easily recognizable and timeless logo that can be identified among your competitors, and will not cost an arm and a leg to reproduce it.
It is a tricky question. I often say that in the logo design business, anything is possible. You definitely want to stand out and be remembered; sometimes even an ugly logo does the trick. So there are really no rules set in stone, but you should consider all the cons and pros of both options before processing your order.