What Makes a Good Logo? - Part 1: Specification

A good question, and one that I'll try to shed some light on. Well, you'd hope I was able to...
First of all, I'd like to clarify a logo is not a brand. It may be a prominent part of a brand image and will likely form the centrepiece of the accompanying brand and marketing strategy, but a logo is not a brand in itself.
On the face of it a logo is simply a stylised group of letters, symbols and graphics, but this seemingly simple collection of elements will define your company's mission to your customers.
The effectiveness of a good logo can help sell your product or service or create the appearance of an established business, immediately establishing an element of trust in the quality of goods and professionalism of the company.
A poorly executed or inappropriate logo can have exactly the opposite effect, making the company look unstable or unsure of its raison d'etre, confusing or even offensive.
Hopefully the next few tips and examples will give you an idea of how to ensure your logo is on the right track, and also how to spot a client who might need some steering in the right direction - namely towards Lagrafica!
Your Specification
The most important part of the logo design process is often overlooked or rushed. Getting the specification right not only makes my life so much easier, it generally produces a much better logo as a result. Putting in place your requirements, likes and dislikes makes it clearer for a designer what you want, and also for you to measure the success, or not, of the final outcome.
Write a brief. What do you want to achieve?
What do you want the designer to do?
On writing a brief, make sure you understand what you want to achieve. It may only be a really simple logo to use on some business cards, or it may be a full brand and sub brand rollout across a number of divisions of a multinational corporation, but be clear what you want to get out of the project.
Create a mission statement
Who are you and what do you stand for? Pick four words to describe your company e.g. Quirky, Modern, Clinical, Industrial
Creating a mission statement and choosing four words to describe your company are great exercises in focusing the essence of your company into a format that can be more easily translated into a successful logo. Imagine turning a novel into a poem and you're on your way to understanding the logo design process.
What format will the logo be / not be? e.g. Image & Type, Type Only, Integrated Type. Also, what direction will the logo take / not take? e.g. Literal, Abstract, Neutral
The above exercises deal with the more ethereal quality of design, relating to mood and feeling, but there are certain physical constraints that can be applied when writing a brief. Format and design direction relate to the physical appearance of the logo and while often left to the discretion of the designer. You may not mind what path the designer takes, but if specified up front, and dislikes are just as important as likes, can prevent a lot of wasted time during the process
These examples are typical of the three formats a log may take. The Terranaut identity is an example of a separate image and typography, the Conway logo is an example of a stylised typography, and the Dyfal Donc logo demonstrates integrated text and imagery.
Design direction is a more open concept, but typically take a literal direction, actually using a literal icon to indicate a company's such as the lock and fire in the 1001 logo, an abstract direction, using abstract imagery to convey a mood or feeling such as the brush strokes in the Blas Gwyr logo, or a neutral direction, more commonly used in corporate identities, using non-descriptive geometric shapes in conjunction with text, but doesn't allow you to read too much into the logo.


Part 2: Clarity & Functionality