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OTIN: Keeping your logo simple, catchy will see you stand out





The phrase that is most appended to the word logo in marketing circles, much to the chagrin of the art department, is ‘make it bigger’. That phrase sends creatives round the bend because it negates all the other beautiful work that has been done for the brand to inject real meaning into the customer experience.

Some business leaders look at the logo as an extension of their egos and thus making the logo bigger satisfies their vanity. Mostly it will be their underlings that propose to enlarge the logo so that they can improve their likeability scores in hopes of securing that promotion.

The logo, however, goes way beyond its primary purpose, that of being a distinguishing mark symbolising a brand, organisation or idea. Let’s take a moment and consider the oldest logo I can think of, one that has been consistent for 2,000 years or so without a redesign. Yes, the Christian cross is possibly the most recognisable logo of all time, even more than Apple’s.

It does all the basic things that a logo should do and in the most perfect way, an excellence that can only be explained by the fact that it is divinely inspired. So much so that no designer has been credited for its creation.

It is simple to the core, proving that less is more, and yet it is differentiated from its competitors’ symbols. Like Nike, it doesn’t have to have a graphic and name tie-up, instead the graphic device lives on its own and even the simplest men and toddlers can recognise it.

The cross cuts across the language barrier and has a single-minded meaning to all Christians — universal love. The symbol meets all the requirements of a good logo and with two millennia behind it, it must surely take the cup.

When it comes to meaning, there is hardly any other symbol that generates as much emotion and reverence among its organisation’s members than the cross. Raise it and people drop their gaze, assume humble demeanours and draw from an inner confidence.

Which CEO wouldn’t want to have a symbol with such intense ownership that it can send men to die at war, fight their inner demons and overcome all manner of monumental obstacles. A logo really needs to engender a sense of pride and belonging internally, and it easily does this when there is a series of significant stories associated with it.

Not only should a logo mean something within the organisation, but it should also mean something to external parties, especially the competition. Though the cross meant universal love to its adherents, in the early days it also struck fear in the hearts of its opponents.

Whenever nations with other religions saw the Christian banner coming over the hill with a huge army behind it, they knew clearly well that those men would die for their God and fight tooth and nail to fulfil His will.

Likewise, when the Christian nations saw their opponents coming around the corner holding up their religious symbol at the front of their army, they were aware that it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

So, when it comes to designing your logo, or updating it to fit modern times, please remember to keep it is simple enough to be memorable to everyone, make it mean all positive things to your people, and ensure that it scares the hell out of your competition.

Mr Otin is a digital marketing expert and CEO of The Collective — an interactive ad agency. He is also the Chairman of the Advertising Standards Board of Kenya, the District Governor Elect of Rotary