If the whole point of branding is to help your business stand out from the competition, why do so many companies choose logos that look the same?
A design colleague of mine recently made a comment that perfectly illustrates the problem with generic brand identity design:
“I’ve been attempting to watch a US TV series which happens to feature about 6 nearly-identical young men. They’re all tall, muscular, dark haired, aged 17-25. I cannot tell them apart. In a revelatory scene a young man appears on camera and is shown to be a murderer. I still don’t know who the murderer is. And this is why generic design is terrible.”
What is generic design? They’re overused concepts — indistinctive and cliché. If it can be made with or mistaken for clip art, chances are it’s generic.
Why businesses choose generic logo designs
There’s a reason why something becomes cliché — it works. A tooth means dental, roofs mean real estate, human forms in a circle mean people helping each other and that’s what non-profits do and so on… There’s little chance that customers won’t immediately understand what the company does.
Businesses choose logos like this because they want to be relevant in their industry, these symbols are safe and familiar.
Great logos often employ safe and familiar symbols, but they put an original twist on them. This way, you can have the best of both worlds — relevant, but different from what everybody else is doing so your customers will remember you.
The wrong logo makes branding more difficult
A logo is not your brand. I’ve been in more than one argument with other designers on this point, but that just shows their lack of understanding about what branding means and their motivation to sell more logo designs. You can have a generic logo and have a very successful brand, and you can have a beautiful logo and fail or have legions of customers who despise you.
A logo is a symbol of your brand. It embodies who you are and what you stand for, it’s a promise you make to your customers. A logo is the cornerstone of your brand identity; the job of branding is larger in scope — its job is to back up that promise and deliver.
If your logo is indistinguishable from your competition, if it doesn’t help your customers remember you, that just means you’ll have to work that much harder in your branding efforts.