Your Logo (Probably) Isn’t Doing You Justice (Part 3)

By Colleen Walton, Marketing Strategist, Brand Acceleration, Inc.

In this multi-part series, Colleen discusses common mistakes in location marketing and gives tips on how to fix them. Her observations and recommendations are based on her experiences building websites, conducting site visits, and attending conferences and events with other economic development professionals. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

If I see one more economic development organization use its county shape as its logo, I’m going to scream. You guys are killing me.

I look at a lot of your logos. I see them on your business cards, websites, and LinkedIn profiles. And while I do see a wide range of colors and designs, a common theme in a fair share of them is the county shape as the mark.

Your county shape tells your audience nothing meaningful. Your county is more than its physical attributes and using its shape to represent everything your county is leaves so much out. Imagine you’re interviewing a candidate for an open position in your organization. When you ask them to describe themselves, they reply, “I’m 5’ 8” with brown hair and brown eyes.” While that does technically tell you about them, it doesn’t really tell you anything about them. That’s because we, as people, are more than our physical attributes. You need to think of your county the same way.

What should you use instead? Anything, really.

Okay, maybe you need more direction than that.

I like to loosely follow the “Five Basic Principles of Flag Design” created by the North American Vexillological Association. These principles are for the design of flags, but they work well with regard to logos, too.

Keep it simple.
Think about all the things you’ll put your logo on – business cards, letterhead, coffee mugs, polos, etc. In most of these instances, your logo is going to be very small. Details (like the squiggly border of your county) are going to be lost. Instead, use a simple mark that can be easily reproduced in various mediums.

Use meaningful symbolism.
Think about your assets and how those can be depicted in a creative way. Now, I don’t mean a literal Just because you have a river in your county doesn’t mean you need to have a river in your logo. Instead, find a way to represent things like dedication, community, and loyalty.

Use 2-3 colors.
This links back to the idea of keeping it simple. Don’t go ham on the colors. It’s pretty straightforward.

No seals.
Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not use your county seal as your economic development logo. They’re hard to read, don’t reproduce well in small formats, and don’t represent the county in a meaningful way. And they’re just not cute.

Be distinctive.
This one is really important. So, so many counties use their county shape as their logo. In a stack of business cards brought home from a conference or a pile of brochures received in the mail, your logo doesn’t stand out. Create something unique to separate yourself from the pack.

The key part here is “ready recognition.” Is your county shape readily recognizable? 100% no. Economic development is extremely competitive. Why would you use a logo that makes you blend in with everyone else? Go with a logo that represents your county in a dynamic and unique way.

An additional note: You can go back in the Brand Acceleration repertoire and find logos we’ve designed that don’t follow the rules listed above. Our graphic design process doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Input from outside sources can influence design in unexpected ways. Conforming to hard-and-fast rules can hinder creativity, and we never want that. Except the hard-and-fast rule to not use your county shape as your logo. Conform to that one.