After being ousted from Apple, Steve Jobs commissioned a logo for his new company NeXT from the legendary Paul Rand in 1986, determined to find the perfect B2B company logo. Two months later, Rand handed Jobs a booklet that contained a logo that was worth $100,000. Accounting for inflation, that’s around $233,936 in 2020.
Steve Jobs was delighted to pay a small fortune for such an exemplary logo. The experience changed him. When Apple neared bankruptcy in 1996, it purchased NeXT and handed Jobs the company’s reins once more. Except this time, instead of revolutionizing the world of tech, Jobs showed the world how exemplary design could result in a trillion-dollar company.
Intriguing enough for you? Well, the TemplateMonkey team has figured out the secrets behind Paul Rand’s genius, so you can apply the same lessons when you’re choosing your B2B company logo.
The Big Q: Symbol Logo or Logotype?
This was the very dilemma that Steve Jobs grappled with. A symbol logo is simple and elegant at the highest degree, but only when done right. In comparison, a logotype is the epitome of practicality.
It’s a simple question with complicated answers. Do you want a name or a symbol to represent your company?
In NeXT’s case, Rand’s answer was, well, both. But this was the exception and not the rule. In most cases, you need to choose. So, what’s the difference?
Symbol logos are universal
The most practical reason to choose a symbol logo is the fact that symbols bypass the language barrier. So international companies can get a lot of mileage out of them.
While symbols can be understood regardless of language, their meaning is arbitrary. They can essentially be linked to anything. And a symbol logo can only take on a company’s essence if it’s marketed as its symbol over a long period. That requires quite a large marketing budget and lots of patience.
For years, Nike was a shoe company that liked to put a swoosh symbol on its products. But now, the swoosh IS Nike. They no longer need to put their company name in their products or advertisements. They sign everything with a simple and elegant swoosh. This makes symbol logos great for companies with deep pockets and long term branding strategies.
Logotypes are efficient and practical
What’s in a name? For a B2B brand, a substantial investment of both time and money. A company’s brand is everything, and at the center of that is the company name. So it’s quite logical to use that name as your logo.
Even if you were to use a symbol logo, you’d be adding the company name to it as an addendum for years before the symbol can thrive on its own. So you might need to use a logotype regardless of your choice, which is why it’s important to know what makes logotypes tick.
While logotypes are practical, creating one isn’t as simple as choosing a typeface. Words in a logo don’t follow the same rules as the words you’re reading on this page. These are meant to be read, but the words on a logo are meant to be brandished and recognized.
Your goal is to give the letters in the company name a sense of personality when choosing a logotype. But it has to be the same personality that permeates within the company.
Finally, it’s crucial to be mindful of the details. Logo or not, it’s still text. If you want something extraordinary, go with a symbol. Because if a logotype doesn’t work in black and white, it’s not properly communicating to the target market.
A logo doesn’t provide meaning, it absorbs it
One major reason why there’s always chaos during the creation of a logo is the immense weight it puts on its non-existent shoulders. A logo is representative of the company, not the other way around. So to create a great logo, one must first understand the company from the bottom up.
What’s your company history? Who are your competitors? What’s currently happening in your industry? Who are your customers? What are their desires?
We’re sure you can easily answer these questions. Now try answering all of them in one word or one image. Impossible? Hardly. It’s been done by countless corporations. Just take a look at their logos. But that doesn’t mean it’s a quick process.
This isn’t the type of thing that’s done overnight. In the beginning, their logos couldn’t answer those questions as well. But they built their reputations, bit by bit. And slowly but surely, their logos absorbed all of that.
Your B2B company logo needs to be memorable
“The only mandate in logo design is that they be distinctive, memorable and clear.”Paul Rand
So we’ve agreed that a logo doesn’t need to be the perfect representation of your company, at least not in the beginning. But it needs to be memorable above all else. A logo eventually takes on meaning, and that meaning needs something to cling onto.
According to Paul Rand, there needs to be a meaningful device in a logo that reinforces its memorability. It needs to be both beautiful and useful: form AND function. In the NeXT logo, Rand even changed the company name.
Steve Jobs named the company NEXT, all uppercase letters. Rand said it was easily mistaken for EXIT, a word we see in every building (in neon red no less!). So he changed it and made the letter “e” lowercase. It provided contrast, but more importantly, the letter “e” can now take on meaning.
What does the “e” stand for? Rand said it could mean education, or excellence, or expertise, etc. It didn’t matter at that moment; it would eventually take on the meaning that reflected the company’s actions.
So when you’re shopping for your B2B company logo, look for detail like that. Something that will make the logo meaningful and memorable.
Take the extra cooks out of the kitchen
“Creating by committee makes mincemeat of the creative process and will diminish not only the product but the maker as well.”Paul Rand
A logo designer has enough problems on his/her plate. According to Rand, the creation of a logo is a complex issue with a near-impossible solution.
First, you need to figure out the desires of the company’s target market. Then you endeavor to fulfill that desire while meeting your own aesthetic needs. To do this, you need to develop a connection between you and the market in a universally comprehensible image.
Imagine finding that balance after weeks of painstaking work only for a committee to reject it by majority vote. To avoid this, limit the number of decision-makers. The closer the number is to one, the better.
Don’t be afraid of a little humor
It’s easy to overlook the importance of humor in logos. After all, choosing one is a serious business. But if humor can make your B2B company logo more distinctive, clear, and memorable, then maybe it’s time to have a little fun.
Now, we’re not saying that all logos should be funny. Just remember that option is available, should it suit the company’s brand.
Visual hierarchy is the key to unlock simplicity
“Simplicity is not the goal. It is the by-product of a good idea and modest expectations.”Paul Rand
Some images are easy on the eyes. You may attribute this to simplicity, but in truth, the credit should go to visual hierarchy. An artist can masterfully organize space and symbols according to the predicted eye movements of the spectator. This allows some logos to contain numerous elements and yet still be described as simple. At the same time, some logos can have barely any elements at all and seem needlessly complicated.
That is why having simplicity as a goal can have some distressing consequences. Remember, a B2B company logo is supposed to contain the company’s distilled essence in the form of a visual message. A visual message that’s persuasive, impactful, dramatic, entertaining, and, most importantly, fulfills its obligation to its target audience and the artist. To have simplicity as a goal is to leave bits and pieces of the company’s essence on the cutting room floor.
The concept and the process behind a logo is anything but simple. Rand had to write a 100-page booklet that explained his design choices on one logo. So don’t go into the process of choosing a logo with the purpose of finding something simple. Because chances are, you’ll end up with something bland and mediocre.
You’re in search of a vessel that can contain the future of your company. So your mindset should be that of passionate determination. We’re not saying you should purchase a $100,000 logo. But at the very least, find a B2B logo template that can be worth much more than that in the near future.