A quick thought on logo/ID design

First, I have a few longer posts coming in the coming weeks. One will tackle a recent identity that Brand New has covered (which can be found here: Primary (new ID)) and one post will be about Tailor Brands, the web based company that allows you to make a logo in minutes(!). I’ll also do one on flexible identity/logo design and why, at this time, I’m not an adopter. So watch out for those on the horizon.

The Case

But my quick, passing thought is about logo/ID design and is based off of seeing a lot of identities use texture as part of their primary logo form. Now, I’m not saying a logo mark or the word mark or any secondary marks shouldn’t feature some stylization that might even represent texture to a degree. But so many times I see an attempt at making a better, more convincing identity mark by adding a texture. A crackle, a grunge or scratchy look, or even gradients and changes in color.

Consider the recently updated (a year or two ago) Medium letter mark.

The Medium “M” mark.

That is the Medium logo. It is not texture directly, but it emphasizes the same point. Often it is argued that texture is bad for an identity mark because the mark needs to be flexible for all sizes. If you shrink the mark too small, it loses its quality. If you need to embroider it or even screen printing it, it can either lose or completely not feature it’s intricacies. – While this is true, the primary reason you shouldn’t base your identity mark on a texture or, in Medium’s case, a color, is because the real design is happening in the form itself.


Consider these Medium logo alternates, and focus on the last two in the bottom right. That is the form of the “M” logo. That is the weakest link in a poorly conceived identity mark. A rotated “Z” or an upright “N” at best. Really, it’s an abstract form that has absolutely nothing to do with Medium or what they’re about. The gradients and alternatives featuring color combinations are just masking a larger issue.

Interestingly, the top row black and white options are all strong potentials if that was how the identity was primarily being represented. But it’s not and by making these secondary or alternate options, they’re showing that the alternating shades of green was the key ingredient to their identity.

The Point

People put their own meaning into things. The power of a good identity lies both in its ability to concisely represent a company/brand and in its ability to communicate that while walking the blade of clarity and ambiguity (the latter in some, but not all cases). If you’re a company then it has to be you, your clientele and your potential clientele/the rest of the world. This is one of those reasons a logo is not so easy to just make.

The power of a good identity mark/logo is in its form. It’s form is created in a 3-dimensional space comprised of axes with varying values that are unique to this one company. It needs to be amount of hard with y amount of soft. It should have a lot of attitude or very little attitude. It should be rounded in some areas, but angled in others. It should feature no typography or it should feature at least a monogram consisting of not a sans-serif typeface, but not a serifed typeface either. Should it be thick or thin? Bold and filled or have open spaces that allow our minds to define the form or be reasonably fine in feature with just lines defining the form?

The form of the mark is where the design happens. Good typographical treatment will either emphasize the form, if it has one – or, will act as a replacement for the form itself, if it doesn’t have one. If it has a logo mark (different from a typographic/font based mark), the typography will compliment it and still be able to make a statement about the company when the logo mark isn’t present.

But no matter what, the viability of a logo is in its form. Texture and embellishments is what happens when the logo is applied – not for being applied to the logo.