Bad Design Advice You Can Safely Ignore

Bad Design AdviceThis is going to sound like we’re picking a fight.

We’re not.

First, let me say, we love designers. We’ve worked with hundreds of them. They are some of the most talented people in the world. They make work fun and interesting. And they created every one of the 10,000 icons in our logo design software.

But we have to disagree with some potentially bad design advice passed on by our friends at They linked to a short video of designer Melanie Spring who offers the following advice to people starting a new business:

“…particularly businesses get the logo wrong. When they start their business, they just throw up something just to have something. And one thing I try to tell all business owners is if you are going to put any money anywhere, put it into your logo because a really good logo on a white sheet of paper or a white website will look really, really good and it’ll stand the test of time as you’re growing. You can refine it and change it, but being able to put that money into that logo piece, if nothing else, will be able to get you launched a lot quicker than if you just try to throw your money in lots of little places.”

We suppose that if your marketing plan consists entirely of showing people how good your logo looks on a white sheet of paper, this is good advice.

But if your plan for finding customers is a bit more complex, then this may be very bad design advice.

Allow us to explain.

Having a logo doesn’t launch your business. No matter how good your logo is, if you don’t have a plan and the money to get your product or service in front of your customers, your logo is worthless.

A new business owner needs to spend money on the things that get the product or service in front of potential customers. A logo doesn’t do this.

But the reason this is bad advice comes down to money.

A few years ago, when we worked for Hewlett-Packard, we saw lots of research about the courageous men and women who start their own businesses and how much money they had to do it.

The typical person starting a new business is not wealthy. They don’t have venture funding. Many don’t even qualify for an SBA loan. Instead, they drain their savings, take out a second mortgage, or borrow from family. Often they put everything on a credit card.

They live on ramen (or cheesy mac) just to make ends meet while they put all of their money into their new venture.

On average, they have about $500 to spend on marketing. Including the logo.

We’re pretty sure you can’t get a logo design from Ms. Spring’s shop for that.

And that $500 also has to buy business cards and a website. It’s not enough, to be sure, but to recommend spending it all on a logo is just wrong. Better to start with a “good enough” logo design until you know your business is going to succeed.

Of course there are exceptions:

• If your new business needs a trendy retail location—like a restaurant or a bar—you need to spend more on the logo and look of your store (called environmental graphics). $500 is probably not enough to start this type of business.

• If you are well-funded and have thousands of dollars to put into your marketing plan, then by all means, spend a few thousand on a custom logo that will grow with your business.

• If your new business is arts or design related, then you should spend more on your logo to reflect that.

But, if you don’t know yet if your business will succeed, or you’re just trying to get off the ground with a tiny budget, you’re much better off with a low-cost or do-it-yourself logo design for something like $49.

After you’ve proven the idea, if your logo needs updating, then “refine it” or “change it” as Ms. Spring advises.

Until then, you’ve got more important things to spend your money on.


Note: Just to be clear, we would bet that Ms. Spring is not advising businesses with small budgets to blow it all on a logo. She is likely talking to well-funded ventures who can afford the kind of services her firm offers. But the way she said what she says above doesn’t make this clear. Our customers are more like the under-funded go-getters who are willing to take the risks to start a business, for whom this would be bad advice. Hence today’s post. And if you have $400-500 budgeted for a custom logo, you could do worse than contact the guys at

Photo credit: laughlin via photopin cc

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5 Quotes from Ello Founder Paul Budnitz to Inspire Your Startup

Paul Budnitz Startup QuotesOur inspiring entrepreneur for the week is Yale University’s honors Art major, Paul Budnitz. He is a self-described “artist, designer, author, filmmaker, and serial entrepreneur” and he has solid street cred for each of those claims. Most recently, Budnitz is responsible for the new buzz in the social media world. He is the founder of the latest social network gaining traction, Ello. Ello’s biggest competitive advantage is that it does everything Facebook doesn’t—or more accurately stated, it doesn’t do everything Facebook does (“Ello is simple, beautiful and ad-free” says Budnitz).

Budnitz is also the entrepreneur who created Kidrobot. Go ahead and click it. If you’re like most, you may not have recognized the name, but you’ll immediately recognize the “art toys”; they are everywhere from the toy store to the museum gift shop. And if you Google “Budnitz” your search results will bring up Budnitz Bicycles which are the extremely fashionable titanium and steel city bikes. These ride-able pieces of art will make you want to be a biker if you’re not already.

These are some of the most impressive entrepreneurial startups that Paul Budnitz can hang his hat on, but there are literally dozens more. The best thing about the guy is his very practical and candid approach to business, reflected in the snippets of advice for other startups, below:

“Complete what you start unless the idea sucks. Go get a better idea and complete what you start. And ask for help.”

“The key is to not be afraid to be an idiot.”

“I just like to look at the world and see what I can do to make something better, and have fun doing it.”

“Business is a vehicle to make something beautiful.”

“Everything beautiful that we create in life requires a leap of faith.”

—Paul Budnitz, Artist and Serial Entrepreneur


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Logo Design News This Week (4.36)

As always, Friday at the Logomaker blog means it’s time to take a look back at the news from the world of logo design. Here’s the stuff that caught our attention:

Corsair Logo DesignOn the heels of last week’s report that game paraphernalia company Corsair had switched logos, much to the company’s fans’ chagrin, the company has announced that it won’t in fact be switching logos. Rather they’ll be staying with the older sailboat design. Logo critics have claimed another scalp.

This is kind of fun: Designer Alejo Malia created a page of Starbucks logos celebrating the different kinds of customers who visit the store each week.


Banh Shop Logo DesignAnother update on an item from last week: We told you about the Vietnamese sandwich shop that offended a few people because of the red star logo and the use of the Saigon. Well, they already have a new logo. We have to applaud Yum! brands for their quick action on making the change. The new logo has appeared so quickly that we’re tempted to suspect that this may all have been a media stunt to drum up PR for the new brand. There’s no such thing as bad PR if people are talking about your company, right?

Is the Apple logo on the back of the iPhone the reason the phones bend?

Social Media Breast Cancer Logo DesignsHere’s a creative rethinking of the logos for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to encourage breast cancer awareness. The logos were not developed by the companies, but rather the Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation. They are asking customers to appeal to their favorite social media company to temporarily replace their logo designs with the new versions, which depict a hand checking a breast with the smart tagline: If only you checked your breasts as often. Good ideas, though it’s not likely to go far.

New Turkey Logo DesignThe country of Turkey has a badly designed new logo that was unveiled earlier this week. The logo is supposed to promote Turkish products around the world and will replace the Made in Turkey tagline on most products. It’s too bad they didn’t choose a decent typeface—or even kern it (space the letters) appropriately. The country name is an amalgam of patterns that is a little weird to read in some sizes, but the spacing of the letters in the tagline really bothers us.

New Good Food BBC LogoBBC Good Food has a new logo—with a hidden smile that is meant to subtly communicate a fun, playful tone. The new logo will be used across several different media properties (website, magazine, events, etc.) to bring them all together under a single visual identity.  Not bad.

Advertising Agency WongDoody has a new logo that plays off their somewhat silly (but real) name and the recent trend to associate new logos with all things scatalogical.

Google Sixteenth Birthday Logo DesignAnd we wrap up this week with a look at Google’s new logo celebrating their own sixteenth birthday. Google is old enough to drive—just in time for all those driverless cars they are working on. Unlike most special logo designs from Google, this one was viewable around the world.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments.

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Don’t Like Infographics? How about a Presentation on How Your Brain “Sees” a Logo Design?

Yesterday we posted a new infographic that walks through some of what neuroscientists have learned by studying how human brains respond when they “see” a logo design. You can see the infographic here.

But if you’re not the kind of person who likes infographics, don’t worry. We have you covered too. We pulled much of the information out (and added a little bit more) and created this presentation, hosted at SlideShare:

If you like it, please click that little heart icon in the top right corner (which will take you to SlideShare where you can give it some love). Or share it with your friends by clicking the share button. Even better, embed the presentation on your own website. Though if you do, we’d appreciate an attribution to


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How Your Brain “Sees” a Logo—Still More Science

Ever wonder what’s going on inside your head when you see a logo?

The whole process is surprisingly complex and still takes just a little under 400 milliseconds—less than half a second.

We took a look through a stack of scientific journals to find out what scientists have been learning from the latest brain science—and to learn how humans “see” and think about the logos they encounter.

We compiled what we found into an infographic that you can post on your website or share on social media. We think this stuff is fascinating and hope you do too.

To see a larger version, just click the link at the bottom of the infographic.

How Your Brain Sees a Logo Design by” width=How Your Brain “Sees” a Logo

Embed on Your Site:

This info graphic is also available as a presentation!

Some of our other posts on Logos and Science:
How a Logo “Primes” You to Think
How Logos Trigger High and Low Information Thinking
Logos, Familiarity, and Cognitive Ease

For those of you who would rather just read the text (and for the Googlebot), here’s the most interesting stuff from the graphic:

What Your Brain is “Looking” At:

Scientists believe that your eye doesn’t see color at all—your brain creates it through neural processes that take place along the fusiform gyrus, the hippocampus, and the primary visual cortex located at the back of the brain.1,2

Once the color is identified near the back of the visual cortex, a signal is sent forward to the “what pathway” near the front of the visual cortex where shape and objects are recognized. It can even see shapes that aren’t there (like objects hidden in the white space of a logo). 3

While color and shape are “bottom up” information, that is, it is gathered from the immediate environment; context and meaning is “top down” information added by your memory to help you understand and think about what it all means. This process uses many parts of the brain, but primarily the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex where emotions and rewards are processed.

What Science Says About A Logo’s Effect on Your Thinking
Over the past two decades, neuroscientist have used brain imaging (fMRI) to take a closer look at how we think about logos. Here are some of the most interesting findings:

  • There isn’t a single place in the brain where logos are processed. Sports and luxury brands (like Nike and Mercedes) trigger responses in the medial prefrontal cortex and precuneus, while value brands (like Wal-mart) activate neurons in the anterior cingulate cortex.4
  • Brands that we like elicit activity in the ventral medial frontal pole, which is the area where we form self-esteem and the idea of who we are. This would suggest that our favorite brands play a large role in how we see ourselves. Something like: I’m a Coke person. Or, I’m the kind of person who likes and uses Apple products.5
  • Our familiarity with a logo design determines which part of the brain thinks about it when we see it. “Strong” brands tend to trigger activity in the part of the brain associated with positive emotions and reward (pallidum, posterior cingulate and frontal cortex), while unknown brands activate neurons in areas of the brain associated with negative emotions (insula). This suggests that people use experience not declarative information to evaluate brands.6
  • We do not think about logos the same way we think about trivial objects or even animals. Well-liked brands trigger responses in the same brain areas where human relationships (friendships for example) are processed. This may mean that biologically there is very little difference between relationships between two humans and a human and a brand.7
  • Logos can actually change behavior. When scientists showed (subliminally) an Apple logo to some students, and an IBM logo to others, the students who saw the Apple logo performed better on a creativity test. Students shown a Disney logo (again subliminally) performed better on an honesty test than student who saw an E! TV logo.8


1 “Study Shows that Color Plays Musical Chairs in the Brain”, UChicagoNews, October 2, 2009.
2 Zeki, S. and Ludovica, Marina, “Three Cortical Stages of Colour Processing in the Human Brain”, Brain, Vol 121, pp. 1669-1685, 1998.
3 Sanguinetti, Joseph, et all, “The Ground Side of an Object: Perceived as Shapeless yet Processed for Semantics”, Psychological Science, November 12, 2013.
4 Schaefer, Michael and Rotte, Michael, “Thinking on Luxury or Pragmatic Brand Products: Brain Reponses to Different Categories of Culturally Based Brands”, Brain Research, Vol. 1165, Aug. 24, 2007, pp, 98-104.
5 Journal of Customer Behaviour, Volume 11, Number 1, Spring 2012, pp. 69-93(25)
6 Esch, Franz-Rudolf, “Brands on the Brain: Do Consumers Use Declarative Information or Experienced Emotions to Evaluate Brands?” Journal of Consumer Psychology, Vol. 22.1, Jan. 2012, pp. 75-85.
7 Santos, José Paulo, “Perceiving Brands After Logo Perception: An Event-related fMRI Study” Online:
8 Fitzsimons, Grainne, et all, “Automatic Effects of Brand Exposure on Motivated Behavior: How Apple Makes You ‘Think Different’”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 35, June 2008, pp. 21-35.

Designer: Dave Riley. 


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6 Quotes for Startups about Business and Leadership from GE’s Jeffrey Immelt

Jeffrey ImmeltJeffrey Immelt is perhaps best known for his tenure as Chairman and CEO of General Electric. He has held that post for 13 years, initially taking over just 4 days before the 9/11 attacks of 2001. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College as well as Harvard Business School.

Immelt was with GE for 19 years before filling the CEO position. In 2009 he was selected to serve on the Obama administration’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board based on his understanding of the global markets and economy. Two years later the Obama administration organized the Council of Job and Competitiveness which again included Mr. Immelt, this time as chairman. Immelt has been named among the “World’s Best CEOs” by Barron’s while GE has been included in Fortune magazine’s poll of “America’s Most Admired companies” and Financial Times’ poll of “The World’s Most Respected Companies.” Here are a few thing he’s said that may inspire entrepreneurs and anyone else working in a startup:

“I have learned that nothing is certain except for the need to have strong risk management, a lot of cash, the willingness to invest even when the future is unclear, and great people.”

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were days when I went back and said, I wish I’d done this. I should have done that. I handled this the wrong way.’ But it’s always in the motivation of getting better. I’ve never once looked in the mirror and said, Oh boy, can’t do this one.’”

“Every leader needs to clearly explain the top three things the organization is working on. If you can’t, then you’re not leading well.”

“[Sales] has instilled in me the important traits of operating with a sense of urgency and listening to people.”

“At the end of every week, you have to spend your time around the things that are really important: setting priorities, measuring outcomes, and rewarding them.”

“Business leaders should provide expertise in service of our country.”

—Jeffrey R. Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric

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Logo Design News This Week (4.35)

Its Friday here at Logomaker HQ, which means were back with another episode of our weekly round-up of logo design news. Heres what caught our attention:

Saigon Street Food Logo DesignThis week we start with a controversy featuring a new restaurant concept from Yum! Brands (the owners of KFC and Taco Bell). The new shop is a Vietnamese-themed concept with a red star logo that some potential customers found offensive because of the obvious connections to communism. Apparently 153 people complained, which these days, is enough to get a company to pull its logo. Never mind that other brands like Heineken and Macys use a red logo without any connection to communism. Perhaps using the name Saigon was a step too far. The new logo will reported by run past a few Vietnamese customers before it goes up on the building.

Hey check out the Earful tower (Disneyland Paris playful take on the Eifel Tower). Its getting a logo design update.

Corsair Gaming Logo DesignGaming company Corsair seems to have ruffled its customers feathers by changing its logo from a relatively simple sail boat icon to something resembling a tramp stamp. Or so a few of their customers are saying. Gamers are not taking the change sitting down. Or rather, they are taking it sitting down in front of their computers posting comments to Reddit and signing online petitions about how horrible they think the logo is. Yeah, its a dramatic change. No its not a bad logo, just new. But whether it resembles kissing swans or two elaborate crossed swords, we guess is in the eye of the beholder.

We saw this a couple of weeks ago and didnt post it, but we really like this new logo for the Melbourn Squash Club that looks a lot like the way a squash ball bounces.

Lehi City Logo DesignWe noticed a bunch of new small city logo designs this week and chose three of them to share. The first is for Kannapolis, which has selected a somewhat hard to read logo. The news report tells about the things that make the city unique, like: the city is a place where you can live a good life. And, a community that welcomes new people, new ideas, and new business. Yeah, the same old brand bollocks. The city of Lehi in Utah also got a new logo which features a roller mill and a water tower. The tagline says theyre pioneering Utah’s future, but the logo certainly appears to look to the past. Finally, San Bernardino County unveiled a new logo this week as well, featuring the traditional arrowhead and a cleaner typeface. This one we like.

The University of Southern Mississippi is ready to unveil a new logo because  the old one looks too much like Iowas Tiger Hawk. We think the judges got this one wrong.

Hoseasons Logo DesignUK travel company, Hoseasons, updated its logo for its 70th birthday and we got a look at it this week. The new logo is designed to keep the brand relevant and help attract more upscale customers. We saw something similar from Thomas Cook (another UK travel company) last year.

Paris has a new logo. Not that Paris.

Alternate Double Decker Bus Google Logo DesignWe were ready to post the animated new Google logo celebrating the first day of fall, which showed a few trees quickly losing their orange and red leaves. Then we saw the new logo celebrating the unveiling of the first Routemaster (double decker) bus that appeared in the United Kingdom on Wednesday. The logo here isnt the actual one (click the link for that). We liked this draft of the artwork better.

Did we miss anything you saw? Let us know in the comments.


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Is a Cheap Logo Design Really Bad for Business? No.

Every few weeks we come across another article written by a graphic designer touting the horrible things that will happen to your business if you buy a cheap logo.

They often claim that cheap logos are unoriginal. Or forgettable. Or untrustworthy.

Can we be honest for a minute?

Tens of thousands of companies have blown massive budgets (were talking millions of dollars) on logos that are both unoriginal and forgettable.

Originality and memorability have absolutely nothing to do with what you pay for your logo design.

To see what we mean, take a look at the following:

Carat Logo Design

Lexis Nexis Logo Design

Sony Ericsson Logo Design


Xerox Logo Design


Will someone please tell us what memorable message these logos communicate?

None of these logos were done on the cheap. They cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Maybe millions. But they all look about the same. And they dont really communicate a particular message.

Heres the secret about logos: They dont communicate anything outside of what your brand/product already stands for.

True enough: some logos are better than others. But it has little to do with the price of the logo design.

The Xerox logo above doesnt get any of its meaning from the red ball or lowercase typeface. If this logo means anything to you at all, it is because you have had an experience with Xerox—youve used one of their copiers, or youve used them for IT outsourcing, or you own one of their printers. But the logo? That doesnt mean anything outside of your experience with the company.

The same is true for Carat. And Sony Ericsson. And dozens of other logos with balls for icons.

Logos are meaningless outside of an experience with the product they represent.

This is important: The product gives meaning to the logo, not the other way around.

So while some people suggest that you should spend a bundle of money (and several weeks or months) having a logo design created, we say, buyer beware. (Actually we say Bullsh*t but buyer beware sounds nicer.)

Most startup businesses have just a few hundred dollars for marketing—for the entire year! Why in the world would they spend it all on a logo when they also need a website, business cards, product packaging, email programs, and various other initiatives? The smart money says this is exactly when you should get a cheap logo.

If, after your business is doing well, your cheap logo really is that bad, go back and fix it when youve got the money, but not when youre just starting out and don’t know if you’ll succeed.

What about the argument that inexpensive logos arent professional or they make you look like a startup? Well, check out these logos—all of them created using our online logo maker tool and costing just $49.

Cheap Logo Gallery

Do they look cheap? Or untrustworthy? Or forgettable?

All of them are excellent examples of how an economizing entrepreneur can save some money and get a great logo—if theyre willing to put in a little time and effort getting things just right.

If your product or brand experience is cheap, then it doesnt matter how much you spend on your logo, over time it will come to mean cheap.

If your product or brand experience is remarkable or inspiring or helpful, your logo will over time come to represent these values. Even if it was inexpensive.

Sometimes a cheap or inexpensive logo is exactly the right thing for your business. Especially if youre just starting out. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before trying an inexpensive or do-it-yourself logo.

Thats a long answer to the question.

The short answer, of course, is no!

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8 Quotes for Startups from Rachel Ray to Inspire Hard Work

Rachel Ray Startup QuotesIt’s people like Rachel Ray who make us really reconsider the odds of hitting the American Dream jackpot. She makes success seem so natural, so easy. Her on-air chef persona seems less a “persona” and more along the lines of totally genuine, which was a strategy that launched Ray from startup into Food Network royalty after capturing the hearts of Oprah Winfrey and the American population in general.

But before Rachel Ray was “Rachel Ray of 30 Minute Meals who went on to build a cooking empire”, she was on the front lines of New York’s food scene—from the marketplace to the restaurants—learning everything she could about the industry. Her dedication to her craft as well as to her own integrity brought her national attention, an Emmy, book deals, TV network contracts, and endorsement deals; in return, she gave us a nonprofit that educates children and their families about proper nutrition (Yum-O!). She just keeps going.

Through it all, Ray attributes her success to her family, hard work, personal integrity, and to a few key people who were instrumental in reminding her that those three things are her personal keys to success. Here are a few things she’s said that we find inspirational:

“This is the country of great opportunity and if you work hard and you’re willing to take some risks, you really never know.”

“Take your work very seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.”

“Work harder than everyone else and never complain about it.”

“Don’t go to bed if you’re not proud of the product of your day; stay awake until you are.”

“Whatever it is you want to do, take a job in that field. You will learn by experience and, slow and steady, you’ll get it done!”

“It’s important that you understand that goals should never be money, or fame, or a television show. A goal has to be something that’s more about your message as a contributor.”

“Work hard. Laugh when you feel like crying. Keep an open mind, open eyes, and an open spirit.”

“As long as you’ve got a good work ethic and a sense of humor, I don’t think anybody can become too much of an egotist.”

_Rachel Ray, Celebrity chef, author, philanthropist

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Logo Design News This Week (4.34)

Its Friday again, which means its time to take another look back at all the big news from the world of logo design over the past week. Here’s what we noticed:

New MLS Logo DesignThe biggest news by far this week is the announcement of a new logo for Major League Soccer. The old ball and cleat logo has been in use since the founding of the league in 1996. Since then the league has grown and matured. Did they need a new logo? Probably not—even though the old logo looked a bit like cheap clipart. But a new logo is what the league has and we think the update is well-done. The new design features a shield with three stars in the upper left corner. The rest of the shield is blank—except in the team specific executions which include the colors of each individual team. Not everyone likes itFans on Reddit have taken to the logo, creating several hundred potential executions using the blank space for the individual teams. There are some really nice solutions in that thread.

A New Mets Logo DesignA bit of controversy in New York over the Met’s logo this week. As fans know, the New York Mets have used the same logo for more than 50 years—a baseball featuring the Manhattan skyline in the background. But this past week someone posted a revised version of the logo on the team’s Facebook page. The change was slight—turning the UN Building into the Citigroup Center. The team says it was a mistake and there’s no new logo. But this isn’t just a “We forgot to upload the corner of the building” type mistake. Someone made deliberate changes to the logo file. Someone with access to the official team’s Facebook account. Adding to the intrigue, Citi (which is no longer associated with the Citgroup Center building) owns the naming rights to the field where the Mets play. Weird.

Check out the new logo design for Logo DesignWhat happens on stays on Unless its the old logo. Then, well, Las Vegas’ namesake website has rebranded and now features a new logo. This is a travel site unaffiliated with the city’s convention bureau: The new design is cleaner, but loses all of the kitsch that made the old logo vegas-y (is that a word?). In a bit of brand overthink, the old logo is described as an arrow that said “go there” while the new logo is an arrow that says “come here.” Or maybe “click here”. Whatever. We understand the need to get all the branding on one page, but think an opportunity to capitalize on what makes Vegas different was missed in this case.

Google Laura Secord Logo DesignNo new Google logos in the states this week, but we did spot this logo in Canada celebrating Laura Secord’s 239th birthday. She is known for having walked 20 miles in the middle of the night to warn the British forces of an impending American attack during the War of 1812. Canada’s Paul Revere.

What did we miss that you saw? Let us know in the comments.

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