Whenever we create a design, there are always certain limitations that we tend to work under for one reason or another. Some are imposed upon us by our clients from their specifications or preferences, and sometimes these limits are imposed by us. By either the directions that we have decided to go in, or the choices that we have moved towards with our work. And sometimes, the limits are the result of the qualities that we are seeking to instill in the design. The aspects that will convey and sustain just what the design is supposed to embody. And sometimes, it is all about time.
Now in the design game, time is not always on our side. No, that seems to only apply to Mr. Mick Jagger and the Stones, or so the song would have you believe. In fact, with deadlines, oft times unproductive meetings, and things of that nature, time is not always a designer’s best friend. Especially if said designer is seeking to create a logo design that is essentially, and for all intents and purposes, timeless. Now having a design be timeless is talked about quite often online, but often as a mere throw-away section, without really digging deep into this timeless zone where so few logos exist.
In this article today, we are going to look at this aspect of logo design, that so many of the online design collective impress upon us that we should always strive towards with our logo design. Article after article, post on top of post, the community comes at us with this idea of timeless designs, but there are not many who take the time to fully explain just what they are really talking about, and some ways in which you can achieve this ever so important design element. So how do we go about removing this dated feel and approach for our work and secure that timeless impression that our work will carry with it, hopefully weathering the storms ahead? Read on for more…
Now at first we need to look a little more at just what everyone is talking about when they mention making their designs timeless. We have to determine if it is possible to make a design timeless. Some might argue that no design can truly be timeless in this day and age, of newly developing technological advances and presentations. Some might argue that seeking out this sort of design aspect could ultimately serve to lessen your design’s impact rather than improve or sustain it. Which could be true. If you went about it the wrong way.
But if we look at the question from the other side, we are perhaps given a glance at the possibility of our new time-elusive design being able to be instilled. We see it all the time. People so-called ‘dating’ their designs through the use of popular styles, trends or techniques from a given era that they believed would encapsulate the brand they are building for. They reach back a few generations to capture the time and the feel of those years in our history and they find the ideas that were making the popular design rounds, and they lock in. Effectively bringing that era through to us with their logo.
So it would seem that if we can go in the direction of capturing time for our work and essentially crafting our logos from that period, then we could certainly, with a solid dedicated effort, achieve the opposite. There are examples across the cyberspace landscape of effective logos that have done just that. They are not dated by any stretch of the imagination, they are dateless. From the Coca-Cola logo (one of the most popular examples of timeless logo designs that exists today) to a handful of others, we have seen this elusive element in play, so we have an idea that it can be done. We may just not know where to start.
As we look to make this timeless aspect stick in our logos, one of the best ways to approach this, is by briefly examining some designs that have lasted through the torrential trend storms and have come out on the other side, still feeling fresh and unaffected. Also, we will take a look at some logos that do not achieve this feel and reasons why they might be missing the timeless train. And the first thing that we will talk about getting in our way, is what we are calling elemental interference. For example, take a look the logo below for the World Wildlife Fund.
Now we can see the simple approach that was taken with the design, going for a very minimalistic approach, while employing some negative space to assist in the creation and conveyance that the logo makes. Now with a design this simple, you would think that timelessness would easily be wrought from its grips, however this is an instance where the image element can actually interfere with that sustaining look. Because they use an image of a panda, which today is easily recognizable, they do hang on the verge of extinction. If that were to happen, how long before the younger generations would no longer readily recognize this image?
So we can see that even though the logo works wonderfully in many ways for the World Wildlife Fund and their mission, that could unexpectedly change given the environmental factors that heavily weigh on this impactful imagery. Which could possibly instigate a search for a future logo, rather than merely an updated version of the one they have today. And though these kinds of future changes both to the design world and the world beyond are not necessarily predictable, it does point us in a direction that can lead us to timeless places for our logos. But do not think that images are simply out of bounds in this pursuit, just look below.
Now the Families logo brilliantly blends the subtle imagery into the wording of the logo for a simple and effectively timeless feel to the design. The members of the family all standing together in symbology that seemingly will hold out through the years and trend storms that pass through the design community. This simple approach is powerfully effective, and maintains a harmonious balance between all the included elements of the logo. The balance is important, but the more important focus is choosing the right imagery if you want to use some in your logo.
Now again, we are not meant to all be prognosticators of the world, to know exactly what changes the future may bring about that will impact the effectiveness of the logo imagery that you have used. So when seeking out a more timeless approach, the imagery needs to be as generic as possible so that it does not create any unintentional interference at a later date. Now this may require us to do a couple of things to our design that we maybe normally would think is counterproductive to the idea encapsulation that the logo is supposed to achieve.
One of the things that may go against our usual logo design approach, that we may have to concede to do in the cases where we want a more timeless feel to our logo, is to actually have the logo convey less than we normally would have it transfer to the viewer. The more simplistic an approach that we take to creating the logo initially, will put the design in more of a position to withstand the dated elements and techniques that could interfere with the timeless nature we are hoping to instill in our work.
The more that we charge the design with saying, generally the more that we have to work into the design to achieve the desired outcome. By doing this we are risking the timelessness, as each inclusion has to work in a completely unnattached way from the dated styles and imagery that we think the design needs to be effective. So we need to keep in mind on this track, each element that we include in the design is going to have to be able to withstand the torrential downpour of dating that can weigh in on every one of said elements. Take the logo below for an example of effectively saying less.
The CBS logo has long weathered the test of time, and has remained as ever simple and as elegant as it was the day that it was created. This ever-seeing Eye logo has been with the Columbia Broadcast System for generations, and is proof, that saying less is not always a recipe for branding disaster. The CBS logo may not have conveyed much, especially in the beginning, but as time wore on and it persisted, it began to embody more and carry more meaning along with it. This is something that we have to remember, is that even though it may start off saying less, the more timeless it is, and the longer it stays on the scene, the more it will pick up.
And while we may not always like the idea of saying less in the beginning, and hoping that we have achieved the correct balance and compostion of elements and techniques to carry it through in a timeless fashion, it can be a gamble that pays off in the long run. The client may not be appreciative of the approach either, something that we will have to address with each individual case, but if you can pull this off, the client will see many benefits from this brand as they launch themselves into their markets. But that puts a lot of the work and pressure, on us to deliver.
Theory over Trends
The second adjustment to our logo design process that we may have to make in order to work in this vein, is to put more focus on the basics of design theory throughout the creation of the logo, rather than focusing on the trends that are moving through the design community. Design theory is something that every designer should not only have a bit of a background in, but also is something that should always be lingering in the backs of our minds, guiding us subconciously as we create. The theories are the essentially the basic building blocks of design, and tends to work within the trends that we are fans of or are familiar with.
Trends in design have always been a powerful instigator in the directions that the design community moves in year after year. You see the articles popping up all over the blogosphere, highlighting these current trends and even projecting the possible trends that will steer the industry. It is not always easy to avoid the trends when designing, especially for clients who may have locked in on a certain trend that resonated with them someplace, and now they want you to follow this same path when you are working with them. The logo below is a fine example of sticking to theory over trends.
The logo for the London Underground is a wonderfully simplistic design, where we see less trendiness, and more focus on the basics of composition and color. Using basic geometric shapes and a simple font, the logo came to life in a raod sign kind of presentation that really fits well with its mission. And all the while it has been able to maintain a very timeless nature exuding from it since its inception. This has become such a widely recognized symbol in the UK, that it has even been adopted by a local bar here in Colorado Springs, to try and capture some of its trusted, timeless nature for their business.
By avoiding the not only current design trends, but also those that are seen as indicative of another era, and putting most of our design efforts into crafting the logo from a place of theory, we can enhance our chances of achieving this dateless design. The theories of design have been consistent and remained valid for this long, because they are important guides for the industry as a whole. Oft times we follow in suit with them, almost unconsciously, they have just become that much a part of our design natures that we can feel if they have not been followed often just at a glance.
Now one thing that is important to remember when you are attempting a timeless design, is that timeless does not relegate the design to a place where certain elements cannot be slightly altered or updated to keep it fresh and still relatable in new ways to new audiences. Even though we talked about the addition of excess elements can remove the dateless feel that we have worked to instill in the logo. This virtual weatherproofing of your logo, does not change the overall logo, it simply adds details to enhance it as new generations come into contact with it.
The Apple logo is a good example of keeping the main design the same, while altering elements within it that keep it evolving in a somewhat timeless way. Again this evolution, has to be subtle and not drastically stray from the original construct. As you can see above the Apple logo has received some tweaks over the years to keep the logo on the forefront of the design community, without losing the basics that made the design feel simple and timeless to begin with. The added shimmering gradient is one of the most notable evolutions that the logo has received over the years. Giving the design a sense of endurance.
The Endurance Test
Now naturally when we first create a logo, testing its endurance is not something that we can just readily dive into. Testing the endurance of a design that has just been birthed into creation, is not necessarily testing as you would expect. When you are testing the work’s ability to sustain in the market, one way that you can do so, without waiting for years to see if it lasts, is by comparing it to other models that are generally accepted as being timeless. Through this side-by-side comparison, you may see elements in your logo that stands out from the dateless example you have pitted it against.
These elements may be ones that you need to examine more in your own work to see if they are completely necessary. And more importantly, if they are dating your work instead of conveying that ageless appeal we had hoped to garner. And while this may not always be a workable solution for you, if you can use a more discerning eye to pick apart the logos element by element, then you may be able to simplify your logo down into this arena after all. Though another endurance test that you can give it, is to test the various ways that the logo can be presented to the viewer.
Basically, this is the same as testing the logo’s transference into the various mediums through which it will engage and interact with the public viewing it. In this fast paced digital age, we see new marketing mediums come to life, while others slowly wither and die (like print media is rumored to be doing right now). So it is important that we test the logo among these various mediums to ensure that it continues to work across formats. Another reason, simplicity of design is a bonus.
That’s All, Folks!
Well, that does it on this end, and we hope that this has been a helpful dissection of the process for making your logos feel timeless and always fresh. If there is anything that you would add to the discussion, then please feel free to leave your thoughts below in the comment section.