Browse
Logos Don’t Have To Be Literal

Logos Don’t Have To Be Literal

Posted November 15, 2018 by Jerod Clark

This article was orginally published on March 15, 2011.

I’ve been watching America’s Next Great Restaurant, a show where contests compete by pitching their ideas for a new restaurant chain. The winner gets funded by Bobby Flay, Steve Ells (the founder of Chipotle) and others who will help the lucky person open a three-restaurant chain with the promise of more. 

This past week, part of the competition was creating a logo for their proposed restaurants. While they were overall hit or miss, it was interesting to hear the judges critique a couple of the logos I liked. (And I promise there are some logo lessons coming, so stick with me.)

This first logo is for a restaurant concept called MeltWorks, an upscale grilled cheese restaurant. Basically the idea is to take the cheesy deliciousness of a traditional sandwich and give it some pep and variety by adding various gourmet ingredients. The judges/investors didn’t like the logo because of the cog that replaced the “o” in the word works didn’t convey “grilled cheese” to them. They wanted something food-related instead of a piece of machinery dripping goo. 

A second logo they really didn’t like came from a taco bar concept called Hard ‘N Soft. The logo had a great grungy feel—almost tattoo-like—that fit the attitude of the proposed business. Again, the judges hated it. The logo was probably their least favorite. The reasoning was similar, too. They didn’t see anything that made them literally think food.

Based on these two examples from America’s Next Great Restaurant I completely disagree with what the judges say make a good logo design. So here are some logo principles I think would serve them better and they apply to any organization whether it’s a business or a church.

Logos don’t have to be literal. A sandwich store doesn’t need to have a piece of bologna in the logo. Church logos don’t necessarily have to include a cross. There’s a whole bunch of great logos out there that are abstract or artistic. What does the Nike swoosh have to do with literally working out? What do the golden arches have to do with hamburgers? Even simple, successful logos like those of Target and Apple have nothing to do with their actual product. They’re literal to the company name, but not what they’re selling.

Literal interpretations are often times the lazy way out. The joke in Christian design is that the best church logo would include a dove, globe, flame and cross all meshed together. Using these literal symbols that are traditionally linked to Christianity is easy instead of taking the time to be creative. If you’re Water’s Edge Church, it may make sense for you to have water in your logo. That’s a part of your name. But if you’re just deciding to use a generic cross design because that’s what churches do, then you’re missing an opportunity. If you are being literal, make sure you’re doing it because it’s the best design, not just the easy way out. (By the way, I’m not anti-cross in logos. I just want to make sure they’re part of a good design, not just a fall-back.)

Logos have a personality. Successful logos are ones that accurately reflect a brand. They show your personality and visualize your style. If someone looks at your logo and then has interaction with you, there’s shouldn’t be a disconnect between the two. It should make sense. The guy with the Hard ‘N Soft taco bar concept has a clear personality that’s reflected by his restaurant. The logo showed that personality. If the logo matches the experience inside the restaurant, the company has successful branding.

Creating a logo is a subjective process, so have a brand ambassador. Whenever a logo’s being made, there are going to be a lot of opinions. Everyone has their own design esthetic. So make sure you have someone who really understands the brand you’re creating a logo for. Do they get the personality? Do they know what the experience is like interacting with your organization? That person should be a gatekeeper in saying what’s true to the brand and what isn’t.

Filed under: Branding, Logo

About the Author

Jerod Clark

Jerod joined ReFrame Media in 2007 and built Church Juice from scratch. He poured all his passion for branding, marketing, and messaging into the ministry, publishing e-books, blog posts, and speaking at conferences to help churches energize their communications. He also served as ReFrame’s in-house graphic designer. Before beginning his work at Church Juice, Jerod was a local TV news reporter. In 2016, Jerod stepped away from the ministry to pursue interests in marketing and communications on new horizons.

Don't miss a post

Join our email list

Comments (3)

  • jenniferleyva
    2:41 PM
    Tue, Mar 15, 2011

    great logo.. it shows the personality of the owner.. i just hope they serve great food..

  • Lauren Hunter
    10:50 AM
    Thu, Nov 15, 2018

    Great points about logo design in this article. Thanks!

  • Joe
    10:48 AM
    Tue, Nov 20, 2018

    Great article - nothing annoys me more than a literal logo where it’s not needed!

Leave a Comment

Share your thoughts about this blog post with us.
All fields are required.

Recent Posts

Snappy Solutions
Snappy Solutions
1

Posted February 13, 2019 by Matthew Hooper

Snapchat is one of the many social communication options around. It’s unique feature of deleting posts means you needs to navigate this social channel in a completely different way.
The Best Time to Post on Facebook
The Best Time to Post on Facebook
0

Posted February 11, 2019 by Jordan Gorveatte

With algorithms and engagement constantly changing, what are the best times to post on Facebook? We break it down for you here.
Instagram and the Visual Web
Instagram and the Visual Web
0

Posted February 6, 2019 by Bryan Haley

Your church needs to think more visually. Instagram’s wild success and influence is continuing to move the web toward visual.
4 Things Churches Need to Stop Posting on Social Media
4 Things Churches Need to Stop Posting on Social Media
6

Posted February 4, 2019 by Robert Carnes

There’s plenty of articles talking about what the church could add to their social media channels. This article is the opposite of that—four things that churches should stop adding online.
The McDonald’s Method
The McDonald’s Method
1

Posted January 29, 2019 by Matthew Hooper

3 guys walk into a church. They all question what year they walked into. Should you update your building’s look? How should you go about a building update?
Good Websites Remove Barriers
Good Websites Remove Barriers
1

Posted January 22, 2019 by Bryan Haley

After moving to a new city, we started looking online for a new church, and it made me realize how many churches don’t prioritize their website. A poor website does nothing to help potential guests want to show up on Sunday. Here’s how a good website removed barriers.
2019 Design Trends Forecast
2019 Design Trends Forecast
2

Posted January 17, 2019 by Gage Hunt

What should your church be expecting out of graphic design trends this year? Here's our best guess.
15 of the Best Church Websites for 2019
15 of the Best Church Websites for 2019
0

Posted January 15, 2019 by Bryan Haley

We've spent dozens of hours searching the web to find the best church websites in North America. Here are 15 of the best church websites this year.
Go Live or Go Home: Streaming Strategy for Small Churches
Go Live or Go Home: Streaming Strategy for Small Churches
1

Posted December 27, 2018 by Matthew Hooper

Thanks to Youtube, Facebook Live, and the advent of affordable smartphones, anyone can get in on the online church game. Here are some questions to work through to set up a winning strategy with taking your church live.
A Checklist for Your Ministry’s Online Strategy in 2019
A Checklist for Your Ministry’s Online Strategy in 2019
1

Posted December 20, 2018 by Tyler Rominger

Here are some thoughts, formed into a checklist of sorts, in order to help you form your organization’s online strategy for 2019.