How to get a school logo that stands out and makes you proud.

You can pick out someone you know in a crowd even if they have their back to you or are wearing a silly hat (and they are not the friend who always wears a silly hat).

You think, ‘Oh there goes Chris – cheerful, sporty Chris who doesn’t like carrots’, or, ‘Here comes Mo – serious, clever Mo who plays Jazz trombone.’ A logo works similarly – it’s so familiar that it conjures up everything associated with that brand. It is what your branding builds on, the first thing anyone sees; and when they see it repeatedly it becomes synonymous with your business and can be picked out in a crowd like Chris and Mo. And Apple and Nike and Airbnb and Costa.

Logos come in different styles: image, words, or emblems. Image logos are depictions of actual things – like a bitten apple or a tweeting bird – or abstract pictures like the Olympic rings – or pictures of a person or ‘mascot’ like Captain Birdseye or the Kellogg’s chicken. Image logos tend to weather well because they can be modified or updated whilst retaining the familiar look. Captain Birdseye, for example, has got younger, less like your granddad and more like the leading man in an independent film. He still cooks a mean fishfinger, though!

Word logos are made from, well, words. Or parts of words or letters. Think IBM or Gillette or Morrisons. Word logos are adaptable and scalable, making them easy to use in different contexts and on various products. The ubiquitous ‘M’ used by McDonalds is recognised the world over and in British Sign Language it is drawn big with two hands. You probably recognise HP or WB or LV, and if you don’t it may be because in the actual logos the design (colour, style etc.) is a big part of their look. That or you don’t use computers, watch films or wear designer clothes.

Some companies simply take their trade name and use a certain typeface and colour and call it a logo – Lego, Visa, Facebook, for example. They may well accompany it by something pictural or shorten it for certain contexts, but essentially they are investing a lot on the name of their firm. The school they called ‘Knowsley Park Centre for Learning – serving Prescot, Whiston and the wider community’ might be best avoiding a full name logo, but Wye High (sadly, not its real name) could do something great.

In general, schools will benefit from a logo that ingeniously suggests more than simply what they call themselves; unless you are extraordinarily well-known (any reader from Eton College is welcome to get in touch), you want your logo to work for you, suggesting values, location, history or approach. A combination using emblem, mascot, letterform, monogram and mascot – maybe not all of them – is sometimes useful to generate the right response, but it is a good idea not to over-complicate your logo.

Ultimately, whatever makes up your logo, it needs to be memorable, unique, and be the cover to the book that tells your story.

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