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I could for example show a logo, say the Fedex logo, and note that it doesn't have a truck, an airplane, or a delivery person in it.

What else? What arguments can I make?

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    Hi and welcome to GDSE! It's an interesting question but I can see it might get closed because it's extremely broad. Can you edit your question to make it more specific?
    – curious
    Feb 10, 2020 at 21:12

4 Answers 4

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Being literal has its places. A logo or even company name may not be one of them. Why?

  • Is it really the only thing the company is ever going to do?
  • Does it bring additional value? I mean take a trucking company. Now their logo has a picture of a truck... on a truck. Or an airplane on an airplane... Etc.
  • Logo is not everything there is more in your visual language. Sure on a website you might want to show said truck.
  • Likewise you don't need to repeat the name as an image.

This said. It's still a valuable gimmick for some cases.

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You won't convince a group of anything. They probably all know and work with each other.. you may be an outsider... you won't overcome the "mob mentality" in many instances. The best you can do is possibly convince the person in charge. Designing for committee just plain sucks if you are not a part of that committee to begin with. :)

My point being, it's very valid to use a logo at times which is more abstract and non-representational. However, those brands tend to be either created internally by a corporate design staff or designed for smaller operations where only one or two people are the deciding factor. In these instances you can effectively argue that there's no need to be literal and show examples of non-literal, well known, logos.

However, if you're designing a logo for something like a local business and they want all their sales staff and office staff to be in on the processes, you are not going to make any headway. The "crowd", who is largely untrained, will have their own mindset as to what "logo" means. And most often it'll be very literal.

  • Bob thinks the logo should be blue. No basis for this other than Bob likes blue.
  • Debbie thinks a logo with mountains would be nice since there are mountains in the region.
  • John thinks a truck is needed because most of the business centers around truck repair.
  • Julio feel that pastel colors would work best because he thinks it's friendlier
  • Heidi wants to see it bold and bright so it stands out next to other logos
  • Charlie really feels it needs to be a diamond shape because diamonds are "the best"

You may create the best possible logo for the business, but if the "crowd" really expects to see a blue truck with mountains behind it in a diamond shape that's both pastel and bold and bright..... someone won't like it. And that dissenting voice will sway the committee while you aren't around. It's infuriating at times.

Best you can do is give them what they want and move on.... Trying to convince a committee of the merits of a more abstract mark is, in my experience, always a losing battle.


Anecdotal: The last "committee" I designed for was, in fact, a logo. They wanted something "modern, young, exciting" in contrast to their current more corporate and straight-laced logo. This new logo was to be a secondary thing for special operations within the business.

I designed a logo I was actually exceptionally proud of. Which is kind of rare. In most cases there's always something I think I could improve. But with this one, I thought I nailed it and it was just stunning... but nope.. the "committee" constructed of 7-10 "office" people with ZERO design or marketing experience, didn't go for it because... no mountains.. no blue truck.. no pastels, etc.

I ended up just walking away from the project. Later, I saw the logo they ended up using... drab is the best I can say.. and met none of the criteria I was asked to meet. I don't know who created it, but well, I'm sure it was struggle to some degree.

I no longer design for "committees". I design for 1-3 people.. 1 preferably... THEY can then deal with any committee if they so choose. But I need a firm set of decision makers to make decisions and have conversations. I don't have the time, nor inclination, to try and wrangle multiple personalities with multiple desires and "sell" each of them individually based upon what they don't understand with respect to design.

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  • I have always referred to this as "death by committee."
    – Yorik
    Feb 13, 2020 at 15:03
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Honestly, if they are so narrow minded you should look for other clients.

A client like this will always tell you what to do. Whatever you say, they will know better, because they don't need a designer, they need a DTP person.

Whatever the arguments, you'll likely end up with 2 options:

  1. dump the client
  2. take the job, but accept you will probably have to execute as requested (which in some cases is not necessarily a bad thing)

Many times the first impression counts, and they will probably end up being what they appear to be, eg. a "lets do this.." type of client vs. a "how can we do this.." approach.

I know this does not provide an actual answer as per 'the rules', but this is advice coming from experience and should be considered.

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Ask them 5 "Why"

  1. Why the logo should be literall
  2. Why it cannot be abstract
  3. Why they want to focus on that one thing forever
  4. Why they brand awernees will be forever assosiated with this thing
  5. (and this is gonna hurt their egos) Why they don't want to expand and grow

They might have their reasons. See if they have sense. A delivery guy in a logo would throw me out if I looked for airshipping. An abstract logo is much more capacious when the customer ADD by themself.

If they think they are so clever designers ask them for 10 logo of top 500 companies that have literall logos.

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    Asking the client these questions will generally make them more defensive and entrenched in their positions. I do not recommend this approach. Feb 11, 2020 at 14:48
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    Yeah i think so too. They will only say "because we want to" five times. You don't want to hurt egos with a client like this. Provide rational arguments, backed up by examples if possible, otherwise see my answer..
    – Lucian
    Feb 11, 2020 at 19:44
  • @Lucian I think what you want is to have a client and make them happy and finish the job. Sometimes you need to walk away. If a CLIENT don't provide rational arguments, backed by examples why should you? You waste your time (they pay you for that?) talking with logic to people who have none (because "we say so" is not logical). You are right that you should look for other clients. My method is just different way of filtering them out. Feb 12, 2020 at 7:41
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    Exactly. If you only have one client, we'll bad luck i guess. You need to make it work. If you have other clients, just walk away from the difficult ones, and stick to the rational ones. But I don't agree with your method. A client with fixed ideas (like the OP mentioned) will not tolerate too many 'why this and that' questions.
    – Lucian
    Feb 12, 2020 at 8:51

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