Have you ever seen a logo with one of these swoosh shapes? Sure you have. They’re everywhere. This trend started sometime in the late 90s during the dot com boom and quickly became a cliche, one that needs to go away forever.
So what’s wrong with the swoosh? One, it’s overdone. It’s been played out for over 20 years now. Using it today shows that your company isn’t creative or innovative. You just copy what others do without putting any thought into your decisions.
Two, it’s meaningless. I guess it’s supposed to represent speed or action or something. But there are tons of ways to represent those things without resorting to a cliche. This kind of mark says “I don’t care about my logo. I just had my neighbor’s kid mess around in Illustrator for a few minutes and send me a jpg.” Or even worse, I just typed “logo” into a clip art site and downloaded this.
And third, when you opt for a generic logo, you increase your risk of inadvertently copying an existing design and causing headaches for your business and your customers. For example, look at this logo from Credit One Bank. It was created in 2006. Look familiar? Yup. Here’s the Capital One logo that was created just two years later.
Did Capital One intentionally rip off Credit One? Probably not. Unintentional copycat logos do happen, but the more generic your logo, the more you risk looking like a plagiarist. And when that happens, you could be in for legal trouble, at the very least, a cease and desist, which could cost a lot of money depending on how heavily you’ve been using your logo.
It can also cause customer confusion. Lots of people have assumed Credit One and Capital One are the same company. In fact, the much smaller Credit One benefited from the confusion. They got some new customers thanks to their similarity to a more well-known brand. That’s probably why, as far as I know, they didn’t take any legal action.
But why do so many brands adopt the swoosh as their logo? I think part of it lies in brands wanting to be well recognized, so they try to copy an element of one of the most recognized brands in the world: Nike.
But here’s the thing about Nike. Sure, it’s a great logo. But that logo is not the reason Nike is a successful company. Nike is huge because they’ve spent decades building brand equity. Their products, advertising, sponsorships, partnerships, and most importantly, commitment to consistency … all comes together over time to form a strong brand ecosystem. The logo represents all of that. The brand equity didn’t come about automatically because they used a swoosh in their logo.
So, no a logo isn’t the only aspect of branding. But it is an important one, which is why you can’t go generic. And swooshes aren’t the only types of logos that scream generic. Ask yourself what’s played out in your industry. Do you have a real estate company? Don’t use a house. If you’re a dentist, don’t use a tooth. Veterinarian? Enough with the dog and cat silhouettes.
Have an in-depth conversation with your designer about what your brand truly represents. That means, if you’re a dentist, you do more than scrape plaque. You provide your patients with good health and the self-confidence that comes from clean, properly aligned teeth. How can your designer turn those abstract concepts into a mark that represents you and only you?
Coming up with that kind of logo is not easy, but avoiding the quick, generic route will pay off in the long run.