The Golf Ball Logo Test
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the years concerns logos. If it looks good on a golf ball, it will look good anywhere.
I once worked for a creative director who came from the old school. His father was a creative director before him, and he firmly believed the position warranted the same level of respect as any marketing executive. He commanded much influence through the company, managed both design and copywriters, and taught me countless things about design, business and management.
One of the key lessons that has stuck with me through the years concerned logo design. It’s not a fancy or even novel idea, but it boils down everything about the technical drafting of logos I’ll ever need to remember:
A logo should be able to look good on a golf ball.
Think about it. A mark should be unique and simple enough to be stamped on a tiny plastic white ball and still make an impression on people whacking it several hundred yards with a nine iron.
One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed about branding in general is that the larger the company, the simpler the logo. Microsoft. IBM. FedEx. CDW. The new Sprint logo. All of these brands can be reproduced perfectly on a golf ball. Common traits:
- Works just as well in plain black as it does in full color.
- Works well in dramatically reduced sizes, like a half inch.
- Simple design. Printing on a golf ball is not easy, and those little bumps are going to cause subtle distortions and possible ink runs. (One could almost replace the word “simple” with “forgiving.”)
For designers, marketers and brand managers, golf balls are just the beginning. Think about all the places logos appear. Newspapers. Blimps. Embroidered shirts. Pens, mugs, mouse pads, t-shirts, websites and business cards. A logo without 400 colors, gradients, weird text and tiny embellishments will create far fewer headaches.
In this day of gratuitous use of technology to create needlessly complex marks (UPS, DC Comics), it’s nice to know that some companies — even the largest ones in the world — understand the value of simplicity in their logo.