In today’s visual landscape, people are bombarded with imagery everywhere they look. For a brand to stand out among the crowd, it’s essential for their logo to be not only powerful and thoughtful, but it also needs to encompass their brand identity within a single graphic.
This is no easy feat, but it can be done: McDonald’s golden arches, Nike’s swoosh and Target’s red bullseye are all great examples of effective logos that resonate with their brands.
French graphic designer Max Elbling has created hundreds of logos and has made a career of translating a brand’s identity into a visual manifestation. He began his career in 2002 at French television channel Canal+ where the core of his mission was to create a visual identity for each program. While he acknowledges that the graphic design industry is heavily trend driven, he has found that he is most successful when he isn’t motivated by what’s popular at the time but rather, when he remains focused on his own creativity.
“Usually, a designer’s first instinct is to see what’s already being done in the field,” Elbling said. “For me, while it’s essential to see what others are doing, you have to try to start out with as clean a slate as possible. It’s only after this phase of prior reflection is over that you go back and see what already exists.”
Throughout his career, Elbling has experienced many changes throughout the graphic design industry, the biggest being the shift from working by hand to using computers.
“It’s interesting, because when I started out, we were right in the middle of the transition from working by hand to using computers. At Canal+, at first everything was done by hand. I would cut out letters by hand, glue them, photocopy them and re-glue them,” he said. “Computers have definitely shaken things up, but working by hand is still a method that suits me well. I think this method is better, not just for your eyes, but also for your creativity. Computers have a lot of distractions—like effects and graphic options that inevitably end up making you lose your concentration. When you only have a pencil and paper you stay focused on your idea. In my experience, people who are good at creating logos or identities tend to work that way.”
While everyone may have their own preferred method for designing, Elbling says the most important factor in creating a successful logo is to make sure it stands the test of time.
“The logos of Nutella, Canal+, Nestlé or even Jeep, for example, have hardly changed since they were created,” he said. “A good identity and a good logo are timeless. It’s as simple as that.”