the graphic design blog that speaks the truth

The sad thing about trends, in any field, is that as they become overused they eventually turn into a cliché. A visual cliché in a logo is something that you should avoid at all costs, as one of the main characteristics of a good effective logo is that it should be unique. So if the world and his wife are utilising your same idea then it can effect not only your competitive advantage but also the way in which your brand is perceived. If a direct competitor is also using the same cliche then this can obviously become very dangerous indeed, with the possibility of brand recognition becoming impossible.

Luckily, a great logo designer will have their eyes peeled and their ear to the ground, equipped with the knowledge of all the past and present logo trends. This will provide an assurance that your business doesn’t fall into the trap of being represented by a logo cliche. If your logo looks similar to any of the examples shown below then it may be time to think about a rebrand. Here are the 10 biggest logo clichés of all time:

10. A photograph of the owner

Predominantly used by individuals in professions that could let their ego get the better of them such as Estate Agents & Social Media Super Duper Guru Gods™ (or even us designer-types). Incase you didn’t know who the real grinding force behind an organisation is, slapping a photo of the owner in place of a graphic is a sure-fire way to let the masses know. The cheesier the photo the worse the cliché becomes.

9. Pixel Blanket

Beware of the Pixel Blanket. It will smother & cover you in pixels of cliche dust. This is often used by businesses involved in the Information Technology sector. Notweb designers or developers but mainly tech support or networking services.

8. Reliance upon Helvetica

There is obviously nothing wrong with relying upon type alone. In fact, you may have noticed that some of the worlds largest brands use a wordmark. There is also nothing wrong with Helvetica, even though it is perhaps one of the most well-known & most commonly used fonts available. Even American Airlines use it as their typeface, and countless others. Many others. Too many.

7. Reflections

As stated, type alone usage can be a classy option. Especially if the typeface has unique qualities that make it stand out from the crowd. But what if you don’t have the skills to draw or modify your own letters? This is where the effects of Photoshop come into play and also the dreaded term ‘Web 2.0’. Since that term was invented, probably by a Social Media Super Duper Guru God™, it seems that every element of design has to look glossy and have a reflection, as if it was from the future. In reality it looks crap, especially if the reflection doesn’t match up with the original image.

6. Jumping Jack

This concept is the little brother of ‘the group hug’ which you will read about further down the list. I think this is possibly the easiest and simplest way to draw a person, without using the style of a stickman. Since a lot of companies like to put emphasis on the customer and ‘put people first’ this type of graphic is used by thousands of businesses worldwide.

5. Team Silhouette

The team silhouette is the evil twin sister of the cheesy team stock photo. At least now the cheesy smiles are no longer visible but this means that so are the faces of the people who are supposedly representing the company. Why hide in the shadows? It’s also best for a business to steer clear of self portrait silhouett usage in logos. Here are some examples of this logo design faux pas.

4. Globe

If you’re working with clients worldwide or are even involved with distribution you may want to get these facts across in your identity, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. A non-designer may suggest that the most appropriate imagery to illustrate this is to use the image of a globe in it’s most literal form. Don’t do it. It has been done a million and six times and by rule if it can be download as a piece of stock vector art work don’t even consider it. There are however, creative ways to implement an image of a globe, I am more referring to exact copies that you might find in a world Atlas. Wikipedia scores bonus points for combining two of the listed cliches in one!

3. Group Hug

I’ve named it the group hug but beware this cliché can come in a few variations. I think the concept stems from the idea of teamwork and working together for the same cause. I have seen this type of logo used for all kinds of businesses, from hospitals to funeral directors! Here is the google link for some examples.

2. Puzzle Piece

A completed puzzle is deemed to be a solution to a problem, right? I estimate that there are close to 100,000 organisations worldwide that are using a puzzle piece as an element for their logo. That’s the same solution to a lot of very different problems. Here are some examples.

1. Corporate Swoosh

This should hopefully not need an explanation. I think even the companies using the corporate swoosh have now realised that this is perhaps the biggest design cliche of all time. Not many people know this but corporate swooshes make clowns very very sad. Especially upside down ones.

Please Note: All logos included in this article are purely fictional and no likeness to existing companies or logos is intended.



  1. 07/03/12
    4:17 pm
    Thanks for featuring some of my early logo design work. :)
  2. 07/03/12
    4:40 pm
    It's so bloody hard to explain these gut-less clichés to clients sometimes. My experience says that reflections and "solutions" are the most requested, but all the above are bloody terrible! Best idea is to blow them out the water with a 'unique' concept that belittles all the clichés. PS - Loving the new site!
  3. 07/03/12
    5:11 pm
    What about misused gradients on random shapes that don't mean anything at all? :D
  4. 09/03/12
    1:24 am
    This is why I think some of the best logos are "Text-first" designs... a great, styled font with a minimal and flat (but clever) graphic portion. Weight, angle, style and colors are carefully selected to reflect the client's business. Text-first designs are the hallmark of a more seasoned logo designer. Jr designers LOVE to focus on an elaborate icon first, slapping on whatever font they like with very little customization, proper spacing, etc.
  5. 21/04/13
    5:56 am
    Is it sad that I recognized the stock image used in #10? Robert Lane's comment made me laugh (I can identify). :P
  6. 08/02/15
    5:14 pm
    Some nice logos in the list, good post!
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