Musings

AI For Branding Part 2: Logo Generators

Chris "Boz" Harrold / Marketing Insights / 10th Jun 2020
Chris "Boz" Harrold 10th Jun 2020 Marketing Insights

In my article in April, I looked at artificial-intelligence-powered Name Generators and concluded that— while potentially useful in the right hands for certain situations— the process lacked the unique-to-humans creative approach to problem solving and concept generation needed to really connect with an audience.

Yes the tool delivered a number of vaguely-suitable potential company names, but they didn’t very often hit the nail on the head and there were a few problems with colour clashes…

Just like last time, we’re going to continue using our very own agency Roots Creative as our example and imagine we’re using our chosen AI Logo Generator to help us generate our ‘brandmark’ or logo.

Fittingly, we’re going to look at the website and logo generating tool brandmark.io. It tells us we can “build our brand identity” with its “generative AI”. Let’s see how this works out then!

brandmark.io's AI logo homepage and call to action
Interestingly, only Brandmark's meta description mentions AI, not it's homepage!

Company Name and Tagline

Once we’ve clicked “Create My Logo” on the website’s homepage, we’re asked to enter our company name and tagline. We’re going to use “Roots Creative” for the name, and “Design, Develop, Grow” as our tagline. This tagline should be short—but descriptive— enough to fit nicely into our design while still letting our audience know what we do.

Brand Keywords

Just like the AI Name Generator in my last article, brandmark.io asks us for Brand Keywords. These are the words that “best describe our brand”. I’ve chosen to use the exact same keywords as last time; to try and ensure we get the most consistent, coherent brand at the end of the process.

Those words again are “digital marketing”, “creative”, “design” and “grow”.

select keywords for brandmark's ai logo generator
I've opted to use a small number of the most relevant keywords to keep our options open.

Colour Style

After moving to the next page, we are asked to select a Colour Style from four colour palettes. The first, third and fourth options looks very sedate and a little dull to me— not what Roots Creative is about.

The second option “Vibrant, intense” looks much better— more modern and eye catching and ‘design-y’. There are even a couple of colours in there very similar to Roots’ existing colour palette. I’ve picked this one.

Is it just me or are nearly all of the colours very dull and boring?

The Generated Concepts

That’s it – clicking the final “Next” arrow starts the generation process. We are left to wait for a few seconds while it loads before being presented with our concepts in a neat slideshow.

For the purposes of this article, I’ve created a montage of the first nine concepts generated below.

brandmark's first nine ai logo concepts
The first nine concepts generated by brandmark.io's Artificial Intelligence.

Let’s assess them as if they were created by a graphic designer, and not simply by lines of code and algorithms.

Initial Thoughts

So, my first thought is that all the concepts are quite… shallow? They seem solely to comprise of a font style (sans serif, gothic, cursive, italicised, etc.), sometimes customised with a minor, meaningless tweak or edit, sometimes accompanied by a (very) simple clipart-esque graphic or icon.

The typefaces themselves seem almost to be randomly generated and I can’t seem to see a logic or reasoning behind the varied selection suggested by the AI tool.

The icons, illustrations and graphics used in the designs could be said to be a little cheesy. A little too literal or over-used. I saw a great number of light bulbs in the first dozen concepts— presumably representing ‘great, creative ideas’ or some other such iStock photo cliché.

There were a number of leaf and sapling forms which, if used creatively and originally, might have worked, but our AI tool just slapped them in without any additional ‘thought’ or next-level consideration or concept evolution.

It’s interesting; it’s like the AI has searched a database for relevant keywords and terms and applied them with a set of pre-programmed patterns or techniques to try and create meaningful graphics. Two dollar signs coming out of a rudimentary megaphone? I guess in theory both are relevant to marketing, but in practice, it’s an unusual way of representing the industry. Does Roots shout through a mouthpiece and money fly out? Or is the money being sucked into the megaphone!?

I did notice one other thing about the colours; the colour of the text or logo did not always compliment or contrast the background colour. Almost as if the AI generator had no conception of what would be easy or hard to read, pleasant or unpleasant to look at. The dark green on rich orange concept, for example, almost makes you blind trying to pick out the serifs.

Did you notice as well that almost all of the concepts shared the same basic structures? I.e. “Roots Creative’ all on one line with a tagine below, either stacked or left aligned or centred? I’m sure a human designer could think of more (and more creative) ways to layout our logomark.

Looking at the Pros

So maybe most of my thoughts in the last few paragraphs were negative. Maybe I wouldn’t have been very impressed if one of our designers had produced these in the first batch.

However, if looked as solely as a way of helping a startup know what they like and don’t like, or as a way of deciding on a colour palette, font style or layout, this tool may possibly be of some use.

For example, after looking at the concepts above one may well be able to say “I know I don’t want gothic text, that’s ridiculous” and “I know I don’t want to use different shades of green because our agency may look like a garden centre”. For entrepreneurs with no design experience or training, I admit this may be a useful first step…

Next Steps

So, if— through some miracle—a logo was generated that utilised the perfect font, font weight, style and colour and the logomark was legible, on-trend, original and versatile and perfectly embodied the company’s business sector, we are given the option to purchase it if we would like.

We can pay $25 for a bitmap PNG logo, or we can pay $65 for editing options, a vector format logo and many more very-useful-sounding designs, such as business card and letterhead designs.

brandmark ai design package options
It's up to you how much or how little you get with your logo.

I’m not going to explore these options much further because it is the logo generator that we are looking at in this article, but I will say that Roots highly recommends clients’ source a vector format logo, whenever possible. These files allow us to edit and resize the logo as required to make it work on any and all future marketing materials you might need. As such, the $25 option may only be suitable for those planning to market digitally on the web and on mobile, rather than in print.

Verdict

So in summary, while the generator did what it said it would do (i.e. present a range of concepts based on the information we gave it at the beginning), the concepts— if I’m being honest— looked like something a particularly un-creative GCSE student might create on his first day of Design Technology class… Uninspired, uncreative, illogical, tired and often illegible.

We know we can do better because our designers have proved it to dozens of clients over the last five years. Get in touch with us and we’ll show you how professional, human logo design does not have to be difficult or expensive.

Next time, we take a look at AI-powered Website Generators. Can an algorithm really design a website!? We’ll find out soon.

Chris

Chris "Boz" Harrold / Creative Director

Whether it’s for print or web, email or exhibition, Boz creatively directs as hard as he can to ensure we provide our clients with only the highest standard of work.