Outdated logos will undoubtedly hurt your business's image because logos are nothing short of critical for making good impressions on potential customers and business partners. Logos provide an image that people can recognize and trust; having a bad one will prevent your business from flourishing.
Will an Old Logo Hurt?
The answer is yes, absolutely. Outdated business logos hurt image all the time because a logo is essentially the face of a company. When a business puts out advertisements, prints business cards, and introduces itself in any way it will likely be accompanied by a logo of some sort. Since your logo is the first impression you're giving someone, it's very detrimental to your business's image to present something that is stale, stagnant, or just gaudy looking.
Luckily, as outlined here, there are a lot of ways to fix or prevent design problems or improve a logo design to create the perfect match for you business's image.
Determining If Your Logo is Outdated or Ugly
The best way to see if your logo needs a breath of fresh air is to get some opinions. Ask customers, employees, and clients what they think of the logo and if it needs replacing. If you get a couple negative answers, you need to look into getting a new one designed as soon as possible.
The pitfall for designing your own logo is that you will inevitably put a lot of time and effort into it and you'll very likely be attached to it by the time you're finished regardless if it will look appealing to the general public. The first thing that everyone has to realize is that no logo design should end up being permanent, and that getting attached to it will only lead to complications later on.
Another thing you have to ask yourself is, "Does your logo design fit your business's image and style?" Stuff like cartoon mascots are great for pizza places and family-oriented businesses, but not so much for a corporate setting. Use your best judgment and design around what your business is all about.
Fixing Up An Existing Logo
The main problem I see with ugly logos is that they are way too complicated and confusing. You see this a lot with small businesses that feel like they need to stand out against the droves of businesses with simpler and sleeker logos. This is not the right way to treat your logo design.
A logo with too many lines or colors will just be a strain on the eyes or just look like an amorphous shape with no real composition. If your logo is too complicated it will be avoided because it's both hokey and cheap looking. Keep things simple and avoid any unnecessary flair that would make your logo seem more of an art project than something that is recognizable.
If you're stuck with what to do, try comparing your current design to your competition's logo designs. Ask yourself what you're doing differently from them and see how you can take your logo and make it more like what they have. Remember to avoid outright copying their logo or style since you want to remain as unique as you possible can.
Fonts are sometimes the cause of a less than stellar logo design, so pay just as much attention to it as you do your logo. Fonts that are pre-packaged in software and in most operating systems are bland and overused because of their accessibility. Try and find freeware fonts or have a designer recommend some unique fonts for your design.
Preventing Your Logo From Getting Outdated
There's no law saying that you can't keep the logo you have for years or even decades. The people at Coca Cola have had the same logo for over 200 years now and the only changes have been some color changes, adding backgrounds, and some special effects to make the classic cursive logo pop a little bit more.
A classic logo will just need the occasional touch up to keep going. Don't change too much or your brand might become unrecognizable and become costly since generally a graphic designer will charge more money the more you want a logo altered. Play around with some new, modern fonts, make the graphic of your logo cleaner or sharper looking. If you can afford to, alter your logo a little bit once every year or so, but you should get by with updating at least once every two and a half years.
Always commission for new art assets rather than using stock graphics from the Internet or clip-art. The added expense is worth it since your logo is critical when trying to establish the first connection with customers and clients.