What's In A Logo?


It's difficult to make it through a day without encountering countless logos. They're on everything, everywhere - from the food you eat, to the technology you buy, and the shoes you wear. A logo is the face of any company, the direct connection to the consumer, and a symbol meant to represent the company, products, or services.

So how does one go about designing a symbol that is meant to mean so much more than its literal interpretation? Here are five essential rules to logo design:

1. Simple.
Simple logos are often times the most easily recognized, memorable, and effective. Simple catches a viewer's attention the same way on paper, as it does when they're zooming by a highway billboard at 60 miles per hour. There is something to be said about a clean and refined logo that can often make a company seem more professional and trustworthy.

2. Memorable.
Logos should be easy for an individual to remember. The average person sees hundreds, if not thousands, of logos every day, and you want yours to be memorable. This is achieved multiple ways. Once again simplicity is key for easy recollection, and being able to describe it to others. It's important to keep the logo and its colors appropriate for the business, but make sure the logo and branding identity is not just a clone of what others in that market are doing.

3. Timeless
Good logos will endure the ages. Ask yourself if your design will still be relevant and effective in 10, 20 or 50 years. If the answer is no, you may want to reconsider. Rebranding can be difficult and costly for a company, so it's best to try and avoid any current trends or pop culture references. Neutrality in design is a huge contributor to timelessness. Clean lines, symmetry, and simplicity all contribute to an easy-to-read and easy-to-remember style that will remain relevant for many decades to come.

"They think they're judging a diving competition, but actually all these organizations are in swimming competitions. It's not what kind of splash you make when you hit the water. It's how long you can keep your head above that water."

- Michael Bierut, Graphic Designer (Logos: Big 10, Mohawk, Hilary Clinton Campaign)

4. Versatile
It's difficult to say from the start what type of mediums a logo may end up on, so it's important to design a logo that will present well on any surface or across any medium. With functionality being so vital, a logo should always be designed in Vector format to help make it as clean and adaptable as possible. When considering versatility, there are many questions to address. A logo should be recognizable, easy to understand, and evoke the same meaning no matter where it's placed. Will the logo do well in color? What about black and white? What if it's used on something small, like a favicon or a postage stamp? Or something large, like a billboard or the side of a building? Is the logo affordable for printing?

5. Appropriate
Making sure a logo is appropriate for the company and intended audience is a must. It's unlikely that you would want to use the same font for a children's toy store as you would a law firm. Do your research on the company you're designing for, and get a feeling for what's appropriate in that market. Different colors are associated with different meanings and it's important to consider how this could change the perception of a company through their logo.

While appropriateness is important, a logo doesn't need to reflect exactly what a business does or what services it offers. Not all computer logos need to show a computer (like Apple and Windows). Not all car logos need to have a car (like Mazda and Chevy). Sprint's logo doesn't show a phone, and the Starbucks logo has nothing to do with coffee. Despite this, the logos are all still appropriately designed for their intended audiences and businesses in ways such as shapes, colors, and styles, and as a result they are all examples of successful logos.

"Design is so simple, that's why it is so complicated."

— Paul Rand, Graphic Designer (Logos: IBM, ABC, UPS)