The ubiquitous business logo represents the embodiment of its brand. It stands as the front-line soldier for marketing and it functions as a major badge of professionalism for an organization, entity or individual. Some logos even trend on the edge of pop culture and art. So, what makes a logo stand out from the pack and take on a life of its own? What makes it great? I’m sure many factors and influences affect the design of a logo during the planning stages. However, I believe the following qualities and elements top the list:
- It is unique and creative
- It closely represent its brand
- Its colors establish mood and attitude
- It is easy to understand but noticeably profound
The great logos that spike our interest, gain our trust and influence our purchases effectively encompass these qualities and elements. Pay attention to those intricacies as you put together your own creations.
1) Unique and Creative
First off, it goes without saying that a great logo is unique and creative. As business owners, we strive to create product lines contrastingly different from our competitors’ in order to stand out. A good logo will do the same. You want to present the public with the message: “This is who WE are as a company.” But, great logos stand out even more than good ones. Caroline Davidson designed the Nike Swoosh logo in 1971:
It took her 17+ hours and she was paid $35 dollars for a creation that today represents a multi-billion dollar company. The Nike Swoosh gets its inspiration from the Greek goddess of victory and imagines a swooping upward motion. The creative simplicity of the Swoosh has endured for 30+ years. It is color-friendly and looks attractive on products ranging from golf shirts to sports bags. Plus, there’s nothing like it. The poet Robert Browning coined the phrase “less is more.” With the Nike Swoosh, you get just that. It literally consists of two points and two curves angled just right. The “white-space” further establishes extra visual impact that adds more volume to the imagery. The design as a whole makes us feel “We can achieve” and we’re left with the inclination of “Just Do It.” Whether by destined mistake or ingenious plan, Caroline struck a creative goldmine with this design.
2) Strong Representation of The Brand
Logos traditionally come in three types: an image, text with a particular font or a hybrid of both. But, regardless of type, a great logo matches the mood and function of the brand. Whatever the brand aspires to be, the logo follows suit. An apple with a bite mark represents Apple Inc. The significance of the bite, representing bytes, turns out as happenstance and not an actual concept of the initial design. The bite was actually added to show scale (so that the apple would not be mistaken for a cherry). But, the byte idea after-the-fact was not dismissed by management and thus added more legend and life to the logo. Another logo, Kleenex brand, at some point, emerged as the proprietary eponym for facial tissue. Its logo presents a wavy-font imagery illustrating the soft fluffiness of its product. Volvo uses both a steel-gradient icon and prestigious, uppercase font to signify the robust, trusted and solid nature of its fleets.
Each logo in its own way strives to match the brand it represents on a literal, emotional or subliminal level. If the logo strikes a nerve and makes you feel like the design makes sense, the designers did a good job matching the logo with the brand.
3) Color Choice that Establishes Mood and Attitude
You see it all around you in ads and marketing. Simple designs embroiled with deep colors and undertones. There is a psychology behind the color choices in a great logo. Just like bright lights can alert and dim lights can relax, colors and hues arouse specific moods in most human beings. Designers take advantage of that psychology when adding reds that convey sexiness or confidence, like in Virgin’s or CNN’s logos. Or, when they utilize green to promote a clean and natural feel like the logos of Whole Foods and Ad Council’s Recycling Campaign. The following color-emotion chart matches color to mood and attitude:
The charts gives a secondary insight into how popular logos influence the viewer’s behavior. For instance, the red and yellow in MacDonald’s Golden Arches combines to produce a reaction in the viewer:
Red arouses feelings of energy and action, while yellow encourages a happy and inviting mood. If an individuals is hungry, this imagery acts like a motivator agent to conjure her urge to come in and eat. In this, color works as a very powerful tool to persuade action, evoke emotion or set a tone.
4) Easy to Understand but Noticeably Profound
Even if the designer nailed the design on the first draft, a great logo is rarely produced quickly. Striking that balance between simplicity and magnificent is difficult. Designer and client usually go back and forth juggling design tweaks, visual concepts, identity infusions and a host of other things to cultivate a multitude of drafts. All this is done in hopes they conceptualize a design that the public would recognize and understand in seconds, but continue to relish and remember for years. For example, Amazon’s entire eCommerce business hinges on six characters:
An arrow, which also resembles a smirk, points from the a to the z suggesting that Amazon can cover all its customers’ conceivable orders with a smile and great customer service. When the viewer sees this, he does not have to search for meaning. He knows the company name immediately. Less consciously, the yellow smile feels inviting and the notion of all bases being covered from a to z ensues. The concept is brilliant. I’m sure it took many months for this design campaign to come together.
A great logo embodies creativity and uniqueness, it closely aligns itself with its brand, its color establishes mood and attitude and it is profound without being visually complicated. Furthermore, a great logo moves a viewer to act and is built to outlast changing trends and sometimes the changes of the times. When we analyze enduring logos like Coca-Cola, Nike and McDonald’s, we should begin to appreciate why they are still influential today and apply these lessons to our own logo designs.