Logos are among the most critical aspects of brand identity. They are how you are known in the world, and should be immediately recognizable to your audiences.
When designing a logo, start by thinking about what you want to convey. Take some time to really nail down your brand voice, and to determine what feelings you are trying to elicit from potential customers. What do you want people to think or feel when they see your branding? Those thoughts and feelings lay the groundwork for their association with your brand.
Whether you’re doing a brand refresh or starting from scratch, choosing your colors is a great place to start. This handy color guide from The Logo Company breaks down the emotions elicited by each color:
To see how this works in action, take a look at the Coca-Cola brand. Though its iconic red may have been originally introduced in the 1890s as a way to help tax agents differentiate Coke syrup barrels from alcohol, the color has come to be almost exclusively identified with the brand. Red conveys Coke’s bold, classic taste. But when it came time to roll out a new product, Coca-Cola Life, which boasts lower calories and natural sweeteners, the branding team at Coke opted for the color that is most identified with health and wellbeing: green.
Once you’ve figured out the emotional story you want your brand to tell, you’re ready to start designing! We’ve compiled some of the most critical elements for designing a logo with impact.
A good logo is…
Resist the urge to get too fancy. A good logo clearly communicates the brand’s name and/or identity without too much extra “stuff”. While it can be tempting to add visual elements to try and convey every single aspect of your brand, simple and clear is always a better choice.
This logo is for the Montgomery Bell Academy, but you’d never know it. Once you know the name you can start to peel apart the layers of letters, but no potential customer is going to work that hard to figure it out. Besides being difficult to read, this logo also fails to communicate a brand identity — it says nothing meaningful about the brand or what they do.
This logo is great example of clear logo design. By just glancing at this logo, you immediately know the company name and what they do. The choice of green communicates the feeling of eco-friendliness, and the box made out of leaves is a clever way of combining the company’s actual product or service with its mission into one design element.
Avoid especially trendy colors or fonts. Instead, aim for elements that are clean and classic. While brand refreshes are an inevitable part of growth and development, refreshing too often or too drastically makes it difficult to build brand recognition.
This logo for the Marlins was designed in 1993, and it looks it. That dusty teal was one of the most trendy colors of the 90s, which means that now it seems immediately dated. Using trendy colors might be cool for a year or so, but your company will be forced to redesign every couple of years. Fortunately, the Marlins have updated their logo, but we’ll never forget this piece of logo history.
This BBC logo was also designed in 1993, and is still in use today. Because BBC leaned away from the obvious 90s trends (which tended toward the overwrought), the BBC has been able to use minor iterations same logo for 23 years without seeming dated or out-of-touch. This logo also hits several other points on this list — it’s simple, recognizable, and works on black and white.
Works in both black and white and color
This is often overlooked, but remains important even in our increasingly digitized world. Frequently, printed materials come exclusively in black and white. If your logo is too color-dependent or dark, you will lose that initial impact when clients print on black and white. While publishing a black and white version is also an option, there’s no guarantee that people will carefully select that option, so you are better off choosing a versatile design that works for both.
This logo actually violates several of the rules of this list. Besides being over-designed and extremely dated, the color gradations will blend into an unattractive grey smudge when printed in black and white.
The World Wildlife Fund specifically chose the panda as their mascot so their logo would be bold and impactful in black and white to save on printing costs. And, the iconic black and white logo looks great no matter how it is printed.
Finally, it’s important to design a logo that also can be reduced to a smaller, recognizable version that doesn’t include the whole company name. This is critical for use on social properties, as those icons frequently don’t allow for an entire company name.
For example, consider the Proof logo, which looks like this:
This image shows what happens when you try to upload a horizontally-designed logo as a Facebook profile picture. Obviously, this is not an option for any serious brand- it is both confusing and amateurish.
The simple Proof “E” logo option allows us to brand ourselves clearly even when a full picture option isn’t available. This makes our brand clearly recognizable as we take part in conversations on social media, allowing us to continue building brand recognition even when people don’t see the full logo.
If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to creating a logo that will last. Happy designing!