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Six Qualities of Highly Effective Logos

Posted by Molly Geipel on January 18, 2016 at 9:12 AM

A logo is the most recognizable element of any brand. If you think of the world’s most iconic logos—Nike, Apple, McDonald’s, or Twitter —they are immediately recognizable even without context. They invoke an emotional response conjured by the sheer density of what they represent. No pressure, but that’s a lot of power for one image to hold. You don’t want to get it wrong.

We believe the following characteristics are true of all great logos, and should be kept in mind as you design your next logo—or evaluate the work of a hired designer.

1. It’s simple.

According to our designer Nick Benoit, “A great logo conveys a simple idea you can connect with on a human and emotional level.”

It sounds straightforward enough, doesn’t it? In reality, the simpler and more evocative the design, the more effort you can trust went into its creation.In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author and illustrator of The Little Prince:

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Simple logos are more recognizable, more impactful, and a more effective communication tool. Overly complicated designs confuse viewers, making it harder to identify your brand or digest your message.

“A bad logo is too complicated, too busy, or tries to communicate too many messages at once,” says Nick.

Paring your logo down to its most evocative elements will, in turn, help you to pare down your messaging to its most evocative elements. With a simple, expressive design, you can really leave your viewer with a strong and surprisingly nuanced impression of your brand.

2. It’s memorable.

More than any other element of your brand, your logo will appear across all your platforms and touchpoints. You want people to recognize it within a split-second.

Memorability is closely linked to simplicity; simpler logos are more memorable. That doesn’t mean your design has to be literal. An impactful, memorable logo that has been intentionally integrated with your messaging will more effectively represent your brand than a fussier logo with more literal symbolism.

Think again of some iconic logos. What does an apple have to do with computer technology, for example? Nothing directly, but it’s a subtle reference to the influence of Isaac Newton and Alan Turing on their corporate philosophy. Even without those connotations, the mark is simple, clean, impactful, and has been masterfully and indelibly linked to the messaging of Apple’s brand.

3. It’s appropriate for its target audience.

Your logo doesn’t have to be laden with literal imagery, but it should be tailored to your target audience. If you’re marketing to children, you should be using a vibrant color palette and playful typeface. If you’re marketing to luxury clientele, you’ll want to gravitate to sleek, modern fonts and muted color schemes.

Every detail in a logo contributes to the overall message it communicates about your brand. You must cater to even the smallest of design decisions to your audience.

4. It’s timeless, but modern.

At Imagewërks, we provide many of our clients with what we call a “logo refresh.” Clients who opt for a logo refresh are those who have an existing logo, but it’s a relic from the earliest days of the company and shows its age.

An outdated logo communicates to your audience that your products and services are outdated, too. When we perform a logo refresh, we take the existing logo and give it a stylistic facelift so that it looks modern, fresh, and professional. This often entails simplifying it as well.

While you want your logo to look modern, bear in mind that there’s a difference between modern and trendy. You don’t want to fall victim to the latter in pursuit of the former. Trendy may look modern now, but in five years it will be outdated and you’ll be right back where you started.

5. It’s cohesive.

If your logo contains more than one element—such as a branded icon along with the name of your business—make sure that the different elements fit and work together.

The graphical element and the typeface may at times appear separately and thus should be strong enough to stand alone, but when they are paired together they should enhance one another. If your icon is linear and sharp, don’t pair it with a typeface that’s rounded, swoopy, and playful.

Think about the Pepsi logo. The abstract, stylized red, white, and blue icon matches the modern typeface, but would look incongruous with the more classic script used by Coca Cola.

You don’t want your logo fighting itself; you want it to present a united and compelling front for your brand.

6. It’s resizable and versatile.

Because your logo will be adapted into such a wide variety of iterations, it needs to be versatile. Your logo should appear crisp, clear, and recognizable at any size, whether that’s 10 meters or 10 millimeters.

The design itself will ideally be versatile enough that it will look good anywhere you want to use it, including but not limited to:

- Your website, social media, and email marketing templates
- On stationary
- On pens or pins
- On large vertical or horizontal banners
- On billboards
- On baseball caps, t-shirts, and water bottles
- On a snuggie
- As a statue
- Beamed into the sky à la the Bat Signal

Once again we return to simplicity. Simpler designs are more versatile. Squishing an intricate, complex design onto a pen would be a disaster. Fitting the Nike swoosh? No problem.

Making sure your logo looks sharp at all times is like making sure you’re dressing for success no matter the event. Whether you’re handing out freebies at a promotional event or branding a presentation for a client, you want to put your best foot forward.

It’s not easy to create a logo that meets all of these criteria, but for designers it is an exciting creative challenge. Logo design is one of our designer Nick’s favorite projects to take on for clients. He describes it as an opportunity to work together to really establish a foundation for a brand to hang their hat on. A great logo conveys who a brand is today, forecasts where they can grow, and sets the stage for the rest of the their visual identity.

Interested in talking to one of our designers about what your logo is saying about your brand?

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Topics: branding, logo design

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