Have you ever seen a company logo that makes you cringe? Even if you don’t understand the subtleties of shape and color, you have strong reactions to visual images that offend your sense of balance. For most people, it’s easy to spot a logo design that’s completely boring or off kilter. But what makes a good logo?
The short answer is lots of research and editing. If you tend to go overboard with decoration, now’s the time to put on your minimalist glasses. In a 2017 report, SmartSign looked at 2000 logos from the 2016 Inc. 5000 List of America’s Fastest Growing Companies. About 94 percent of the companies used minimal logos. After all, they’re crisp, versatile, and easy to scale to various sizes.
A decent idea turns into an awesome or awful logo based on how well you add and subtract elements to get the right balance. While many great logos have similar qualities, the perfect design depends on the message you want to send about your company. If you’re struggling to narrow down your ideas, read on for tips on choosing a logo style.
Start with a combination logo, and then simplify
All logos consist of one or two main components: logotypes and logomarks. The logotype is the lettering design. The logomark is the icon used to represent the business. A strong logo can have one or both of these elements, and many iconic brands have succeeded with each approach. Subway and Ebay use only logotype, while Apple often uses its standalone logomark.
Yet, picture your favorite logos, and you’ll quickly notice most brands choose words and icons. In the SmartSign analysis, 66 percent of companies used combo logos. Here’s why:
- Branding: Combo logos provide more opportunity to tell a story, especially for smaller brands. Small companies don’t have millions to spend on branding. Putting a business name in your logo makes it easier to build awareness. Add a logomark, and customers start to visually connect with your brand whenever they see your products.
- Adaptability: With a flexible concept, you can adapt a logo without a complete redesign. Many major companies have rebranded, but the best logos have evolved in smart, natural ways. Shell gas is a great example. The basic logomark has remained the same for decades with minor changes in color and shape. The company also switches between using the logotype inside and outside the shell icon.
- Versatility: Businesses use logos on a wide variety of physical and digital media. With a versatile design, you can use a standalone logomark or logotype where appropriate. Even without the familiar brand names, everyone recognizes the Chevy cross and Audi rings.
Get creative with text-only logo designs
If you like the look of text logos, aim to do something special with the lettering. First, figure out if you’re using a lettermark or wordmark. Lettermarks are short monogram-style logos with a custom typographic design. They’re usually a single letter or initials, such as HBO, Chanel and GE. Wordmarks are longer text designs with a unique font treatment. Think of Coca-Cola’s signature logotype and Google’s colorful lettering.
So, when are lettermarks and wordmarks a good choice for your brand?
- You have a distinct, instantly recognizable name (ex. Disney, Google)
- You need a simple, easy-to-remember version of a longer business name
- You plan to use a unique or hand-drawn logotype
Now, look at your company from an outside perspective. Visual impact is what makes a good logo design, so you have to create a point of interest for customers. What are the tone and personality of your brand? How can you convey those emotions in the lettering design?
If your brand is all about fun and creativity, a hand-drawn font or playful script is a fitting choice. For a modern or trendy company, try creating clever letter arrangements. In the LG logo, the unique size and placement of the letters inside a circle create a sleek design resembling a power button.
Choose a logomark style: icons, emblems and mascots
Cut your brainstorming time in half by figuring out what type of logomark suits your brand. The most common logomark styles include:
- Mascots: A mascot is a character who acts as the face of your brand. Mr. Clean, Pringles and Wendy’s all make use of characters. A mascot is the easiest way to create a voice and personality that exude company values.
- Emblems: Emblems borrow the classic features of a badge or coat of arms. These decorative shields and crests may have a vintage look, but some brands give them a modern twist.
- Abstract marks: Abstract logomarks use geometric shapes to form icons that aren’t concrete images. Consider how the Target and Adidas logos rely on abstract shapes to convey their brand values. On-target pricing and athletic challenge.
- Pictorial marks: Pictorial marks are concrete images. The Apple icon, Instagram camera, and Chili’s red pepper are all recognizable pictures tailored to their brands.
Ask yourself, “What’s the first impression customers should get when they see my branding? Reliability? Tradition? Joy? Innovation? Compassion? Creativity? Social consciousness? Use your list of traits to rule out logo styles that clash with your brand. An abstract logo makes perfect sense when you’re selling a service that isn’t tangible or conventional. Mascots appeal to young and light-hearted audiences, while emblems are a sign of heritage and community roots.
Create the appearance of action or motion
Investing time and money in a logo design is pointless if it makes your audience feel nothing. A logomark is like a sample of what’s to come. It tells your audience just enough to make them think, “This company gets it!” With that in mind, create a logo that sells an experience.
What do the Dunkin Donuts, Mozilla Firefox, and Delta logos all have in common? They all show something happening. Dunkin Donuts portrays a steamy cup of coffee. Mozilla depicts a fox embracing the global community. The Delta triangle is flat and abstract, yet it still conveys a sense of upward motion like an airplane taking off.
Save the colors for last
While you should have a logo color scheme in mind throughout the process, hold off them to the design. Work in black and white or grayscale, so you can refine the shapes and points of contrast. Keeping the design simple also helps you find creative ways to use negative space.
As you make decisions about the styles and shapes in your logo design, bring an editing eye to each stage. A flourish here and there won’t hurt, but more elements make it harder to maintain clarity when you change the size of the design.
Keep thinking about what elements you can remove to make your logo more crisp and readable. The point of creating a logo isn’t to indulge all your ideas. Remember, your logo has a job to do — build brand awareness. If you put ego aside and cut elements that aren’t working, the final design should serve your business well for years to come.
Still have creative’s block? For some more suggestions, take a look at some of our logo designs.