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  • Writer's pictureJeanette Johnson

What Makes A Great Logo?

Five unfailing features that can make, or break, your logo design.

Have you wondered lately if your logo is any good? What makes a truly great logo? Is it the font? Possibly. Is it the colors? Partially. Is it the composition? Likely.

In actuality, it is a combination of these concepts that work together to create a legitimately fantastic logo. In this article we'll explore the five characteristics of great logo design.

What are the five things that make a great logo?

Is The Logo Simple?

This is something you hear over, and over again, "Keep it simple." This statement is almost always true. Simplicity in design becomes essential to becoming easily recognizable. Each of my clients start out with the same problems at the beginning their logo projects: they want too much in too little space. My advice: pick your main theme or product and focus on that for your icon or mascot. Too many products to choose from? Maybe a wordmark is the right direction for you. Either way, including too many ideas in one logo is almost never successful.

Take for instance this logo redesign for the Ruby Company, formerly Ruby Robinson Produce. Though it's not overly complicated, it still has a lot going on with the combination of gradients, veggies in the letter negatives, and multiple colors in a single word.

Before and after of the Ruby Co. rebrand

Their redesign is a major switch that departs from any resemblance to its predecessor. Take a look at the overall application of the brand at BRAND NEW by Under Consideration, it's absolutely drool-worthy!

Is The Logo Memorable?

A great logo is memorable! This means that you make a strong impression and, as a result, you are number one in the "google search rankings" of people's brains. People can draw your logo from memory. Now, part of this is also due to their marketing strategies and the longevity of their products - think MTV, Coors, and Apple.

Apple logo comparison from 1977 to 1998

The Apple you know today was originally implemented in 1977 and is so iconic, the only update Apple made was in 1998 by dropping the rainbow color scheme.

Comparison of Coors Light branding from 1978, 2005, and 2015

Coors Light is classic in its original script font that has only received minor tweaks over almost 40 years.

Before and after of MTV logo rebrand

MTV has hardly made any changes to its "M" logo. Broadening the "M" and updating the hand written "TV" gives this recognizable brand the modernization that it needed while maintaining the same vibe.

Is The Logo Timeless?

Timeless logos are exactly that. They have a longevity that can't be diminished by hot new trends. But the kicker here is that they are able to adapt to new trends with small tweaks that don't change the essentials of the design.

Before and after of Coca-Cola from 1897 and 1987

For example, Coca-Cola can use its full wordmark, or it can use its much simpler banner graphic. In both instances you know exactly what company you're looking at.

McDonalds logo from 1961, 1993, and 2018

McDonald's has their iconic golden arches. They have received minor adjustments over the years, but could you imagine this iconic, burger chain with any other logo?

Is The Logo Versatile?

The ultimate test for a great logo is its versatility. Think of all the different ways you could potentially be using this artwork. Will it be successful in each application?

Take a look at the logo for Twitter.

Comparison of the original Twitter logo concept and the actual Twitter icon.

You can see in the 2005 iteration; this logo wouldn't translate in many instances. All its detail would be lost, and the letters would become indecipherable when implemented at a smaller scale. Good thing they made some important changes before officially lunching in 2006, or the Twitter-sphere would look a lot different today!

When we work together on your logo, we'll consider these questions:

  • Can it be replicated clearly at a variety of sizes?  Pens can have an imprint size as small as a quarter inch, will your artwork fit?

  • Does it still look good when printed as one color? When having shirts screen printed, the more colors you use, the higher the cost per shirt is. It's always cheaper to print in black and white than it is to print in color.

  • How does your logo look when printed in grayscale? Does it have the same distinction when the colors are reversed?

  • When placing your artwork on a dark background, is your logo still impactful?

  • Are the colors you've selected easy to reproduce when printed? Neon colors are almost impossible to reproduce without commercial printing. Some screens look much different than others and some printers mix ink much different than others. Test out your colors on a variety of applications and figure out what works best for your brand. The best way to insure consistent colors is to utilize the Pantone Colors provided in the design package I'll develop for you, more on that in another post!

Is The Logo Appropriate?

Does your logo position your business in front of the correct audience? Does your font, icon, and color choices reflect the type of people you want to buy your product? A law firm wouldn't use bright, hand-written font. Well, they could - but I doubt people would take them very seriously.

Take a look at the original Airbnb logo. It was designed by one of the founders, likely in mere minutes, in 2008 and lasted quite a few years.

Before and after of AirBnB logo design

The typeface, color, and composition are just all wrong. The letters are too tightly spaced and too decorative to serve as a wordmark. It feels like they are trying to appeal to a much younger audience than can legally rent one of their listings. Plus, Airbnb is not a word in the english language so the customer must decipher what it says. Their 2014 redesign, while not my favorite, is much more successful. The colors are warm and inviting, the font is easy to read and nicely formed, and finally, the icon is...well...iconic.

A strong logo is the foundation for memorable brand.

The best way to determine the appropriateness of your logo is to develop a customer avatar. This avatar embodies everything your audience represents - gender, likes/dislikes, hobbies, geolocation, income level, and family status. Does your logo seem like it would appeal to your avatar?

If yes, then you are already on the right track.

If no, then it might be time to go back to the drawing board.

These defining characteristics of your logo can make or break your brand. After all, a strong logo is the foundation for memorable brand. And a memorable brand is a key component in a successful marketing strategy. A successful marketing strategy will increase your sales and that means you've done things right! Now you can see how truly impactful your logo can be and how important it is to get it right.

Pin image for What Makes a Great Logo article.

Photo by Zan on Unsplash

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There are three things you need to think of when developing your brand. 
  • IDEA
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