Logo Design 101: What Is a Logo?

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On a daily basis we’re bombarded by logos. They’re on our clothes, our cars, our phones, our streets, pretty much everywhere we look. So what exactly is a logo?

A logo is a symbol, name or trademark of a company. Logos are used by companies because they represent a concise image of the company. A picture, as they say, can tell a thousand words. People generally find it easier to remember a simple image over words alone. Our eyes are drawn to visual objects and well designed logos add visual appeal to printed documents and web pages.

Logo design must certainly be one of the most challenging areas of graphic design and often one that is sorely undervalued. From a personal point of view, I find it to be demanding but very satisfying when the process is finished and the customer leaves with a logo they’re happy with. The challenge of logo design is to take an idea or concept and compress it down into a symbol or piece of typography.

A logo is just one part of an overall brand or corporate identity, but obviously a very important part. The perception of a company is never going to be based on a logo alone, it’s products, employees and service is all part of that branding, but a logo can help form a picture in the customer’s head. Here’s a couple of examples of logos from brands with some very loyal fans.

apple_logo Harley-Davidson_logo

What makes a good logo?

The very best logos all have the following qualities

1. They are simple.

Logos need to work in black and white as well as the colors you may choose. They need to work at different sizes. You may need to place a small logo on a baseball cap and use that same logo on the side of a bus. The logo might be required for use on a web site as well as a newspaper or on TV. To achieve all of this simplicity is required.

london-underground-logo

2. They are aesthetically pleasing.

A logo can be a typographic treatment or a symbol (or both) but it needs to be eye catching and appealing to the viewer. The classic World Wildlife Fund logo is beautiful.

wwf_logo

3. They communicate an idea, a principle or a description.

Companies use logos for brand recognition. Had you noticed how the orange arrow on the Amazon logo points from A to Z? Amazon does sell all kinds of books, don’t they?

amazon_logo

So all of those qualities have to fit into a little logo. As already mentioned, it’s quite a challenge. Have you had experience with logo design? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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  • http://www.joshuardavis.com/ Joshua Davis

    I think it is good that you pointed out that a logo is not a brand. Many times clients expect to get instant brand recognition in the marketplace the first time their logo is used. It is only after customers associate the logo with the companies products, services, and values that it becomes a brand.

    Good article :)

  • http://MohawkDesigns.com Aaron Scantlen

    I always design in black and white. You mentioned several reasons why it is best to make your designs simple for many different applications and another is single color items, such as a T-shirt. Especially when you are dealing with small to medium businesses or non-profits, they usually want a single color version they can put on a shirt for either an event or as marketing in general. The nice thing is that you can always add color once your initial ideas are worked out. To me, it is sort of like a drummer. When you are first starting out, it is very difficult to keep a steady beat while playing something slow. In the same sense, it is hardest to create something very simple that looks great.

  • Paramita Sen Majumdar

    How exiting it would be if I take Logo Designing & Graphics Designing as career option?

  • http://www.logoonlinepros.com Custom Logo design

    I just love Apple, Thank you so much for this valuable post! Some famous and unique logos you have posted here. Amazing!

  • http://twitter.com/GEspinha Gonçalo Espinha

    Truths that have to be understood by every Designer!

    Thanks :)

  • http://twitter.com/serge512 Sergio FIallo

    Rally nice article i not an Designer but planing to be your tips are so usefull. i happend not to see the the logos you put in here. so i think it is a minor mistake from the tag or the source.

    • Anonymous

      Hey,

      Thanks for pointing it out. We migrated some of SitePoint’s content hosting and a few resources such as linked images had their URIs now 404. Will fix shortly.

      —Pascal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Florambrosini-Kalli-graphic/100001023423194 Florambrosini Kalli-graphic

    As a graphic designer, logo design is my favorite exercise, as the goal is to put everything that makes the company into one symbol… Very challenging, I love it !

  • Hjame80

    I like your article posting this is really nice design

    Logo Design

  • http://tazminadesign.blogspot.com/ Tazmina Karim

    I am professional logo designer so i like the post very much.

  • http://thewebtrafficwizard.com/ Hank Stone

    I never noticed that about the Amazon logo before. I bet you its because they sell everything under the sun lol.

  • Alhuzin

    yes they are, brilliant… awesome.