Logo Design 101: What Is a Logo?

Jennifer Farley

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.


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.


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?


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.