While a logo is only one aspect of a brand, it has a large impact on the way a business is perceived; it's the face of a business, in a sense. And in an ever-growing design industry where everyone seems to be designing logos, it's easy to lose track of what makes a good logo in the first place. In the words of logo expert and author David Airey, "Anyone can design a logo, but not everyone can design the right logo." So today I'm taking it back to the basics. Here are 5 characteristics of an iconic logo.
A simple approach makes a logo more versatile and allows it to be used across a variety of media, from a large storefront sign to a tiny website favicon (the icon on the tab of your web browser). If you think about the most iconic logos - FedEx, Coca Cola, McDonald's - they aren't busy or complicated; they're simple and recognizable.
Simplicity also makes a logo easier to remember. In design school, I remember a professor saying that a good logo is one that anyone can draw fairly accurately from memory. I would be willing to bet that you could easily draw the McDonald's 'M' right now without any trouble. That's a mark of an iconic logo; you know it by heart. Simplicity is key and helps commit a logo to memory.
It doesn't matter how beautiful a logo is if it isn't appropriate for the business it's supposed to identify. For example, pink probably isn't the best color to use for the logo of a sports team, and a bank logo probably shouldn't contain any feminine calligraphy. A great logo design should be relevant to a business's industry and appeal to their ideal audience.
It's easy to get trendy with logo design, but iconic logos last for the duration of a business; they don't come and go like the latest fashion trends. Think about the logos of popular brands that have been around for years, like Pepsi or even the Boston Red Sox. While they may be updated or refined every other decade, their logos are timeless.
A distinct logo is one that's original and stands out among competition. It has something unique about it that makes it easily recognizable and memorable, whether it's through a clever type treatment or an image in the negative space. Distinct logos usually have one feature to help them stand out. Just one. Not only does this make a logo easier to remember, but it also goes along with that simplicity characteristic that we talked about in #1.
The last characteristic of an iconic logo is scalability. Great designers keep this in mind when they create logos so that they can be used on both large billboards and small clothes tags. Scalability makes a logo versatile. Graphic designers have a rule of thumb: if a logo is sized to an inch or larger, it should maintain all of its detail.
Does every iconic logo contain all 5 of these characteristics? Not necessarily; designers have fun breaking the rules and challenging the system from time to time. But by following these guidelines during the branding process, a designer can ensure that they're on the right path to creating a memorable, versatile, and timeless brand.