Mention the names, Coca-Cola, Nike, Starbucks or McDonalds and instantly the logos representing those iconic global brands will be thrust into your mind, complete with your own personal associations and emotions around the products they sell. Such is the power of a small snappy image or piece of text that, once established, it can communicate a message and produce an emotional response almost instantaneously.

Understanding the purpose of a logo

The fact that many of the most memorable and iconic logos appear simple is the ultimate testament to their success as concise brand identifiers. It’s unlikely however that they were simple to create. A logo is there to identify a businesses or brand, to imply positive, affirming characteristics of it while not necessarily explaining the nature business itself.

A great logo is distinctive, appropriate, practical and communicates specific values and ideals. By that same token, a poor one will jar against the nature of the business it represents, be easily forgettable, overly elaborate and/or just plain unappealing.

Appreciating the principles of logo design

At the beginning and the end of any logo design process, it’s worth gauging what you’re going to do and what you have done, against the best-recognised principles of effective logo design which dictates it be:

  1. Simple
  2. Memorable
  3. Timeless
  4. Versatile
  5. Appropriate

Doing your research

The beauty of brands is that they are everywhere. Walk down a high street, switch on your computer or your TV and the chances are you will see 15 logos within 5 minutes. Some you’ll like, some you’ll dislike and some will be so familiar and engrained in your subconscious that you won’t even see them at all.

Look at competitor logos as well as those of businesses in similar industries with similar client bases. This should not be done with an eye to imitate, but rather to better understand the tricks the traits and see what is instantly memorable or utterly forgettable. If the majority of competitor logos are similar in style and tone, while there is likely a reason for this which should be heeded, this also might afford a golden opportunity to differentiate your business from others.

Understand the uses of your logo

It is likely that, during its lifespan, a logo will need to work across a variety of media and applications and it is important to consider these various applications when creating a design. Good questions to ask early on in the process are whether a design would work:

  • In one colour
  • In reverse colour
  • The size of a postage stamp
  • As large as a billboard

Finding a place to start

Using the company name: Companies such as Apple, Shell and Jaguar all use an object within their logo directly taken from their company name. Is there something within your company name which would lend itself to this form of design? If so, this is likely the best starting point.

Using an object: Companies such as Renault, Nike and Playboy all make use of an identifiable object in their logos which isn’t necessarily directly related to their product. Although this is a less obvious starting point, finding an object to incorporate which has a shape or form that compliments the business, it’s service or it’s ethics in some way, can be a great tool.

Using a text-based logo: Companies such as Google, Disney and Panasonic rely on text alone to form their logo. This can, somewhat ironically, be the hardest way of creating a logo for a business as there are so few elements to play with. Company names need to be relatively short – two words at most – and font and colour alone will need to make the logo distinctive and memorable.