Consistent branding is crucial to telling your brand’s story and your logo is the first impression that people are presented when being introduced to your company or project. A brand’s logo has incredible power to determine a potential consumer’s immediate opinion of your brand. In order to stand out in the sea of brands your future clients are faced with everyday, it is imperative to use your logo as an opportunity to influence the way people perceive you starting from that first impression.
Successful logos tell you exactly what a brand is all about and should be recognizable without the name of the company. The mere appearance of luxury brand logos trigger feelings of influence. The fact that more than half of consumers across all age groups own a t-shirt with a brand on it is evidence of the fact that people associate a brand’s logos with influence of some kind. When you see someone wearing a Gucci t-shirt, the immediate assumption is that person is important.
For years, brands have applied strategic choices to their logo designs. Let’s take a look at some of the most iconic and recognizable logos throughout history.
IBM’s penchant for bold, futuristic designs reflects both their prescience in the design space as well as their technological prowess. It took them four iterations and nearly 50 years to get to their current logo, which says as much about the company as it does the changing world around it.
NBC’s identity was founded in 1926 as a brand highlighting its influence in radio, the most powerful form of mass communication at the time. They began tinkering with wordmarks, snakes and xylophones before landing on the now iconic peacock to reflect the network’s six divisions, each represented by a different color.
Ogilvy recently signaled their shifting values as a creative “network” rather than a “department” and highlighting their connectivity and social evolution through a logo redesign. Additional evidence of their evolving company values was their new tagline. Originally, “The consumer isn’t a moron. She’s your wife.”, now ''She is your boss.”.
Brands exist to tell a story through striking designs. Let’s explore how you can most effectively visualize your narrative.
Be unique, be you
The foundation of your brand is your logo - something that is immediately recognizable on its own, with no mention of the company’s name. What is the ethos of your mission? What is it that you stand for? When someone first sets sight on your logo, you want the logo to answer these questions about your brand for them.
Find a way to relate a striking typeface or some kind of allegorical iconography to your mission. Seek inspiration in the designs around you and mold them into something that is uniquely you.
Summarize in three words
Come up with three words that describe your brand before hitting the drawing board. This will help you determine what you are not as much as what you are and where you want to go. Connect the words to a bigger idea and ask yourself - “Does this sound like a brand that already exists, or is this something new and fresh?”
You want to flow with the tide of relevance while standing out as the most interesting name in the crowd.
Choose a style that fits your brand
Study the history of symbolism in graphic design to inform your logo creating decisions, from the Victorian Era to German expressionism to Art Deco to digital minimalism. Play around with both traditional and contemporary styles and see what fits with what you are trying to say.
Look at competitors like Nike and Adidas and notice how translatable the swoosh and the three stripes are to their merchandise and general narrative in the fitness and fashion spaces. What are they trying to say? How easily is their brand repurposed in various settings? How do these two brands in the same market differentiate themselves and what do those logos tell you about the people who are wearing them?
Don’t be afraid to evolve
Logos evolve as brands evolve, so don’t be afraid to re-evaluate your brand’s logo as you re-evaluate your brand’s mission. As brands change their messaging and shift with the times, it’s important to take a look at the visual identity and determine its place in the zeitgeist. As brands evolve, their logos will naturally evolve with them.
Airbnb chose to highlight their inclusivity with a “symbol of belonging” while Slack injected some dynamism and simplicity in transitioning their colorful hashtag to an “octothorpe.” Staples transitioned its bent staple “L” into an opened up staple that doubles as a table, while updating to a more modern typeface.
On the flip side, keeping the foundation is important because so much of a brand’s credibility and brand awareness is wrapped up in the logo. At the end of the day, consumers still need to be able to recognize the brand. Best Western axed their red crown and bold gold serif type in favor of a circular “BW” monogram while keeping the color blue in a minimalist effort to appeal to app-friendly millennials.
If you want to signal that you are moving forward into a bold new era, then perhaps a rebrand is the best plan of action to reflect the excitement. Here are some factors to consider in the story you are telling with your logo.
Color is able to influence thinking as well as even stimulate your hormones, thus it is essential in conveying your logo’s meaning. Considering color psychology when determining your brand’s color palette should be just as important to the brand as the company’s scalability.
Red is warm, dynamic and commands people’s attention. It’s the color of fire and blood and screams energy, passion, and love. This pulsing immediacy is reflected in the logos of CNN, ESPN, and Bank of America.
Blue, however, is cool and clean and evokes feelings of responsibility and ambition. It’s calm and confident but also signals openness, sincerity, and intelligence. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn reflect their “sharing” mentality through the use of the color blue.
Green, the color of both nature and capitalism, demonstrates the strength and consistency of brands such as Starbucks, Whole Foods, and John Deere.
Another thing to consider when choosing your brand’s color palette is your audience. Colors mean different things in different cultures so make sure to be aware of who you are selling to and where they are from.
Your typeface determines your voice - how you are sending your message. It reflects your values and your target audience. Adidas is simple but flashy, therefore timeless. While the BBC reflects trust, Giorgio Armani is elegant.
Typefaces that invoke pedigree (think Stella Artois, which hasn’t evolved since the 1300s) color the brand with credibility and authenticity. Vintage looks can add texture and personality to a brand while connecting to a visceral history in an increasingly digital landscape.
The golden arches of McDonald’s and the yellow zig-zag arrow of In-n-Out immediately stand out and look great in a multitude of contexts. Straddling the space between minimalism and maximalism is a fun line to toe.
In an era where brands are viewed on a broad spectrum of platforms, it is becoming increasingly important for a brand to be easily adaptable in a variety of sizes, shapes, and customizations to address specific needs as well as the attention spans of the modern world.
Having a recognizable, branded design element or icon can allow you to represent yourself in the small medium of something like an instagram profile photo or favicon on your website.
Playing with perspective and tricking the eye through your logo is a fun way to demonstrate your forward-thinking nature as well as immediately directing the vision of your brand. Practicing dimension-shattering techniques literally gives your brand an edge while deliberately over or underemphasizing elements to create a unique and lasting effect.
Implementing a purposeful use of negative space, think the magic arrow in FedEx’s logo, is a fun way to give your brand multiple meanings and to add movement and elevation to perhaps an otherwise static logo.