What makes a good logo?

For many designers, creating a logo is the purest possible expression of the work we do. The logo is often the first point of contact for a consumer and the distillation of your brand’s visual identity into its simplest form.

As we look at a few of the essential ingredients that can be found in the perfect logo, we’ll be considering some of the most celebrated logos in the history of design to help tell our story. We’ll also throw a few of our own recent logos into the mix for good measure. They might not have a place in the international logo hall of fame yet, but they do still follow the same basic principles of simplicity, timelessness, and relevance.


Keep it Simple

The Apple logo has long been admired and its popularity and has steadily grown over the years for the elegant way it reflects the simple intuitive nature of the company’s products.

Simplicity is a key ingredient for a strong logo because consumers usually only focus on a logo for a short period of time. A truly strong and simple logo can capture the personality of a brand in the merest of glances.

Other examples of simple logo design include letter and word marks, which dispense with images and concentrate instead on communicating brand personality directly with fonts and colours. Overall, the most important aspect is to focus on using as few elements as possible to communicate the brand’s personality.

We have achieved just that with this logo as part of a rebranding exercise for Fresh, a company that creates Digital Workspace Solutions using the Microsoft product suite. Bold, modern and eminently simple.

A wordmark alongside a simple square using a digital icon to create the initial letter of the brand


Iconic and Adaptable

We’ve looked at Apple and now this logo for the Big Apple, designed by the legendary Milton Glaser. You won’t need telling that this logo is still used as often today as it has been in the past.

The logo first appeared in a television commercial in 1977 as part of a campaign for New York state. Apparently, Glaser sketched the logo on the back of an envelope on his way over to a meeting, and even donated the design for nothing, not believing it would ever amount too much.

Over the past 44 years, the logo has been adapted to celebrate many cities and countries across the world and everything from science to gymnastics to chihuahuas.

It may occasionally be tempting to incorporate current design trends into your logo design, but this epic example shows the value in creating something with more timeless appeal. Think also of the golden arches of McDonald’s and Coca-Cola’s iconic wordmark which both remained unchanged for decades.


Timeless over Trend

A timeless logo will invariably draw its strength from the core qualities of the brand rather than anything that happens to be going on at the time. It also tends to point to a design that keeps colours simple and basic, resisting fussy gradients and extensive palettes.

Our own designer was looking for timeless appeal with this logo for Pure digital radios that helped this pioneering audio brand step into a new technological era. The icon represents a conch shell which is synonymous with sound. It also features a ‘P’ for Pure, making the logo identifiable even without the wordmark.


Remaining Relevant

As with any form of great marketing, the best logos are always relevant to the brand and the sector in which they belong. The much-loved Nike swoosh perfectly captures the movement and dynamism that is spot on for a sports fashion brand.

Bearing in mind the incredible impact this logo continues to have, it’s hard to believe it was created by a graphic design student in 1971 who was paid just $35 for her work. When Carolyn Davidson showed Nike co-founder, Phil Knight, the idea, he wasn’t too impressed. “I don’t love it,” he said. “But it will grow on me.”

The choice of colours can add to the relevance of your logo. A company that sells toys, for example, may well choose bright colours that communicate fun, and excitement, while a British brand would have good reason to opt for a bold red, white, and blue palette.

The font used in the logo or wordmark can add further relevance. Angular and thin fonts are ideal for a company that works in technology while a softer, more flowing font might work well for a perfume or other products targeted at women.

It’s not just the name that makes the Psixty branding relevant for a bold and innovative new recruitment start-up. Our designer’s clever use of negative space in the ‘p’ adds an extra layer of cleverness that is both simple and wholly appropriate to the company name.


Create an Identity

We’ll leave the last word in this brief discussion about logos to Paul Rand, the famous American designer from the 1950’s and 60’s who created, among others the IBM and the UPS logos: “A logo doesn’t sell (directly), it identifies.”

That’s true, of course, and yet time has taught us that, as the fingerprint for a brand, the best logos can certainly play a strong role in the selling process.