What Makes a Great Logo?

Written by - 25/07/2016

Quite simply, a logo is the face of a brand. Although you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, a logo that isn’t appealing could result in a company failing to attract interest. Saying this however, strong colours, fancy type and symbols aren’t necessarily going to make a great logo. It might be ‘great’ to look at, but does it do what it needs to? It needs to have a functional purpose too.

The first point to consider is uniqueness. A unique logo is going to grab attention and stand out from the crowd. New companies need to have a unique and original logo, different to the rest of the field. If you’re a new fizzy drink company, it definitely wouldn’t pay to use the Coca-Cola red and a similar free flowing typeface. Firstly it’d be obvious where your idea had stemmed from and other companies can sue if you’re appear to be copying their style.

Great logos come in all shapes and forms. They can be simple or intricate, but the best logos are memorable. Take Nike or Starbucks for instance. Ask anyone on the street and they could describe their logos from memory alone, they’re iconic.  


A ‘great’ logo isn’t just aesthetically pleasing. For a logo to be up there with the best, it has to cover the basics. Logos need to be suitable to your target market and the industry of the brand. This is often achieved through the use of colour schemes and typefaces, take the Boots logo as an example. It’s blue and white and the connotations surrounding these colours link directly to what they sell, making it relevant to the healthcare industry. If you turn the blue to a brown, you start to lose the identity of the company, suddenly the name and the colour suggest shoes, and the logo isn’t fulfilling its purpose.   

Effective logos are also timeless. No matter how much other design styles change, they brave the changes and stay in trend, but may face a few minor adjustments. Coca-Cola is an excellent example of a timeless logo. It’s almost always used the same logo for at least the last 100 years. Compare this with rivals Pepsi, although we can quite easily identify the Pepsi logo as the red, white and blue circle, it’s changed dramatically since its first version.


What else makes a great logo?

Although some of the big brand logos are not, versatility is often key to a great logo. Whether this be a change of colour or use of a symbol from the logo, versatility allows a concept to be used over a full range of applications. It’s interesting to note that quite often, versatility goes hand in hand with simplicity. A simple logo can change to suit a company’s needs. This could be anything from a division of the company to a basic logo refresh. The FedEx logo is a fantastic example of simplicity and versatility. Most people would recognise the bold sans serif purple and orange version of the FedEx logo as the company’s main logo. It’s simplicity however means that by altering the colour of the Ex and adding a tag line, FedEx can present all of their sub companies under one uniformed brand.  



Great logos often contain a symbol or mark that adds to the aesthetic look of the design and also help with the versatility. McDonald’s, the world’s biggest fast food brand always used to have their name present in their logo. But these days it’s the symbol that has become globally recognisable, we often just see the ‘m’ as the logo on its own. The Nike Swoosh (tick) is another prime example of a symbol within a logo that has taken precedence, eliminating the need for accompanying type or a tagline.


While Apple now use a simple, recognisable symbol as their main logo, this wasn’t always the case. Not many people know what their original logo looks like, but it couldn’t be further from what it is now. More of an illustration than a logo, it’s hard to picture it gracing the back of a sleek, shiny iPhone.


Colour plays a key role in creating a great logo and contributes to all of the components I’ve previously mentioned. Colour can determine the theme of a company and different colours stimulate different responses, like my example of the brown version of the Boots logo from above. When designing a logo its important the colour usage is meaningful, for instance a luxury brand will likely have a logo using silver, gold or black rather than green or blue.

Legibility is the final point that I’m going to comment on, regarding what makes a great logo. It needs to be clear who the logo belongs to. Should the logo contain text, it needs to be in a legible typeface for the target audience. An intricate free flowing typeface isn’t going to be appropriate if the elderly are the target audience as they may struggle to read it.

Legibility is also affected by the elements that make up a logo design. Any distracting components should be avoided. Often companies will feel like they need the ‘.ltd’ or ‘Inc’ at the end of their logo. Quite simply, this is not necessary. Take a look at any successful logo, they don’t have extra features. It is still possible to get a brand across by just using a logotype and symbol.

Simple and effective logos make a quick and memorable impression on the consumer, something a symbol can often do on its own. But be aware, just because a logo is simple, it might not be fulfilling its job. There needs to be a balance between all of the contributing factors surrounding the brand, the logo’s purpose, the target audience and the style the brand wishes to adopt.

All of the elements, rules and characteristics mentioned should be considered for each individual logo design. Logos are vitally important to brands, they can determine whether they fail or succeed. A well thought-out and ‘great’ logo design should ensure the latter. When it comes to designing a logo, it’s essential that you remember the functionality of the design, so it’s purpose, what it’s used for, the brand it has to represent and the audience it will be aimed at. Only once this is identified should the aesthetically pleasing elements of the design come into the equation and they too should always refer back to the brand.     

With technology as it is these days, new companies are likely to have logos in the vector format, and this means they are scaleable, adding to the versatility of the design. An effective logo needs to be identifiable when viewed at different sizes and this is perhaps why many logos go down the symbol and logotype route, with the aim of eventually removing the logotype. A symbol on it’s own is much easier to remember and is more likely to stay legible at smaller sizes.