One could make the case that logos are the basic component of branding. They capture the essence of a brand and communicate it with ease and immediacy. But what are the qualities of a great logo? There are four characteristics to keep in mind.
You may not know Milton Glaser by name, but odds are that you are familiar with his work. He is the legendary designer who created the I love New York logo and the New York Magazine logo. Glaser thought that when it comes to logos, “You want to move the viewer in a perception so that when they first look at the logo, they get the idea because the act between seeing and understanding is critical.”
It’s hard to beat the logic and the authority behind his reasoning. A great logo should be clear enough to require only a brief glance to deliver its message. Think of the I love New York logo: the clear, bold shapes are easy to identify; the typeface evokes New York’s literary culture, and the heart is a universal symbol of affection that everyone can understand.
In addition to being recognizable, a great logo is unique. The wavy typeface of the Coca-Cola logo may have been commonplace back in the 19th century, but today represents the extraordinary history of a global company so well-known that it can dismiss legibility. The Starbucks logo is another good example of a unique design. Who knew that sirens in old Norse woodcuts have two tails? Maybe some scholars did, but not the average consumer of coffee.
Consistent with its Brand and Audience
An extremely recognizable, astoundingly unique logo can still fail if it doesn’t represent its brand faithfully in a way the target audience can understand. Think of it this way: a logo for an accounting firm that uses cartoons and neon colors may be recognizable and is certainly unique, but it doesn’t represent its brand nor connects with its intended audience. By contrast, the AT&T logo is the full package: recognizable, unique, and conveys the stability people expect from a telecommunications company.
You are probably aware of the nature of memes: they are made to be replicated in as many variations as possible. Logos are the forefathers of memes in that designers create them with proliferation and versatility in mind. A logo must work in a variety of settings that include:
- Printed and electronic advertising
Great logos retain their qualities in all applications, from a business card to a giant digital billboard in Times Square. They are primed for indefinite reproduction in as many media as possible. Just like the brands they represent, great logos aspire to conquer the world—and sometimes they do.
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