The Principles of Good Logo Design

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Logo design is playing an increasingly vital role in the personalisation of companies, products, and services.  As the cornerstone of brand identity, a good logo helps set the stage for the development of a successful and long-lasting brand.

Designing an exceptional logo is time consuming and a lot of hard work.  To be able to interpret a design brief and come up with a design concept that distills the very essence of a company takes a very unique individual.

Aside from having a combination of raw talent, communication skills and a lot of patience (to name a few), it is essential that the designer develops an astute understanding of the basic principles of what makes a good logo design.

A good logo should be; simple, distinctive, relevant, memorable, timeless, and versatile.

Lets take a look at those principles in more detail.

1. Simple

Simple Logo Design

Example: Seven Network (Australia) Logo
Designed by Ken Cato, in 2003

A good logo is simple in its construction, but not in its concept. Quite often to the inexperienced eye, a good logo may look so simple that it looks like it was put together in a matter of minutes.

The vast majority of logo designs that are both simple and successful are backed by many hours of research and unused concepts that never made the cut. It is usually the result of an extensive and exhaustive logo design process.

Another advantage of simplicity in logo design is that a simple logo is much more likely to align with the other five principles of good logo design: distinctive, relevant, memorable, timeless and versatile.

2. Distinctive

Apple Logo

Example: Apple Logo
Original Designed by Rob Janoff, in 1977

A distinctive logo stands out from the crowd and will overall be unique in appearance. A logo that is unique will have an essence that somehow distinguishes it from the pack. It should be distinctive while also effectively portraying the clients business requirements.

Given that there are millions of logos currently in existence, and hundreds, if not thousands of new ones being created everyday, it is increasingly difficult to design a logo that is distinctive. The ability to design distinctive logos on a consistent basis makes an exceptional logo designer.

3. Relevant

amazon logo

Amazon.com Logo
Designed by Turner Duckworth, in 2000

A good logo design will be relevant to the industry, the client and the target market.

If you are designing a logo for a kindergarten, it should be fair to say that it shouldn’t look like it was designed for a bank, and vice-versa.

To design a relevant logo the designer should not rely on the design brief alone. All clients and their respective industries are different, no matter how straight-forward they may seem at first glance. By conducting further research, it will help to create a relevant design that speaks directly to the intended audience.

4. Memorable

Nike Logo

Nike Logo
Designed by Carolyn Davidson, in 1971

A well designed logo will be committed to memory at a single glance, and will be easily recalled by the viewer. Simplicity goes a long way here.

Recognition breeds familiarity, which assists in building trust and loyalty in a brand.

5. Timeless

Omega Logo

Omega Watch Logo
Design by Unknown, in 1894

A good logo design will last for decades without the need for a major redesign. This is something a designer must constantly keep in the back of their minds during the design process.

What is the number one way to help ensure the longevity of a logo?

Avoid trends.

As creative types, it is often very tempting for designers to implement  trendy elements into a logo design. Sometimes a trendy element can even sneak its way into a design without the designer realising.

Logo design is usually about building trust and loyalty in a brand over the long-term. Trendy typefaces, imagery and colours will be out of fashion within a relatively short period of time., therefore their use undermines the ability of the client to build long-term value in their brand.  Not many clients want to have their logo redesigned every few years.

6. Versatile

Shell Logo

Royal Dutch Shell Logo
Designed by Raymond Loewy, in 1971

A well designed logo will be usable across a wide range of applications. The logo should look good on a business card, on the side of a billboard, or as a favicon on a clients website.

To ensure versatility, a logo should be designed in vector format. This will ensure that the logo can be scaled to any size without compromising image quality. For designing a logo use Adobe Illustrator, not Photoshop.

Some clients will specify in the design brief that their logo will only be used for one specific medium, e.g. on their website. Be wary of this. Requirements often change so it is usually best to always design a logo to be used across various mediums.

Additional Resources on Good Logo Design

Most designers have their own variation on the principles a good logo design. Here are what some other great logo designers have to say on the topic;

What makes a good logo by David Airey
What a logo does not have to be or do by Brian Hoff
Vital Tips For Effective Logo Design by Jacob Cass

Photo by Alistair Israel

What do you think?

Does your favourite logo adhere to these six principles? We would love to hear your feedback.

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  • http://www.pixmac.com Vitezslav Valka

    Well known thing and it really works like that :-)

  • http://www.pixmac.com Vitezslav Valka

    Well known thing and it really works like that :-)

  • http://www.logobird.com.au Duane Kinsey

    Thanks for stopping by Vitezslav. Appreciate your feedback! :)

  • http://www.logobird.com.au Duane Kinsey

    Thanks for stopping by Vitezslav. Appreciate your feedback! :)

  • http://bonfx.com Douglas Bonneville

    Simple is probably the most overlooked aspect of good logo design or any design. It’s hard work to get to a real, simple solution though. A friend put it one way: simplicity on the far side of complexity. He’d write 3 days to get one or two paragraphs that were so boiled down and concentrated it was astonishing. But he’d start with several pages of raw material. Same for logo design. Lot’s of research, lots of brainstorming, etc. However, once in a while, someone hit’s pay dirt right up front, like the work done for Nike.

  • http://bonfx.com Douglas Bonneville

    Simple is probably the most overlooked aspect of good logo design or any design. It’s hard work to get to a real, simple solution though. A friend put it one way: simplicity on the far side of complexity. He’d write 3 days to get one or two paragraphs that were so boiled down and concentrated it was astonishing. But he’d start with several pages of raw material. Same for logo design. Lot’s of research, lots of brainstorming, etc. However, once in a while, someone hit’s pay dirt right up front, like the work done for Nike.

  • http://www.logobird.com.au Duane Kinsey

    Hi Douglas, excellent comment!
    You have hit the nail right on the head really. The amount of work that goes into designing a simple (looking) logo is often underestimated, especially by those outside the industry. With that said, there are those rare moments of “design enlightenment” where something like the Nike swoosh is created.

    BTW, I stumbled across your blog a few weeks ago and have been a huge fan ever since. You posts are well written and very informative. Thanks very much for your input here.

  • http://www.logobird.com.au Duane Kinsey

    Hi Douglas, excellent comment!
    You have hit the nail right on the head really. The amount of work that goes into designing a simple (looking) logo is often underestimated, especially by those outside the industry. With that said, there are those rare moments of “design enlightenment” where something like the Nike swoosh is created.

    BTW, I stumbled across your blog a few weeks ago and have been a huge fan ever since. You posts are well written and very informative. Thanks very much for your input here.

  • http://magsdesign.com Cha

    Thanks for all the good insights here..

  • http://magsdesign.com Cha

    Thanks for all the good insights here..

  • http://www.logobird.com.au Duane Kinsey

    Hi Cha, glad you liked it. Thanks for your comment.

  • http://www.logobird.com.au Duane Kinsey

    Hi Cha, glad you liked it. Thanks for your comment.

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  • 2tall

    Question for anyone out there… I am trying to explain to a client that putting an established logo (brand) inside another smaller brand under that first brand umbrella is a bad idea. Does anyone have a source that explains this further?

  • Anonymous

    Hi there, really interesting blog and well worth a good read. As a MD of a design agency in Leeds UK called Definitive Creative (www.definitive-creative.co.uk) we have more recently moved in to brand management and there are so many people who fall in to the trap of simply ‘designing a logo’.

    I believe that the creation of a memorable identity requires extensive brand research and profiling with matched company vision and values. Only after a full and comprehensive brand audit does it become possible to design an identity that truly reflects the company personality and vision.

    I think it’s also quite easy to tailor a brand process to every customer no matter what their spend is. After all any form of marketing is about increasing revenue for any business.

  • Nathan

    I love this article. It’s concise and well written. I have to agree with Douglas on the importance of simplicity. Overcrowding or over developing a logo is probably the easiest mistake to make in the design process.

  • Vigneshgangan

    informative.thanks

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  • http://www.zeidan.com.au/ Zeidan

    Simplicity has a direct impact on Versatility. Having a logo that is flexible, adaptable, that works in color, white, and looks as good on a coffee mug or embroidered on a shirt, as it does on a business card, is what helps make it Timeless and more valuable. The logo is the starting point for many design projects and it goes without saying it is of vital importance to an identity project. 

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