Style and Function: How to Design Your Logo

If you’ve kept up with our blog, then you’re already aware that we’ve written extensively on how you manage your ad campaign and the nature of branding. In the branding article in particular, we’ve explained already how brand is separate from your logo.

To elaborate for those of you unfamiliar with our previous writing, a brand is your public image that is both projected by the company and perceived by consumers. The Logo of your company is the representative piece of your brand to quickly communicate what kind of brand and image you intend for your company.

In other words, logos communicate what your company is to the world around you: the identity it presents will largely shape the public perception of your business. [6] While you can’t 100% control public perception of your brand, you do have 100% control over what your logo is (and, therefore, we highly recommend against using a contest to choose a logo for your company, because doing so can create several risks in terms of cost, legality, and quality [5]). With this in mind, the task of creating a unique logo for your company can seem daunting.

However, we’ve accumulated some useful information on how to design a logo to fit your company. We will explain the benefits of structured style and functionality, the value of memorability, and the weight of the decision between complex and simplistic logo design.

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Style and Functionality As Purpose

While logo design typically falls under the banner of art and graphic design, it must also be subject to marketing analysis. A logo must be practical, meaning that it should be both aesthetically pleasing as well as communicative. To unpack that, let’s consider a well known logo like Wikipedia’s.

Image Wiki Wikipedia’s logo is aesthetically pleasing in its complex puzzle design, but it also communicates a few crucial things: [1]

  • The white and black color scheme makes it seem academic and serious.
  • The multitude of different types of letters across it indicate that it’s run across multiple languages.
  • The incomplete puzzle design invites a viewer to partake, adding to the puzzle: this fits squarely with Wikipedia’s initiative to have user driven information databanks.
Thus we find the construction of a logo: it is the careful combination of Fonts, Colors, and Graphics. For some companies like Coca-Cola, all that you need is a font and a color; for others like Nike, a simple symbol without words can suffice. Playing with what works for your company is crucial: take some time to consider what tactics work for you.

For Fonts, you must consider what kind of message each font sends: you don’t want to match a tech company with a curly, whimsical font, while a fashion company is unlikely to do well using blocky, overly bureaucratic font. Original fonts can also be very useful, as well as visual double entendres that capitalize on symmetry and negative space. [4]

For Colors, there’s a list of general associations the human mind gives to each color. Consider Mashable’s list below and measure it against what your company is trying to sell: [1]

  • Red: Energetic; Sexy; Bold
  • Orange: Creative; Friendly; Youthful
  • Yellow: Sunny; Inventive; Optimism
  • Green: Growth; Organic; Instructional
  • Blue: Professional; Medical; Tranquil; Trustworthy
  • Purple: Spiritual; Wise; Evocative
  • Black: Credible and Powerful
  • White: Simple; Clean; Pure
  • Pink: Fun and Flirty
  • Brown: Rural; Historical; Steady
Image Twitter Image Apple For Graphics, consider the example left by two of the largest brands in the world right now, Apple and Twitter. Apple’s logo is a simple “Apple” icon, but it has a bite taken out of it to signify its difference and experimental style; Twitter’s icon is a bird in flight, soaring upward to show progress, travel, and optimism. [4] Both logos take a twist on the simple ideas of “Apple” and “Bird,” putting a twist on them to evoke an emotion or idea in the viewer. Should you include a graphic in your logo, yours, too, should evoke something that represents your company well, perhaps using a twist on a traditional idea. Remember: don't rely too heavily on traditional ideas. Over-reliance on the commonplace can lead to a loss in our next important consideration.

Memorability and Uniqueness

How many banks do you know that somehow feature a dollar sign in their logo? How many “idea” companies over-use the lightbulb motif? [3] Many of these classic symbols can be overplayed or otherwise copyrighted, which means that your company can not only fail to become memorable: if your logo is stolen, then your company can be sued by the original owner of the image.

If you’re relying on the example of large successful companies, how can you make a great logo without simply copying them? Well, first off, we want to note that a logo’s uniqueness in comparison is crucial to being memorable. [1] If you’re running a Health Food Store in a city full of them and all of your logos are mild variations of “Green Leaf,” then you’re unlikely to be distinguishable from the other outlets. Whether you’re starting out or you’re looking to grow and redesign, consider your competitors. [2] Strive to make yours different from and better than theirs. For instance, if you’re one of those health food stores, why not incorporate some optimistic yellow or some energetic red in there? Why stop at a leaf, when you can feature apples, or pears, or any variety of fruits and vegetables on there? Why not break away from the simple use of a food motif and step into the use of a Cornucopia horn or an anthropomorphized figure that has to do with nature, similar to the Jolly Green Giant? You have several more routes than what you first consider, and these are just some things to mull over when you’re thinking about your logo.

And don’t feel discouraged if your logo works for a while but you find that it loses effectiveness over time: Adidas has changed logos several times while keeping the “three stripe” motif across all of them. [1] Adapting an idea over time across different ad campaigns is an innovative way to stay relevant in the field.

Simplicity Vs. Complexity: The Variable Winner

It should be apparent by now that there is no “best logo;” There can only be a best logo for your business. When going through the process of finalizing your logo, you’re going to come across several ideas: this is normal and healthy for productive design, and you should be prepared to pitch multiple logos to see which one works out the best. [2] When you’re designing these logos, between font, graphics, and color, you’re going to run into one simple issue for design that may halt the creative process in due time: should you make your logo visually complex (such as the Wikipedia example) or visually simplistic (such as with Coca-Cola or Apple)?

The answer, as you may have guessed, depends on you. The simplicity of a design can be nice, such as using plain affected text: however, this also depends on your company. A toy store is unlikely to get away with just having their name in special letters: the same could be said for many technology companies. If your name could blend into any other number of developers in your field, text may not be the best way to go. [1]

The use of a graphic should also be employed selectively: a bank or a newspaper shouldn’t have a cartoonish mascot logo, and a party supplies store logo will feel empty with simple text. The complexity of the graphic likely also varies depending on the business itself: sleek simplistic logos like Apple’s can be excellent in the tech industry, but for more artistically inclined businesses or those dealing in complex information gathering like Wikipedia, more visually complex graphics and symbolic designs could be skillfully crafted.

One big final consideration here is the audience you’re trying to appeal to: understand what it is that would most resonate with them. If you’re a big-town healthcare business selling to retired individuals over the age of 70, should “whimsical” be the first thing you think when you look at your logo? Similarly, if you’re a small town business selling pizza to college students, is it worth it to try to seem overly “professional”? A brand is a two way street of communication between you and your customers: visually complex fits for when people are looking to do serious, intellectually taxing stuff, while the sleeker and simpler is more likely to be embraced day to day. Take some time to think of where your business fits in between those two positions.


As with anything in business, there’s no one, set formula for logo design. Companies like Nike, Puma, and Audi have tried logos and been forced to rebrand several times over the course of their development, and you can expect that you may be forced to do the same. [1]

That being said, make the best of the tools and information you have available to you. Learn what colors, fonts, and graphics will fit what you’re looking for. Understand exactly what it is that your company is selling and who it’s selling to, and branch off of that information to learn how to structure your logo to best communicate what you’re selling to who you want to sell to. Make it unique, and don’t be afraid to put twists on old favorites of evocative imagery (provided you don’t use any other company’s logo too extensively as a base). Do all of these things, and you’ll have some fine first drafts: work it out with the rest of your company, and with some time, research, and trial and error, you will have a solid logo to communicate your brand to the world.

After reading this, we hope you feel inspired to take the first step: pick up a pencil and start sketching.


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