What Makes A Great Logo?

Apple. McDonald’s. Mercedes. Nike. Coca Cola.


Just saying these names brings the iconography to mind. You know them well – the silver apple, the golden arches, the circle divided into thirds, the swoosh, and the italicized words – and could easily name the brands just by looking at the logos. You could draw them from memory.


Besides being associated with longstanding global brand staples, these logos have endured for decades, and although they have evolved, many remain largely unchanged. So, what makes a great logo? How does it stand the test of time? And how does a logo become iconic?


When creating a logo for your company, brand, or product, there are a few components to consider that have gone into making some of the world’s most recognizable logos.



Research is key! Before you begin your design process, make a list of words you associate (or want to associate) with your brand. Narrow it down to 3-5 keywords that sum up who you are and how you want consumers to feel about you. Next, take the pulse of your current audience. Ask them (without revealing your own list) to describe the company, service, product. Survey your team. See how the lists compare and if there may be elements and benefits to highlight that you hadn’t considered. Keep these attributes in mind as you design, as they are an important part of this process.


It’s also key to understand who your audience is. How old are they? Are they predominantly male or female? Is your product for families? Moms? Teens? What is the household income of your target audience? What do they value about your service or industry? Answering these questions will help you to hone in on the type of design that will connect most with your audience.



Your logo has to be unique to stand out in the marketplace. While it is important to be mindful of trends in your industry, you don’t want to blend in with the pack. Consider any elements you may want to keep more traditional (font, perhaps), and where you have room to break boundaries (color). Make sure you do some research to ensure no one has come up with the same logo for the same type of product, which may ultimately lead to confusion or copyright issues.



Keep your audience and your keywords in mind. You may have a great idea for a logo, but it may not evoke the feeling of your brand or speak to your audience. Also, consider where and how the logo needs to be used. For example, fast food logos and signage appear roadside and strive to stand out from competitors. These signs feature strong, simple iconography and bright colors. If you are opening a quick-service doughnut shop, it would be wise to consider these elements in your design, as opposed to a long name, busy illustration, and muted colors that could easily be overlooked.



Keep it simple! The most iconic logos are some of the simplest logos. The primary logo may consist of the name in addition to a symbol or “brandmark” (a “wordmark” is comprised of text only). Strong brandmarks may ultimately become the logos in and of themselves. Apple doesn’t even have their name on their storefronts, packaging, or website landing page – the iconic apple graphic is enough. Consider how your logo will look on everything from a business card to a billboard. If it is not readable or “scaleable” at any size, you may want to go back to the drawing board – Apple did! (check out their original logo, compared to the version that helped put them on the map)



Your logo should feel fresh and new. At the same time, be cautious of falling into “trendy” design traps that may make your logo appear dated in just a few years. The best and most lasting logos have evolved over time, and certain elements have been tweaked or updated, but the logos themselves remain consistently recognizable. Check out the evolution of Coca Cola below, or click here to see how some of the most iconic brand logos have evolved over time.

As you create your logo, there are many factors in play, and elements to consider. Remember to stay true to your brand and keep your audience in mind. Your logo should be as unique as your brand, so keep it simple, unique, and, well, iconic!


For more inspiration, check out these iconic brands, or check out this designer-driven logo checklist!