You’ll find plenty of blog posts that highlight a random selection of effective logo designs, but we thought we’d shake things up a bit and highlight types of logo designs that are effective and why. This will help you as you work on your own company’s branding efforts.
For the purpose of this post, we’re going to select one company logo that represents each “type” we’re discussing. From there, we’ll reference the many other logos out there that fall under this type.
Let’s get to it!
1. Iconic symbols. The nice thing about symbols is that they’re easy to remember and easy to recognize. They don’t require any reading or comprehension of text. For a perfect example, let’s look at Target’s iconic bullseye.
Why it works so well: What’s perfect about Target’s logo is that the company name and the bullseye go hand in hand. Essentially, the symbol conveys the company name. It’s a bullseye; it’s a target. But it also conveys the company’s essence and its promise to consumers. Are you looking for something specific in clothing or housewares? You’ll strike your target every time when you shop at Target.
The bullseye can work by itself (and often appears by itself without the company name—that’s always the sign of a strong brand). It also gets even more mileage since it’s used on the company mascot—a bull terrier named Bullseye.
Other companies that successfully use this strategy: Apple, Nike, McDonald’s, and Shell all make use of iconic symbols: an apple, a swoosh, arches, and a seashell (in Nike’s case, it invented the symbol, but that swoosh is now synonymous with the brand). If you were to show someone only the symbols, chances are good the person would be able to name the company.
2. Iconic “persons.” Look at the face below. We bet you can guess what the company is based on this iconic person, right?
Colonel Sanders was the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken and this outline of his face became synonymous with the brand.
Why it works so well: Just like iconic symbols, iconic people—real or imagined—are also instantly recognizable. In some cases, this “person” becomes part of the brand’s identity and can go a long way in getting consumers to trust the brand. Think about it: how can you not trust a grandfatherly looking figure with a name like Colonel Sanders and his secret recipe for delicious fried chicken?
Other companies that successfully use this strategy: We bet you can picture Mr. Clean, the mustached face used in the Pringles logo, the Starbucks mermaid, and the Michelin man, just to name a few. Many of these figures have become spokespersons for the brand. And, unlike celebrity endorsements, you have much more control (and you don’t have to pay Mr. Clean any fees for talking up how great the products are).
3. Initials. Logos that make use of the company’s initials go a long way at reinforcing the brand name and identity. See the logo below. You know it’s for Volkswagen, thanks to the “V” and “W,” yet both letters are used in an elegant, artistic, an unobtrusive way.
Why it works so well: Initials work especially well right now, since we live in a world of abbreviations and acronyms, thanks to texting. And then the initials themselves can become the foundation for a special, unique logo that helps to solidify the company name, albeit in a subtle way.
Other companies that successfully use this strategy: Baskin Robbins, Facebook, Calvin Klein, and WordPress all have logos that use initials. And all are instantly recognizable. What’s cool, too, is the letters used in the initials often take on an iconic flair of their own. Think of the “f” in Facebook, or the infamous “cK” in Calvin Klein’s logo. The latter has been around since the 1970s, showing it can stand the test of time as well.
4. Clever concepts. We imagine many designers and companies would like to think their logos are clever. But we’re talking about the type of cleverness that transcends mere playfulness. Of course, the logo that might come to mind is the one for FedEx, which is still considered the gold standard when it comes to logo design. Have a look:
Why it works so well: What’s so special about FedEx’s logo is the “hidden” forward-moving arrow that’s formed using the negative space (the white space) in the middle. No, not everyone will see it, and that’s OK, since the logo itself still works. But those who DO see the arrow will never be able to “un-see” it. It’s like a hidden Easter egg. In this case, the arrow wonderfully exemplifies what FedEx does: constantly moving your packages forward and onto the final destination. It also goes to show how, in this case especially, less is more. (Read the fascinating story on the making of the FedEx logo.) Also, if you love the look of negative space logos, here are 30 more awesome examples.
Of course, the big news from last week was Yahoo’s new logo. Yahoo had a lot of fun leading up to the big reveal: for 30 days, it released a potential logo–some more “out there” than others. People could vote for their faves. Definitely check out the page on the Yahoo site, since it’s an interesting study in how one seemingly subtle change (like the decision to use a serif or sans serif font) can have a huge impact on the overall look and feel.
Here’s the old logo:
Here’s the new logo:
Regarding their new logo, Yahoo had this to say: “We wanted a logo that stayed true to our roots (whimsical, purple, with an exclamation point) yet embraced the evolution of our products.”
So what do we think? We think they accomplished their goals, and we love the font–it feels evolved and a little more grown up, yet the overall logo is still fun and “whimsical,” thanks to the over-sized final “o” and the tilted exclamation point (which was carried over from the original logo).
What do you think of Yahoo’s new logo? And which logo from the ones we discussed above is your favorite? Can you think of another “type” of great logo design? Share in the comments!