What Makes a Good Logo? Learn from the Best

by Alabaweh Baweh -

Research shows businesses only have seven seconds to make a good first impression in-person. If you think that's fast, your window is even smaller in a digital environment. Visitors can form an impression of your products and services in as little as 50 milliseconds. Neither timescale is long enough to read about your products, look at customer reviews, or even read through your "About" page. Using striking visuals in your design is key to making a good impression in those first few seconds (or milliseconds), and your logo is the foremost tool. Your logo is your total brand identity, summed up into one image. How do you ensure your logo stands out and makes that critical first impression? Consider three tips that can be gleaned from looking at some of the most iconic logos out there. 

1. Keep it Simple 

"Good design is as little design as possible." That's a quote from renowned German designer Dieter Rams, and it certainly applies to logo design. Think of the most iconic logos - McDonald's, Nike, Apple, FedEx. They are simple, instantly recognizable. That's why they work. Consumers want to simply take a fleeting glance to identify their favorite brands, whether that glance is while driving 70 mph on the highway or during a hurried trip down the grocery aisle. Your logo must identify who you are, immediately. In addition to instant recognition, simple designs have these three advantages.

  • Clear messaging instills confidence. A simple logo must focus on your core ideas. There's no room for clutter. A cluttered logo is confusing to consumers and can cause them to lack confidence in your brand. "They should know that you're different from your competitors, you're professional, a real business and you're confident and successful in what you do," noted an Entrepreneur interview about logos. 
  • Simple = adaptable. A simple design is versatile. It's recognizable whether it's on a huge digital display at the Super Bowl or on a business card. 
  • Be memorable. Consumers remember simple designs. An intricate design might be impressive and show off a designer's skills, but it's going to be harder for consumers to remember you. Think again about McDonald's or Starbucks. You can easily remember their designs and recognize them, even out of the corner of your eye. 

2. Align Your Color Selection


Your color selection speaks volumes about your brand identity. Different colors have different psychological effects on consumers. Color is often the first thing we recognize in a logo. If we saw a McDonald's arch that was green, we would immediately know it wasn't a real McDonald's, and no one would pay for shoes with a blue Nike swoosh. Consider this: a recognizable color can increase brand recognition by 80 percent. For example, red is the color of excitement and passion. A good example of this is Red Bull. Its bright red is easily recognizable, even from a distance. Plus, it evokes feelings of energy, power, and youthfulness, exactly what the brand is aiming at. Consider two more stats about color:

  • 62 to 90 percent of judgment about your brand will be based on color alone.
  • 85 percent of consumers say color is the primary factor in product selection. 

So, why did McDonald's go with yellow? Yellow conjures up feelings of cheerfulness and energy, and represents intellect and spontaneity. That's why companies like Sprint, Best Buy, and Hertz also opt for yellow. Ford, Samsung, and GE went with blue to denote confidence, calm, and reliability. Here's more about unlocking the psychology of color. One more note about color. Apply our first point, keep it simple. Ninety-five percent of brands use two colors or fewer. 

3. Be Unique

Just because your logo is simple doesn't mean it has to be boring. Stand out from the crowd. Here are four key ways to be unique.

  • Use a distinguishable font. One way to do this is with a custom type. Think about the iconic Coca-Cola script. Their distinctive red color and unique font make their brand unmistakable. Avoid trendy fonts, and remember to keep it simple. Don't use too many fonts, and make sure it's readable across all mediums. 
  • Bend the rules. Don't be afraid to bend the rules if it lends to your brand image. For example, one of the first rules of design is symmetry. Consistent arcs and curves (think about the Twitter bird) provide a sense of organization and stability, instilling consumer confidence. However, this rule doesn't have to be followed 100 percent of the time. Starbucks is a great example of rule bending. Their designers realized that a perfectly symmetrical mermaid face was cold and inhuman. So, they added more shadow on the right side of the face, giving the image a more realistic feel. Another great example is Apple. It just wouldn't be as iconic if it were a whole Apple. 
  • Add something extra. Get creative while keeping it simple. We touched on the FedEx example as a great simplistic design. However, note how they ingeniously use their negative space to create an arrow between the E and the X. Amazon also does a great job of adding an extra touch. Think about the arrow that displays under their name. It connects the A and Z, showing the diverse offerings of the company. It also doubles as a smiley face, denoting their friendly customer service.  
  • Utilize motion. Logos are static images, but that doesn't mean they can't instill a sense of motion. Think about the Twitter bird again. By pointing the bird upward, it indicates an upward trajectory. Instead of a stationary bird, users get a sense of a forward-moving, progressive company. 

Our brains are able to process images 60,000 times faster than we process words. Logos are critical to brand identity. However, creating a simple, impactful image is easier said than done. Companies spend thousands on mock-ups, focus group research, and redesigns. MyDesignDeals was created to provide valuable resources to designers at affordable prices. Check out our logo kits before you start your next logo design project.