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Principles of Effective Logo Design: Appropriate (Part I)

Effectiveness is defined as being successful in producing a desired or intended result. When considering the elements that make a logo effective, we must first remember a logo’s purpose: to identify an individual, product, service, or business. This topic is discussed in greater detail in our previous post, What is a Logo?

An effective logo is one that identifies well. Appropriate logos have the right feel, character, and attitude of the business they identify. The appropriateness of a logo relies on the psychological associations of typography, color, and imagery. 

For example, you can’t imagine a fun, colorful typeface being used for a law firm just as you would never use an elegant script font as the identity of a daycare center.

Consider the laughable samples above, taken from Jenna Giles’ Logo Design Style Swap project.


“The brands I chose couldn't be further from each other in terms of style. What works for one type of product doesn’t necessarily make sense for another…Logos are an important part of a brand’s image. It only takes a couple seconds for a viewer to decide whether a design leaves a positive or negative impression on them. That’s why it’s unbelievably important for brands to convey the right message quickly.”

– Jenna Giles



Typography

On the other hand, FedEx provides an excellent example of appropriate logo design. With a wordmark, your logo relies heavily on the selected typeface and color to convey the right message. The FedEx logo features a modified wordmark set in the typeface Futura: bold, utilitarian, and classic. Dubbed “the typeface of today and tomorrow” following its release in 1927, Futura has remained a staple of the graphic design industry ever since. The resulting associations for FedEx are corporate, strong, and established.


Color Psychology

Additionally, the eye-catching colors of the FedEx logo – purple and orange – provide psychological association with vision, and power through the color purple while the color orange provides success, motion, and optimism.


Imagery

You may also be familiar with the hidden meaning found within the FedEx logotype. Nestled within the negative space of the characters “Ex” is a right-facing arrow. This subtle, unique imagery not only makes the FedEx logo more memorable, but it also communicates speed and precision, symbolizing their transportation services.

My logo should say what I do, right?

Not at all. Remember, your logo's job is to identify, not explain.

In fact, of the World's 100 Most Valuable Brands, 0% of the logos provide a visual depiction of what the company does. Zero. Zero of the most valuable brands in the world use literal, pictorial imagery of their products or services to identify their companies. In fact, the majority of these brands utilize a wordmark (38%) or lettermark (21%).


"It shouldn't try to say a whole lot. Logos are identification, not communication."

– Sagi Haviv


I encourage you to visit the link above. I’m sure you’re familiar with the majority of these brands. You probably interact with many of them on a weekly basis. You’ll notice that the best brands' logos utilize simple shapes, custom typography, unique imagery, and visual puns. While some brands, such as FedEx, incorporate subtle visual references to their services none, however, are blatant. Such blatant imagery often results in an ineffective logo design, failing to differentiate itself from its competitors, clip-art, and the like. While such imagery provides an easy route to relevance, the logos become forgettable and indistinct, ultimately ineffective.

Can you imagine the following logos representing their brand? Do you think they would have been as successful with these literal, generic logos?

Conclusion

The process of designing a logo is extensive, with virtually limitless combinations of typography, color, and imagery. However, there are a limited number of appropriate combinations of these design tools for any given business. While an element of creativity is necessary, we’ve found that the design of an effective logo is methodical, analytical, and objective in nature. Every decision must be carefully calculated to appeal to the right people. As the face of your company, your logo should provide an accurate reflection and extension of your business.

Check out our Logo Design Gallery here.

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Principles of Effective Logo Design: Memorable (Part II)

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