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The logo.  The starting point for so many start-ups, aspiring artists, and small businesses as they turn their attention to identity, branding and/or marketing.  This is in fact a good place for us to begin.  Many people use these terms interchangeably, and while there is certainly overlap, they are indeed all different. Well known designer Jacob Cass of Just Creative provides an excellent framework.

  • Logo: A logo identifies a business in its simplest form via the use of a mark or icon.
  • Identity: The visual aspects that form part of the overall brand.
  • Brand:  The perceived emotional corporate image as a whole.

These elements all define an organization and set the tone for the relationship with its clients or customers.

What makes for a good logo?

So to the topic at hand.  What makes for a good logo?  Does it have to be famous? Does it have to be clever? Does it have to be  visually stunning?  Well, a good logo can actually be all or none of these things. There are several elements though that really help define an effective logo. Let’s break them down.

The Elements

An effective logo is:

  • Simple
  • Memorable
  • Timeless
  • Versatile
  • Appropriate

Let’s look at these one by one in a little more detail.


Simple does not mean boring. Simplicity is such a beautiful thing.  Think about your logo as your introduction — “Hello, my name is…” Most people don’t try and cram in their personal history and interests into the first words the utter when they meet someone. A great logo delivers all the meaning it intends to almost immediately. Don’t make your audience guess. When it comes to logos, simplicity is also what helps make a logo memorable.

Simple. These famous logos are instantly recognizable, versatile, work great in monochrome.

Simple Logos


The Swoosh, the Golden Arches, the bitten fruit. While the massive size of these companies has helped enhance the reach, what remains true is that their logos stay with you.  Admittedly, there is also a bit of an enigmatic aspect about this, though creating a memorable logo is often thought out, well crafted, and relatable to the company.  Stay away from stock sites.  The logo elements there are often pretty generic.

Did you know that Apple’s logo makes use of the golden ratio?

Creation of the Apple Logo


We can look to the two largest soft drink companies in the world to contrast the approach to being timeless. The Coca-Cola logo was created by Frank Mason Robinson, in 1885 and has remained relatively unchanged since then. Meanwhile, the Pepsi logo has had no less than 5 typeface changes, an introduction of a new color (which also shifted throughout its history) and new mark, (which also changed over a 50 year period). The graphic below is admittedly an overstatement as Coca Cola has had some variations with its Coke logo. Nevertheless, carrying the distinctive cursive typeface for over 100 years speaks to the longevity of good design.

Two major soft drink companies have approached their logos quite differently over the last century.

Pepsi and Coca Cola Logos Through the Years


Size matters. When designing a logo, it is actually more advantageous to think small. It will be much easier to scale up than down. Perhaps start by thinking what your logo will look like on a business card as opposed to a times square billboard. The Puma logo is recognizable on a shirt sleeve.  Color is also crucially important here. If your logo has more than five colors, it might be time to think redesign.  Even that is a little high.  Most designers begin by designing in black and white before adding color into their design.   This allows one to focus on the concept and shape, rather than the subjective nature of color. Similarly, it is also advisable to avoid gradients or overly detailed illustrations. This helps ensure versatility when you need to use your logo in a newspaper or photocopy or rubber stamp or when it is embossed. One other consideration with color is cost.  When printing, the more colors used, the more expensive it will be for the business over the long term.

These are terribly complicated and difficult to scale down, or use in grayscale.




Have you ever seen hot pink power tools? A cartoon baby as a beer mascot?  There’s a reason these things don’t exist. Some associations are more obvious than others, and sometimes a juxtaposition can make a statement, but in general, it is not a good idea to pair elements that don’t really belong together, such as a jagged, gothic font with baby products.  Additionally, getting feedback is vitally important to avoid the nightmare of an “unfortunate logo.”

How did these get past the design stage?  Why didn’t anybody say something!



Final Thoughts

Great logos don’t just happen.  They are a result of hard work – a process that involves research, personalization, sketching, re-imagining and a lot of creativity. This is what makes a great logo priceless, and the reason why many people who opt for a quick or cheap route often feel unsatisfied. You get what they pay for.

So how much does a good logo cost? Designer David Airey sums up the design dilemma by noting that asking the question “How much for a logo?” is kind of like asking a real estate agent, “How much for a house?” There are plenty of websites out there where you can get a logo as little as $5! You can even get designers to bid on your project and you can choose the best one.  There are a lot of problems with this model, but think about it this way:

Your logo is often your first impression. Have it say something about who you are.  That is the point after all.

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