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Logo Design Elements and Principles

  1. Simplicity
  2. Memorability
  3. Originality
  4. Modern Yet Timeless
  5. Balance
  6. Complementary
  7. Versatility

Once you’ve taken the time to understand what you need your logo to say and to whom it should mean the most, you can start directing a designer. As you review the options presented to you, evaluate them with these principles in mind:

1. Simplicity

The best logos ? the ones that give the viewer an immediate and clear sense of you ? are clean and uncluttered. In general, less is more and simplicity is more impactful. Like this:

simple logo for Toast - bread icon with sans serif company name next to itRemember that logos are used in a variety of ways, on different platforms and in various formats and sizes, so fine details will be lost. A strong logo will have few elements, each of which can be identified easily and integral to what you?re hoping to communicate. If you have elements that don’t contribute to the whole, get rid of them.

The logos below are trying to stuff a whole lot into their logos. No one has the time to spend trying to figure them out:

three logos, each with more than three visual elements and additional text

2. Memorability

A logo should be easily recalled after just a glance. A glance, after all, is typically all your logo is going to get from most people.

Like any symbol, it should stand for something singular, and it should be easily recalled if, after a person looks at it, he or she can immediately describe its basic elements (It’s three interlocking circles? or It’s a dog with a bone?). A logo that?s complex, fussy, has multiple parts and pieces or is overly stylized will be difficult for the viewer to ?get? and, as a consequence, easily dismissed.

three logos, all with extremely intricate details that would be hard for someone to remember

3. Originality

Don?t settle for a me-too logo. Do a quick search of logos in your industry and look for patterns and avoid mimicking them. Telecomm is filled with logos featuring globes, technology and electronics with logos that involve swooshes, and dentistry with logos of teeth or smiles (or both ? see below).

These all make sense and communicate what the companies want them to, but if you do the same you lose all hope of getting noticed.

at&t logo with globe, samsung logo with oval, and blue tooth dental logo on a smiling tooth

4. Modern Yet Timeless

Modern is today, but not so today that in five years your logo will look silly.

And, modern is different than trendy. A trend is hot today and will naturally (sometimes thankfully) run out of steam probably sooner than later. Modern, on the other hand, is less stylized and more restrained; it captures the relevant characteristics of the times without losing itself in detail.

A logo should be modern in that it should be contemporary, yet not so nuanced with hot components that when that trend has run its course you?ll be left with something that feels outdated. Because then your company feels outdated to your prospects.

Your overall approach should be modern as should specific elements, colors and typefaces.

Some logos have changed little over time, only tweaked to make them more modern but keeping essential elements intact, like UPS, Starbucks and Burger King.

before and after logo versions for ups, burger king, and starbucks

5. Balance

The best logos are designed using principles of proportion and symmetry. Illustrated below, you can see how both the Apple logo and the Twitter logo utilize circles of proportionate values as well as symmetry to create a pleasing, balanced aesthetic quality.

the twitter and apple logos dissected with concentric circles and the golden ratio, showing good design

6. Complementary

Your logo’s graphic device and your typeface work together (in what’s typically called a lockup) and enhance one another. Or they should. If your graphic device is clean and linear, don’t select a typeface that’s complex and playful (Fajita comes to mind). The two elements are really one, even if you determine times they can be used separately, and they must be complementary.

the pepsi logo, showing that the text elements mirror the visual elements

7. Versatility

Your logo will be used in a number of ways and in multiple contexts. Here are just a few:

  • On t-shirts, baseball caps and, alas, fanny packs
  • On pens, keychains and water bottles
  • On very horizontal and extremely vertical banners
  • On both black and white backgrounds (make sure your designer creates your logo in black and in white to satisfy these needs if necessary)
  • Very large and very, very small
  • Alongside other company logos, like those for specific products and services

Imagine how these logo would look on pens:

three logos, each with very small intricate details that would be lost if sized down

Your logo has to maintain its integrity and serve its purpose no matter what the use. A good designer will understand all this and create a logo that works in all situations. He or she will also take into consideration any other branding elements, like textures or patterns, that are part of your brand and create a logo that complements them.

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