good logo design, logo designer

What makes a good logo?


Can you think of a good logo? What about a bad one? If you’re like me and most people, you can probably think of a few. Why is this the case?
How do we determine what a good logo is? And why should we care about logos in the first place?
In this guide, we’re covering the basic principles of a good logo. (or mark, brand mark, whatever you personally call it.)

Common misconceptions about good logos.

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty there are a few misconceptions we need to clear up when it comes to logo design.

1. People think that their logo should be pretty

2. People think their logo should say a lot about their business

3. People think their logo should be love at first sight.

The truth of the matter is that these could not be further from the truth.

Let’s begin our deep dive into the three criteria.

A logo needs to be 3 things to be effective.

01 Appropriate in form and concept.

Notice we say appropriate and not expressive. Why? Because logos can’t say very much and the less they say, the better.
For example, if you are selling a product that uses water, your logo should not be an image of a fire hydrant. If you’re selling to young people and want to appeal to them, stick with something fun and simple instead of using complicated fonts, images, or illustrations that cannot be easily reproduced for all of the various places your mark lives.

02 Distinctive & Memorable

A logo should stand out from the crowd by being unique. You don’t want your company logo competing with other well-known brands for attention; instead, you want it to stand out as something different and memorable enough for people who see it on your website or promotional materials to remember.
If possible, try not to use words at all when designing your logo so that there is nothing that could distract from its shape/form or color scheme if someone were trying hard enough!

03 Simple

A good logo doesn’t need multiple colors just because they look pretty together; instead, focus on making sure each part works well together in both light/dark situations without becoming overly distracting.

A logo needs to be appropriate.

It’s important to take note of two concepts that I mentioned in the first paragraph: Appropriateness and Expression.
Appropriateness is the most important thing when beginning the design process because it determines how people will feel about your brand or company. The less expression there is in your logo, the better chance you have of creating something appropriate for who you are and what you do.
We’re not saying to come out of the gate telling people what you do in your mark, but keep in mind that you should keep it appropriate.
So as we move forward through this article on what makes a logo good; keep in mind that appropriateness should be your guiding principle!

A logo needs to be distinctive & memorable.

A good logo needs to be distinctive & memorable.

A good mark should be unusual enough to persist in the mind. When you see it once or twice, you can describe it to somebody and the best way to test a good logo is to see if you can doodle it on a piece of paper. This doesn’t mean that the mark has to look like an apple with a bite taken out of it! It just means that when someone sees your logo, they will immediately recognize who or what it represents. 

Rapid identification should be the goal of any designer who takes your brand in their hands.

Distinctive marks are the opposite of ordinary. They’re not generic; they’re unique and memorable because they stand out from everything else around them as something special rather than being just another thing vying for attention in an undifferentiated sea of sameness

A logo needs to be distinctive & memorable.

The last criterion is simple. A logo should be simple and uncomplicated in form. That means the shape of a good logo doesn’t have any extraneous details or decorations, and it shouldn’t be an illustration. It should be a simple mark (a symbol or icon). It can even be just one letter!

Your mark should be unusual enough to persist in the mind. When you see it once or twice, you can describe it to somebody and the best way to test a logo is to see if you can doodle it on a piece of paper. This doesn’t mean that your logo has to look like an apple with a bite taken out of it! It just means that when someone sees your logo, they will immediately recognize who or what it represents.

A logo should just be a basic graphic—(again it should never be an illustration)—and its meaning is immediately clear to
anyone who sees it. As an example, the Coca-Cola bottle, has become so ubiquitous that most people think
of it as representing the brand rather than being the key identification of the brand itself.

The pursuit of a good logo

The pursuit of a good logo is all about reduction. It’s about taking out the extra elements, details, and decorations until we’re left with a beautiful, distinct, representation of your brand. A logo should keep everything that is necessary for the mark to be strong, bold, and distinctive

A logo that undergoes this process will leave a mark that can be applied to a small-size business card, a three-dimensional sign, to pixel platforms. Anywhere the logo has to appear, the mark will fit like it was designed to be there. The simplicity will ensure that it’ll be seen consistently everywhere it appears.

An example of a good logo

Let’s take a look at how this brand’s mark meets the three criteria we’ve been discussing.

First of all, it’s appropriate, and it’s almost toeing the line of too appropriate. The idea behind the yellow frame is that it represents the cover of a magazine, and in this case, the cover of that magazine is National Geographic. For many years it has and still does border the magazine. This has created brand recognition for many people who don’t even buy the product.

By putting these two elements together they form meaning that becomes recognizable to people when they see it. It also lends itself to being used on various products and in various ways without losing its identity or meaning because of how simple the design is.

The idea behind it is perfect. A lot of thought went into designing. It was so well designed that anyone can understand what the mark represents, even though we all may have different interpretations/understandings of the contents of their magazine, what they stand for, etc.

good logo design

A logo shouldn't promote

A great logo doesn’t try to make a picture of what the business does, or what the business is offering, instead it should try to identify it, strongly and clearly.

It’s not that the mark is not trying to say very much; instead, it’s not trying to promote the business, company, or organization. There is a very important distinction between promotion and identification. 

When you see the National Geographic logo, all you can think about are the images, magazine covers, and promotional material that you’ve seen in the past but it is important to notice that none of these things are in the logo.

The answer we don’t want to hear is that creating brand recognition and awareness takes time. The iconic brands we see every day were almost never an overnight success.

All that to say...

The way we see it, the best logos don’t promote anything. They don’t have to say much about a company or product; they just need to be there in the background, helping people recognize that brand when they see it.

At Viriditi, the best analogy we can think of about logos is that they are a flag. Flags don’t say anything about the country they represent, in fact, they don’t say anything. But they are strong, bold, and distinctive, and over the years they have become a vessel that holds all of the associations and feelings that we have with the countries being represented.

Have any questions? Feel free to contact us.

Hey There!

I’m David, CEO & Chief Strategist here at VIRIDITI and I hope you found this helpful.

When I don’t have my nose to the grindstone, I’m dedicated to educating business owners about the world of design to help them make informed design decisions for their businesses.