The logo: what does it mean?

I enjoy all aspects of design but logo design is a particular love of mine.  It’s a part of what I was taught from my early years in graphics and if I think back even further to when I was a kid, doodles of designs for fictitious gangs of toys or a badge competition that I won when I was in the cubs, were all unintentional early dabblings into the world of design.

Logo design is one of the core creative foundations of graphic design. I enjoy the challenge and process of creating something so simple that it has to work in a number of ways, and the evolution of an idea through to the finished article.  I’m fascinated by how something so small can evoke such big memories of an experience or feeling related to that brand. Overall I love the look of a well designed logo and the feeling when you know it’s just right… after all this is the thing that drew me in as a kid.


A logo is usually one of the first visual points of contact with your brand a potential customer will see. It might be on the sign of a shop or on the packaging of the product. However, it’s a misconception to think that the logo should be the one piece of identity that defines your brand. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important, far from it. But it’s just one piece of your whole brand arsenal.

Remember, your logo doesn’t need to describe what your company does, it’s purely for identification. The common misbelief is that a good logo must be a literal representation of what that company does, a sort of ‘does what it says on the tin’ approach. This isn’t true. Think about some of the most famous logos out there: McDonalds isn’t an icon of a burger and Nike isn’t a shoe or an athlete. It’s about what it represents. Not going for the obvious can result in a more original design and can really set you apart from your competition.


How will people know what I do if it’s not in the logo?

This is where the rest of your identity comes in. Brand is more than a logo, it’s the leaflet you hand out to people, your tone of voice, your website and even how your staff greet someone when they come through the door. All these other touch points are where you let people know who you are and it links back to the very thing I mentioned earlier about your logo. It carries the message, it isn’t the message.

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So, if a logo shouldn’t be a literal visual representation, then what should it be?

The perfect logo should be simple, memorable, timeless; not reliant on trends of the moment and last of all, versatile enough to work across a whole suite of marketing materials. If all these points are achieved it will help strengthen its true meaning and give people the best possible opportunity to evoke a memory of your brand.

Paul Rand, a Graphic Designer who is best known for his corporate logo designs including, IBM, UPS, Enron and ABC, sums this up perfectly…

“Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated. The Nike Swoosh derives its complexity from its simplicity. It’s the most basic form you can imagine – only two lines. It is precisely this simplicity which allows it to thrive in so many different contexts, to carry the brand on its own (with or without the accompanying word ‘NIKE’), and to absorb and reflect so much brand messaging.”

Some of the greatest and most recognised logos in history seem so simple, but have taken a lot of time, thought and design iterations to get to that very place. Most consumers and clients don’t tend to see this and even forget this has happened. But the struggle before really does happen! As designers we’d love to have the first thing we create to be the final version, it’d save us a lot of work! But the reality is very different. We go through the struggle and have to get the stupid, ridiculous and rubbish ideas on paper to really refine a logo to its best and to see if it really works. If anything it’s our job to make it seem effortless and to produce a logo that feels so deviously simple you wish you had thought of it yourself.