What Is a Logo and Why Is It Important for Your Brand
Have you ever noticed that you are exposed to thousands of logos on a daily basis? Think about it, whether you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed, walking your dog or just grabbing a few items from the grocery store, you are constantly making connections with brands. Oftentimes, without even realizing it. While it may seem insignificant, these small but mighty symbols are a part of our daily lives—and an integral part of your branding efforts.
When done right, a logo serves as the face of your business and helps your audience recognize who you are and what you stand for. Here, we will explore in depth what is a logo, and the importance of creating a logo that represents your brand's personality.
What is a logo?
In the most simple terms, a logo is a symbol comprised of words, images, and colors that is used to identify a brand or product. Specific types of logos come in all different shapes and sizes that run the gamut from simple text logotypes to abstract logo marks (we’ll go into more detail about those soon).
Believe it or not, the concept of logos has existed for thousands of years. Consider the primitive cave drawings of early humans and the symbols they used for basic communication. Picture the specific motifs that were seen in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, or in family crests from the Middle Ages (like House Stark and House Lannister). While today’s modern logos might look and feel different, the basic objective is the same—recognition.
Paul Rand, the father of graphic design once said, “A logo doesn’t sell (directly), it identifies”. With this in mind, remember that your logo is like the soul of your company, and as such it should be consistent, recognizable and evoke a positive or meaningful feeling. A good logo should infuse the spirit of your brand throughout all visual elements and marketing channels.
What is the purpose of a logo?
While a logo’s main function is to help identify, it actually does much more. Let’s take a closer look at what a logo can do for your business or personal brand.
Make a first impression: As the saying goes—you never get a second chance to make a good first impression, and a logo is the perfect way to make a memorable one that grabs your customers’ attention and sparks their interest. Your logo is often the first, and most prominent thing to be noticed by your audience.
Help you stand out in a crowd: In the sea of endless content and advertisements, an unforgettable logo should be different enough to stand out in your consumers’ minds. You can achieve this by researching the competitors and their branding in order to differentiate yourself and position your brand strongly.
Shape your brand identity: You want to have a distinct and cohesive look that immediately establishes what your brand stands for, and how it will be perceived. This is known as your brand identity, and refers to the specific visual appearance that your brand will develop. The distinct logo you create can serve as a starting point to build upon, and should be aligned with the overall vision.
Create a strategic branding tool: When it comes to branding, it is important to have a well-defined brand strategy that clearly outlines your values and goals. Think of your logo like a piece of the puzzle, an intrinsic component of this strategy that can communicate your brand message across marketing channels. To give you an idea, your logo can be used on your website, your social media platforms, business cards, packaging, physical locations and much more.
Promote brand awareness: As your brand grows, your logo grows with it, becoming more familiar to your audience and to the world. For example, think of a time when you saw somebody sipping coffee from a Starbucks cup, you instantly knew where that java came from. This is how a strong logo can help create powerful associations in your customers’ minds and foster trust and loyalty for your brand.
Strengthen your message: A logo is an effective way to inform your customers about your company without using any words. In seconds, one simple symbol can show what industry you’re in, what type of service you offer, your brand values and express the overall vibe of your business.
Most important logo elements
When deciding how to design a logo, there are a few components that should come together to create your unique style. Some logos only use certain elements, whereas others combine them all. Regardless of which of them you choose to include on your logo, it's important to be familiar with all these ideas in order to make the best choice for your brand.
The key to good logo design is to try to capture the essence of your brand and keep it simple. Additionally, you should have awareness of logo design trends to keep a finger on the pulse and find inspiration. While it may seem like a good idea to incorporate the latest fads in your logo, you should first consider whether that design will be able to grow with your brand and remain relevant over time.
Choosing your brand colors is not just about picking your favorite hues, it is a complex process that requires research and thought. For starters, understanding color psychology will help you recognize the impact they have on brand perception, and communicate to your audience what your brand represents. The right palette can make or break your logo and influence the feelings or emotions associated with your brand.
Let’s say you were starting a cloth diaper business targeted at millennial moms with an affinity for sustainability, you might pick whites or muted tones to signify purity, innocence, and comfort. Alternatively, if you were planning to sell very sleek and high-end wallets, you might choose powerful and elegant shades like black, charcoal, or gold.
Although it may be tempting to explore every color of the rainbow, the general rule of thumb is to use no more than three in your logo. Using too many shades may become confusing and overwhelming. Take a look at the following logo colors to inspire you.
This chain of eco-grocery stores known for natural and organic products, uses green in their logo, both old and new. Green is universally symbolic of nature, as well as health, luck, calmness and jealousy. This simple logo easily embodies the message of Whole Foods instantly letting their consumers (and competitors) know what they're all about.
While blue and yellow may not immediately make you think of furniture, these colors are symbolic of specific emotions. Yellow expresses happiness and joy, and blue stands for trust and stability. By using these two bold colors together, IKEA’s logo is unmistakable, and conveys their brand personality clearly. Even more interestingly, IKEA shares these colors with their native flag of Sweden, which helps to build their identity even more authentically.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to your logo using imagery gives you an opportunity to get your message across. Graphics in logos can be simple or complex, decorative or functional, freestanding or combined with text. Ideally, the images should be representative of the product itself or an experiential quality connected to your business.
However, sometimes logos use abstract visuals to express creativity and personify their brand. When using non-conventional or out-of-the-box imagery, it is advisable to connect these ideas to a story or a feeling in relation to your product. Remember that whatever image you use must be scalable and adaptable, meaning it can be resized or formatted for various branding materials and still be identifiable. Furthermore, if you are using a complex image you’ll need to design variations of the logo for different platforms and resolutions.
Here are some examples of images and graphics used successfully in logos.
Named for the shared territory between Argentina and Chile, Patagonia is best known for their sustainable outdoor clothing and positive environment impact. Their logo is an excellent example of imagery that depicts the famous Monte Fitz Roy, situated in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.
This logo effectively captures a complex image by simplifying and stylizing it, which, in turn, embodies both the brand name and personality. It also appears in many configurations— seen sometimes without color, or text, providing a prime example of scalability and adaptability in terms of logo design.
This iconic logo uses an actual photograph of Lakers player, Jerry West, converted into a simple silhouette. The NBA logo is distinct and perfectly epitomizes the nature of the game in a simple graphic. Combined with a tricolor palette of red, white and blue, the design was originally meant to evoke a patriotic feel. You can see how this logo exemplifies the importance of a clear visual that instantly symbolizes what the brand or organization represents.
Target, the lovable one-stop-shop for groceries, clothing, beauty products, toys, and more is easily recognizable by their simple, yet superb logo. It illustrates both their company name, and their values. The bullseye symbolizes their core purpose—great value and ‘hitting the mark’. Since their logo is so easily identifiable, the company often uses it without even needing their name, or any words.
Spotify’s logo is an example of an abstract image that still manages to embody the brand. The music streaming service uses a simple green circle, filled with three horizontal lines as their logo. These lines are meant to depict sound waves, and they are intentionally crooked, to add personality and make the brand feel more ‘human’. The graphic itself is abstract but the story behind it makes sense conceptually and visually, and upholds the brand’s identity and values.
In a nutshell, typography refers to the font style, appearance, and structure used in your logo text. Letters can be arranged differently, laid on top of one another, flipped around or positioned in many creative ways to create an impactful logo design. Text-based logos can also be referred to as lettermarks, logotypes and monograms.
During the creative process, you can browse the best fonts for logos and try to speak your brand’s language by selecting a style that aligns with your brand values. For example, if you’re in the health or medical industry you might want to use a traditional font that appears dependable to your audience. Just as the rule applies to colors, it is recommended not to use more than 2 or 3 fonts in order to keep it simple and consistent.
Let’s take a look at some strong typography logo examples.
Perhaps one of the most discernible logos with a very notable font, The New York Times has used this version of their logo for almost 150 years. The font is based on Blackletter typeface, also called Gothic, and always appears in black or white, depending on the background color it is printed on. When seeing this typography, the reader instantly knows the source, which is all part of the newspaper's identity in delivering reputable and trustworthy news to its readers.
This pink and playful logo uses both typography and color to personify the iconic doll. While both Barbie and her branding have evolved over the years since she first appeared in 1959, the core identity has remained the same. The Barbie logo is consistently elegant and fun, and speaks to her intended audience in an effective and eye-catching manner.
One of the most famous luxury brands out there, Louis Vuitton’s logo is immediately identifiable, marked by their LV monogram. Monogram (or lettermark) logos are usually made up of two or three letters taken from your business’s name or initials. This simple but effective approach creates consistency, and is often more memorable.
A tagline usually sits under or around a logo, and is a simple sentence, or collection of words (usually between two to seven) that captures the heart or spirit of the brand. This can be helpful to articulate what your business does, or what it represents. Not all logos require taglines, but it can definitely make an impact and help get your brand message across and cultivate brand awareness.
Check out some well-known logo tagline examples.
According to LG, “The “letters "L" and "G" in a circle symbolize the world, future, youth, humanity, and technology”. Their tagline effectively delivers both their core values, and also manages to use the same two letters as their brand name to further get their message across.
The BMW tagline was born from a strategic marketing campaign in the 1970s, aimed at redefining the brand’s perception to create both an idea, and a promise of what BMW vehicles represent. The effort was so successful that BMW has become synonymous with their tagline, as “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.
Common logo uses
Websites: As part of brand recognition, having your logo on your site helps to identify your company and develop consistency with your web presence. When you create a website, make sure that your logo is visible and recognizable for your visitors. Logos are usually placed in the header and/or footer of your site, most often left-aligned and ideally linked to the homepage. Additionally, your logo can be used as your website’s the favicon, the small icon that appears in the browser window.
Business cards: When you design a business card, remember it is like a small memento, something for your potential customers to remember you by that they physically get to keep. Having your logo displayed on your business cards is a perfect opportunity to jog their memory, so they will come back to you later.
Products, packaging, merchandise: Big or small, including your logo on all your products and merchandise is key for recognition. It is also a great way to build trust and loyalty. Imagine somebody walking down the street carrying a bag with your company logo—it’s free advertising and social proof.
Customer communications: Your logo should appear in any kind of communication with your customers including emails, newsletters, campaigns and instant messaging. These exchanges need to be easily identifiable to your audience, so they can immediately know who they are speaking with. It is a reinforcement of the brand identity and adds to the trustworthiness of your company.
Social media: Having your logo across your social media channels helps develop a cohesive social presence. Since social media is all about sharing, you want to make sure your photos and visuals are branded. This applies not only to posts on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube, and also other platforms such as Reddit and Quora.
Internal assets: Beyond external uses, your logo serves an important and necessary purpose internally—to promote your company culture. Things like company-wide presentations, emails or training sessions should always include your logo. Furthermore, if you ever create employee swag, you want your team to wear your logo with pride. And that is something you can be proud of too.
By Kylie Goldstein
Branding Expert and Marketing Blogger