Logo design is both an art and a science. A skilled logo designer takes everything into consideration. The company’s target audience is a primary consideration, but then the designer must think about everything else: the colors, shapes, and fonts used in a logo have an impact on the people who see it. Making the right choices to represent a brand is a cornerstone of logo design.

For that reason, we remember the logos that work. We recognize them instantly even when the company name isn’t included. As you consider what logo would best represent your company, it might be useful to look at the logos we all know and love. What makes them effective?

Elements of an Effective Logo

An effective logo is more than the sum of its parts. The colors, shapes, fonts, and words chosen all need to work together to form a harmonious whole. Every decision you make when you pick a logo can have an impact on the way your brand is perceived. Logo designers have to take all of the following things into consideration.

Color

The colors you choose for your logo send an immediate message to the people who see it. If you select colors that don’t work well with the brand personality you want to convey, then you may lose people as soon as they see your logo.

Multi-colored pencils

One thing to consider is the functionality of colors. Certain colors speak directly to the industries they represent. For example, green is a common choice for the farming industry because of the symbolic link between green and nature.

You also need to consider the emotions that colors evoke. If your company is conservative, you don’t want to choose wild or overly bright colors for your logo. They may contradict your branding message.

Shape

The shapes you use in your logo, as well as the logo’s overall shape, is important, too. Circles tend to convey warmth and community. Square and rectangles are more orderly and balanced, while triangles can signify excitement.
Sometimes a company might use one shape inside their logo, but use a different one as the shape of the logo as a whole. Skilled designers look at both elements.

Font Choice

Many logos incorporate the names of companies or their slogans. In such cases, the fonts you pick are just as important as the words.
You may choose to use a fancy or elaborate font in your logo, but your first consideration should always be readability. Logo designers sometimes use fonts and then embellish them with other design elements. Again, the font you choose should do a good job of representing your brand’s image and mission.

Emotions

Finally, you need to think about the emotions conveyed by your logo. Everything should work together to create a harmonious whole. A company that targets women might use a feminine color such as pink, combined with a flowing font and a circular shape. The combined effect sends a clear message that this is a company that markets to women.

The emotions associated with colors can vary from culture to culture. For example, black is a mourning color in the United States and Europe, but white, yellow, and blue represent mourning in other countries. If you’re marketing internationally, you’ll have to keep cultural differences in mind.

Winning Logos

Now that you understand the elements of an effective logo, let’s look at some of the most effective logos in the world and talk about why they’re memorable.

Nike

The Nike swoosh is one of the world’s most instantly recognizable logos. Ironically, the company’s co-founder wasn’t crazy about it. The designer, Carolyn Davidson, has said that she was inspired by Nike, the Greek goddess of victory.
What makes this logo effective is its sense of movement. It’s deceptively simple, yet it has a kinetic quality that implies speed. That message is perfect for a company that designs athletic shoes and apparel. The original logo included the brand name, but the company removed it in 1995.

Target

Target logo

The logo for Target stores is another one that requires no brand name to be effective. When the store first started, the target was more orange than red and had three concentric circles instead of the two that we know today. The company’s name was written across the target in a script font.
This logo is incredibly simple. The logo and name of the company work together in harmony. Because targets are recognizable the world over, this logo requires no explanation. It sends a clear, bold message that you can find what you need when you visit a Target store. The bright red color conveys excitement and passion.

AT&T

The AT&T logo has undergone multiple changes in the 127 years since the company first chose a logo. The early design was a bell, signifying the company’s origins as the Bell Telephone Company.

Different versions of the bell appeared over the years. The original logo was black and white, but it then turned into the familiar blue we see today. Blue is a color that conveys trust and reliability, which makes it a good choice for a communications company. The bell usually appeared inside a circle.

In 1983, the Bell system was dismantled and AT&T changed its logo to a globe covered with blue bands. The bands do a good job of conveying connection, while the circle signifies community. The globe design has evolved slightly but remains a clear symbol of the company today.

Dunkin’ Donuts

The Dunkin’ Donuts logo is a good example of a marriage of colors, fonts, and images. Early logos featured a cartoon-like donut man and a large coffee cup, but the logo we know today first appeared in 1980. The distinctive pink and orange colors convey sweetness and fun.

Over the years, the font has become more modern and the addition of a stylized Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cup filled with steaming coffee completes the image. Overall, the logo has a rectangular shape that is softened by the rounded letters and the oblong cup.

Starbucks

The inspiration for the iconic Starbucks logo was a 16th century woodcutting featuring a mermaid with two tails. The original logo was in black and white, but the company’s familiar green was added in 1992.

Starbucks logo

Over the years, the mermaid design has evolved and become simpler and more graphic. What started as a fairly complex drawing has become a close-up of the mermaid with her crown and tail visible. The design has a circular shape and features wavy lines, all of which work together to convey the comfort of a hot cup of coffee.

McDonald’s

Few logos are more famous than McDonald’s Golden Arches. First introduced in 1962, the original logo featured two intersecting arches joined by a diagonal slash that mimicked the architecture of the restaurants. Over the years, the design evolved and simplified. The logo today, like many of the others described here, now stands on its own without the company name.

Early versions of the logo featured red and yellow, two bright colors connected with excitement and appetite. Yellow is a cheerful and optimistic color and the current logo is all yellow, representing McDonald’s as a fun destination for a quick meal.

Coca-Cola

The Coca-Cola logo stands out from others on this list because it still features, prominently, the company’s name. In fact, the company’s name is the logo. First designed in 1887, the logo features a script font.

There have been minor changes to the logo over the years, but today’s logo is strikingly similar to the original. The addition of red to the logo made it pop and conveyed excitement. The script has grown a bit larger and slightly more modern-looking, but it’s still essentially the same logo from 140 years ago. There’s no doubt that the Coca-Cola logo has staying power.

Apple

Apple logo

Our final logo is the Apple logo. The original logo was fairly complex, featuring an illustrating of Sir Isaac Newton sitting beneath an apple tree. Only a year after the company’s founding, they redesigned the logo to a simple apple in rainbow colors with a bite taken out of it.
In the ensuing years, the logo has remained essentially the same. Today’s version is sleek and has a high-tech feel, often rendered in silver. In Western culture – and Christianity in particular – the apple is a symbol of knowledge. That makes it an excellent choice for a company that prides itself on innovation. It’s one of the most successful and recognizable logos of all time.

Conclusion

Logo design requires attention to detail and a deep understanding of marketing and branding. Companies that are local and not universally recognized often have to include a company name and slogan to communicate with their target audience.

At The Logo Company, our designers work closely with clients to determine the necessary elements to include in their logos. Each client is assigned five designers so they are guaranteed to have several choices when it comes time to pick a logo. The end results help our clients improve their brand recognition and grow their businesses.