What Makes a Good Logo?

Yesterday, I was sitting at a red light and a truck drove by me.  I immediately noticed that there was a beautiful logo on the door of the truck–it caught my eye and made me look at it to see what the business was called and what they did.  This got me to thinking: I wonder what exactly makes a good logo?  There are definitely certain factors that are extremely important, and good to keep in mind if you are thinking about creating a new logo for your business, or perhaps refining an old one.  I was going to write out a list, but as I started thinking, I realized that everything I wanted to say fell under one word:

 

simplicity.

 

The key to a good logo is simplicity, no question.  It can’t be too busy.  A lot of times, companies try to make their logo do too much, as in actually show the service that they provide.  A carpentry company, for example, might choose to have a picture of a guy making a chair with the name of the company weaved in there somewhere, as their logo.  Unless the picture was extremely simple, that logo would probably be too busy.  It might be better if they just go with something extremely simple, like a saw.  Take a second to look at the picture that I’ve attached to this article.  Just let your eye skim over it.  What does your eye naturally go to first?  I would be willing to bet it’s the very simple logos, like Mercedes, IKEA, Mobil, Walmart, and Hanes.

The logo I saw yesterday was almost completely unrelated to the service the company provided.  They were a gas and oil company, and the logo was basically just a lime green oval with the name of the company in the middle.  When there’s too much to look at, a logo quickly becomes confusing.  And when you don’t know what you’re really looking at, you’re not going to remember it later.  A beautiful, simple logo sticks with you for a while.  There’s something about it that you remember. For example, the Target logo.  It doesn’t get much more simple and streamlined than that.  Or another logo that I think really illustrates this well is the H & R Block logo.  So simple, yet so memorable.  The interesting thing is that both of these logos actually tie in with the name of their company.  It’s nice when that happens, but it’s not always necessary.  Simplicity should win out every time, even if that means the logo itself doesn’t explain what your company does.

Let’s get a little bit more visual with the simplicity idea.  Oftentimes the best logos have very clean, bold lines, and simple, geometric shapes that stick with you.  Think about what would catch your eye more if a truck drove by you fairly quickly: a fancy, cursive font, or an all-caps, bold font?  While the fancy cursive might look pretty if you look at it for long enough, that’s not what a logo is about.  You need something that will grab your attention in seconds.  Because sometimes that’s all people have.  I’ll give you another example.  What would be more eye-catching, a detailed picture of a bouquet of flowers or a picture of a single daisy?  Again, while the photo of the flowers may be pretty to look at for a while, the single daisy is much more memorable.  Logos are not a piece of modern art that require interpretation.  They have a simple job to do, and visually, they should reflect that.

I’m not saying that all logos need to look the same.  You want your logo to stand out from the rest, after all.  But I am saying that simple is always better.  If you want to include a picture of some sort in your logo, that’s fine.  But when it comes down to a choice between a detailed picture and a more simple, geometric picture, I would go with the latter.  At the end of the day, you need your logo to catch people’s eye in a quick moment, and you want them to remember it later so they can look up your company.  And in my opinion, it’s the clean, simple logos that do those two jobs best.