Logo Basics: what it is, what it isn’t & what it should be

As a graphic designer, I find that it’s important from time to time to educate others (and in turn I get a delightful refresher) on certain fundamentals of design. Today’s lesson: the logo. People often have the wrong idea about what a logo is and the power it can contain or the damage it can do. Below I have listed some basics  to help you decide on the right logo for your company with the proper knowledge to do so.

What it is

A logo is an identifier of the simplest form. It identifies the company it represents and derives its strength from that company, not the other way around. This means that what the logo stands for and what it symbolizes is much more important than how it looks. Identification, like your own name, is distinctive, memorable and clear. This is what a logo should be to your company.

What it isn’t

A logo is not branding (the experience customers have with your company and the emotional response that experience elicits)  and it is not the identity (which is the entirety of visual aspects like colors, fonts and styles used across a variety of media that form an overall look of your company). It is the identifier, not the entire identity. It is not a tell-all, long-winded, busy image that people will dismiss or soon forget. There’s time for all of that to be applied in your identity!

What it should be

  • Simple, not busy.  Will people remember it and be able to recognize it at a glance or is it too complicated?
  • Unique, not familiar.  Has it been done before? Does it look like any of your competitors’ logos?
  • Timeless, not trendy.  Do you see it lasting 10, 20 or even 50 years or will you need to adjust when another trend comes along?
  • Versatile, not limiting.  Can you scale this image as small as a stamp and as large as a billboard while maintaining its integrity? Does it work in black and white or reversed?
  • Consistent, never altered.  Unless in the case of a re-design.
  • Appropriate, not out of place. Is the style of the logo relevant to your company?  Does it need to be playful or serious? Classy or laid back?
  • The type of logo you need.   Keep in mind location and company size, along with the length of time the business has been established. Large corporations that have been around can get away with symbols while local businesses may need more to their identifier. There are three types of logos; which would best suit your company?

1. Wordmark or Logotype: A strictly typographic trademark.


2. Symbol/Icon: No text, only a symbol.


3. Combination: A mixture of both text and icon.



I hope I leave you feeling educated on the basics of a logo, encouraged to choose a simpler logo as an identifier and confident that you can choose the right one. I suggest searching more and getting deeper on the subject. Finally, I would like to leave you with some reverse inspiration!



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