What Makes a Logo Iconic

Written by Katie 7th February 2019

When we think of logo design we automatically think about a modern phenomenon of creating simple, iconic images that represent individual brands and businesses. However, for hundreds and even thousands of years, humans have been using emblems and symbols to identify and differentiate themselves and objects.

Iconic logo examples

Logo design has moved on somewhat from Royal Family Crests, hieroglyphics and ancient religious symbolism but the principle is still the same – creating a memorable symbol with meaning to represent an object or collective.

Nowadays, when brands set about designing a logo the aim is often simple: create a recognisable visual identity to represent our ideas and beliefs.

But what is it that makes a logo iconic? Why does everyone remember Apple’s apple and Nike’s swoosh?

Keep It Simple and Memorable

“I strive for two things in design: simplicity and clarity. Great design is born of those two things.”

– Lindon Leader

Possibly the most important and effective aspect of logo design, a simple logo will help meet most requirements of an iconic logo. Simplicity can make your logo more memorable, In 2018 an American custom signage firm, signs.com, carried out research on 156 Americans with 10 iconic logos.

The 156 people were asked to draw, from memory alone, 10 logos of selected iconic brands. See the results here. From this research, it was really obvious that the brands with the most simple logos, such as Apple, Ikea and Target, produced the most near-perfect drawings while more complicated logos found themselves at the bottom of the table, such as Starbucks and Adidas.

Simplicity can also make a logo more versatile. By adopting a minimalist logo it can be easily adapted to use on a storefront, business card or website favicon and never lose any detail.

Withstand the Test of Time

The most iconic logos you think of, such as Coca-cola, Apple or Ford are all on at least their 5th version, however, none have ever had dramatic overhauls. Apart from maybe the first revision of the original logo, more often than not the most iconic logos we remember are the ones that have remained consistent.

Take Apple as an example, their original logo showing Newton under the tree lasted only a year before the simple apple with a bite (byte) out of it was created in 1977. Since then the only real changes to the logo have been the colour and “shine”. The shape, however, has always remained the same.

In order for a logo to become iconic, you must commit to it and trust that it’ll withstand the test of time with only small adjustments. A complicated logo design that may seem trendy and “in” now will likely look outdated and aged eventually and will require a full revamp.

Versatile

It is more than likely that your logo will be used across a number of different marketing materials from business cards and leaflets to pens and company t-shirts. When creating a logo it is essential to consider how versatile the logo will be across the materials and locations your logo will be used on.

Ensuring your logo is versatile means considering how it may look at different sizes and even in different colours. If your logo has a lot of small details and different colours then this detail can be lost if the logo is minimized and can cause the logo to become unrecognisable.

A versatile logo we created for Deals4Supps.

A good test for how versatile a logo is can be to consider how it may look in all white or all black. If you are unable to produce it in a blackout or whiteout version without it remaining recognisable then it is not versatile enough.

As the most obvious example, Nike’s primary colour is orange, however across a lot of their products and marketing you will see the famous swoosh mark in both black and white. The logo is still easily recognisable as Nike’s no matter the colour it is used in.

 

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