What makes a good business logo?

Effective business logos come in all shapes and sizes, but the best of them share a few, key characteristics. Understanding these – and the reasons behind them – is essential as a designer, but can also be very useful for clients trying to give constructive feedback on a design. 

Let’s take a look at what the characteristics of a good logo are, and what you can do to get yours ticking the right boxes. 

1. Simplicity 

The first characteristic of a good business logo is simplicity. If it’s too complicated to absorb in a single glance, it’s too complicated. Full stop. 

A good way to judge whether your logo is simple enough is to try to describe it in a single sentence. The Apple logo can be described as an apple with a bite out of it; the McDonalds logo can be described as two golden arches, or a yellow capital M. If you can’t describe your own logo in a sentence, chances are it needs to be simplified. 

2. Memorability

One of the side benefits of simplicity is that it makes logos easier to remember, and memorability is another key characteristic of an effective logo design. Think of the iconic Nike tick, or the WWF panda – both are very simple images that stick in your mind, even if you don’t see them on a regular basis. 

Of course, simplicity isn’t the only thing that makes logos memorable. The best designs also use recognisable imagery to present a unique idea. This combination of familiar and new is vital, because while people find it easy to remember elements they can identify, they seldom bother for just another, dull cliché.  

It’s for this reason that car logos aren’t just pictures of cars, and sneaker logos aren’t just pictures of shoes. Recognisable elements are good, but don’t be too literal (and boring) – think outside the box! 

3. Appropriateness

A logo’s role isn’t just to identify a brand, it’s to introduce that brand’s personality and purpose. To do that, it needs to be appropriate not just for the business, but also that business’ customer base or target audience.  

For example: feminine frills don’t make sense for a biker bar; moody palettes and sophisticated fonts aren’t appropriate for a playschool; a divorce attorney isn’t likely to want a wildly colourful logo to represent their serious, professional practice. Think about what you’re trying to say with your logo, and the type of person you’re trying to attract, and then tailor your design to do just that. 

4. Versatility

A good logo needs to be effective regardless of where or how it’s used – on a billboard, a television ad, a flyer, a newspaper, an app or a favicon. That means making sure it works just as well in greyscale as it does in colour, is recognisable in high and low definition, and can be scaled up or scaled down without losing impact or integrity. 

5. Timelessness

A logo should be the face of a business for as long as that business exists. It’s one of the reasons logo designs can be expensive – they deliver a lot of value over the years. Of course, that does mean your logo needs to be able to stand the test of time. Minor updates every now and then are totally fine, but if you’re going to need a full redesign in just a few years, you may want to consider choosing a more classic or timeless option. 

Logos may seem small, but they take a lot of time and skill to design effectively. If you’re keen to try your hand, sign up for one of our Desktop Publishing Short Courses and learn to conceptualise and create your own logos… and much, much more!