Recognizable brands seem to come out of nowhere. One minute they’re completely unknown, the next they’re one of the biggest brands on the planet. This happened with Tesla and Snapchat, and it’s plausible we’ll see similar results in the coming years.
Granted a brand is only an emblem for a product. But if you already have a great product, how should you design for recognition? There is a sense of beauty in simple logos that convey their ideas without much effort.
In this post I’d like to delve into simpler logo designs to see how they work and what makes them so recognizable to a wide audience.
Brief And Focused Concepts
Subtle designs ensure simplicity. It’s a very basic concept but it rings true across many different avenues. If you have a focused attitude and you bring attention to one specific type of branding then it becomes easier for people to recognize the design.
You want to bring attention to the logo’s uniqueness. That becomes a lot easier when the concept is brief and focused. The new Re/code logo is a great example of this.
But designing around an idea also helps convey a certain message. Take a look at this sample watermark created by Quillo Creative.
It angles the letter “L” in laptop to appear like a real laptop leaning back.
It’s a very clever play on the visual identity of a laptop. Although there is no company named Laptop, I really love this concept because it shows how simplicity can strike a chord and keep your attention without excessive detail.
Clever logos make us smile and bring a connection to the design. These don’t always work with more corporate identities but they’re useable in smaller businesses with a customer base receptive to humor.
Overall you’re looking for an idea that’s deceptively simple and focused. Terse yet concise with visuals and text.
There is no right or wrong way to do this. It’s a matter of experimenting and finding what seems to work best for each individual project. Look through these examples to get an idea for your own creative direction.
You want logos that look great in full color and grayscale. The logo should work on any background and be editable to work in any color.
A company’s logo might appear anywhere, so you want it to be recognizable no matter what the situation. The large Dutch web publisher The Next Web recently updated their logo because of a problem with readability.
Using the shadowed 3D effect was a cool way to capture attention when in color. But it wasn’t visible when the logo was set to a flat monotone color.
Recognize this stuff early so you’re able to fix mistakes before they happen.
Lettering is perhaps the most important part of the logo. Yes icons stand out and most people recognize the iconic Starbucks logo from a distance.
But think of how many people also recognize the Disney logo which is just Walt’s signature. There’s something to be said about a logo that’s so prolific and ingrained into the culture with only a few strokes of cursive lettering.
This is a viable design style if you can follow typefaces that work. Most of the time you’ll want to hire a custom letter designer, but if done properly the new logo will be worth every penny.
This process was done by InVision when they hired hired Focus Lab to design their InVision LABS logo typeface.
After many iterations the team finally came up with a solid concept. This is now used by InVision as their official LABS logo with a great deal of success.
Different styles of typography work best with different companies. Study the work of brand designers and identity designers to see how they create assets.
The more you learn about typography the more comfortable you’ll be creating ideas from scratch.
A great brand often has two parts: the first is a typographic design style for the logo, and the second includes an icon or brandable visual.
Not every logo needs a visual and some of the top brands like Coca Cola are still recognized without one. But visuals add life to the identity making the company more than just a series of letters.
Visuals can be simple icons, vector characters, shapes, patterns, anything that will blend visually with the identity.
When designing an icon or graphic be sure to offer different levels of complexity. Sometimes the McDonald’s arch has depth with gradients and shadows. Other times it’s just a flat “M” sporting a single shade of yellow.
The GitHub logos page is a great resource for understanding complexity. They use the Octocat as their mascot which is basically a fully-rendered vector character.
But the team also has flat icon alternatives for sites that don’t want all the extra detail. The Octocat is still recognizable as a flat icon and it still connects naturally with the GitHub brand.
The same can be said with Smashing Magazine’s logo and their oversized “S” icon. People in the field of web design know what that means because it has become ubiquitous as the most detailed online design magazine in the world.
Visuals do not need to be fancy but they should be recognizable. Design something that relates to the brand itself and can be carried out across the entire identity.
Design With Metaphor
If you’re stuck coming up with visual ideas start thinking in terms of metaphor. This refers to ideas that can’t happen in reality but that still convey a message that makes sense to readers.
It doesn’t always have to be a talking bear like Charmin. Think instead of wordplay and similar words that can mean other things.
Metaphor is powerful because it’s clever. It makes people go “oh I see what you did there!”
You want to catch attention and get people interested in the company. This may require a different process for a bank than for a clothing company, but the underlying principles remain the same.
Don’t be afraid to try dozens of ideas just to find the one that fits best. Identity design is a challenging industry and there are professionals who spend years specializing in this kind of work.
When designing a memorable brand consider all of these ideas and see how they apply to your current project. Also be willing to look into competitors and see what techniques they’re using to stand out in a marketplace inundated with unique identities.
If you’re looking for more identity design inspiration check out this inspiration feed along with some of our related design galleries: