Purpose of Logo and Principle of Logo Design

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

In the past several years, i realized i have a heart for logos. Probably because the nature of logo's simplicity, and often geometrical elegance, and my personal penchant toward these qualities.

Purpose of Logos

Logos, is a graphical representation of a entity. It is the visual analog of names. Logos are particularly important in our modern, capitalistic, corporate environment. Look around you, you can find tens of logos in your immediate surrounding, and recognize each of them or the company, without conscious thinking.

Logo is not a fashion statement. It has strong ties with marketing and public perception, which is a general property to anything representative, such as book covers, corporation's names, your attire.

Principles of Logo Design

Bad Logos: Generic

A good logo is not something generic, even if it is beautifully rendered.

gnu hurd logo old
cvs logo
cvs logo 2

Good Logos: Symbolic

One quality of good logo is that it is reminiscent to what it represents. Here are some good examples:

logo java
Java's drink.
gnu head heckert gnu
GNU's gnu head.
Windows logo  2002-2012
Microsoft Windows's window.
Apple logo black
Apple's bitten apple.
RedHat linux logo 59428
Red Hat's red hat.
Nvidia logo
nVidia's eye.
150px-X logo
X-Window's sharp X.
GnuPG logo 2006
GnuPG's lock with wings.
sgi logo
Silicon Graphics's cube/hexagon illusion
Be Incorporated Logo
Be media's eye-ear.
NeXT's geometrical cube.
FreeBSD mascot
BSD's BSD daemon.
perl logo
Perl's ugly camel.
hurd sm mf invert
GNU Hurd's recursive arrows.
Wikipedia's puzzle-piecing globe.
Shell logo
Shell's seashell.
McDonald's M.
Taco Bell logo
Taco Bell's bell.
Honda logo
Honda's H.
Yamaha logo
Yamaha's tuning forks.

Good Logo: Distinct

Sun Microsystems logo
Sun Microsystems's SUN block.
ATT logo Apache HTTPD GE logo ATI Logo Coca-Cola logo

Good logo should be distinct, a impression lock, even if it isn't reminiscent of what it represents. For example: AT&T's death star (globe connotation), Apache Webserver's plume (panache). General Electric's curlicue typeface in circle. Even typeface alone can do very good if in distinctive style: IBM stripped blue, Coke drink's cursive typeface, ATI's high-tech typeface, ebay and yahoo's colorful typefaces.

Note that many of the good logos mentioned above are in fact designed by renowned graphics artists.

Note that the logo of popular corporations are not necessarily good. Examples are: SONY, JVC, TOSHIBA, RCA, Microsoft, Google. These are just simple typefaces that are unremarkable.

Good Logo: Simple

Good logo should not be overly complex. It shouldn't be photographic or complex drawings.

Artistic Quality

Besides all the above general principles, a good logo has some artistic merits and quality in its execution. Good logos are often created by experienced graphics designers who have years of experience. A ugly drawing, even if satisfying all the above principles, does not make a good logo.

Further readings

In addition, your local libraries probably have many books about logos and logo history. Alternatively, ask a friend who is a full-time professional graphics designer, or a art student, she'll probably show you colorful books and periodicals and logo collections, and logo design social awards etc you didn't know existed.

PS: Logos, as a subject among human animal's activities and histories, is rather a trivial subject. And, of course, different person can have different esthetic tastes. Nor are logos a critical matter in view of the whole human endeavor. However, a minimal understanding of logos, and logo's design principles, is good to have as a general knowledge in our complex modern society inundated with computer graphics and corporate logos. (actually, recently i found out that there are academicians who calk up the issue to a term visual literacy with full discourse, which i think is overboard.)

If you have a question, put $5 at patreon and message me.