The Art of A Successful Logo


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For most of us, we recognize the company’s personified by these logos immediately. Google. Starbucks. McDonalds. These companies, as well as their logos, are household names. However, what if you were asked about the story behind the logo, why the specific colors, typefaces, and layouts were chosen? The number of people able to answer these types of questions would decrease dramatically.

While we as consumers don’t often contemplate the multitude of specific design choices made during the designing of a logo, these choices still affect the way we interact with these companies and products. For example, what if the Major League Baseball logo and National Football League colors were not red, white, and blue, but instead green and black. This seems crazy because it would completely change the design. The sports would seem less patriotic, less American. What’s interesting is that we will rarely admit that a company’s logo influences our feelings and attitudes towards that company or product, but our actions and reactions to a change in design reveal that the specific design actually matters a great deal.

Goodman describes the importance of a logo’s design when she says “a graphic identity is a symbolic idealization of a company, service or retail establishment” in “Identity Design: Logo and Logotypes,” chapter 6 of her book The 7 Essentials of Graphic Design.  The monumental task of a logo designer is to capture the company’s “ideal essence” in this graphic identity.

Before we attempt to master the art of designing a company’s essence, we need to distinguish between a logo and a logotype.


  • Logo- uses letters or words to form an identity, sometimes coupled with an embedded icon within the letters or word. (Example: NIKE + swoosh)
  • Logotype- uses an icon or illustration to form an identity, nonverbal cues only. (Example: swoosh)

Now knowing the difference between a logo and logotype, we can set out to accomplish this seemingly impossible task of encapsulating a company’s entire identity in one depiction. Fortunately, Goodman does not leave us hanging. She provides a clear 4 step process to create a successful visual representation.

The Process of Identity Design

  1. Distill- First, examine all icons that could potentially embody the company’s identity. Then, narrow this list down to your top contenders.
  2. Translate- Once you’ve narrowed you’re choices down to your most promising one, begin to transform these ideas into reality using varying fonts, attitudes, and illustration techniques.
  3. Formalize visual consistency- After successfully illustrating all elements of the identity, bring the elements together into one cohesive illustration.
  4. Simplify- Finally, make your logo or logotype as simple as possible.

Evolution of Coke and Pepsi Logos

Its interesting to see how both the Coke and Pepsi Logos have developed within the last 100 years. Both logos seem to start off simple, become progressively more complex, then re-simplify in their most recent forms. The Coke and Pepsi design teams, as well as many other popular brands, must finally be catching on to what Goodman continuously stresses. In logo design, as well as other forms of design, simplicity is key.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Which logo in the header picture stands out to you the most? Which seems most visually representative of its brand?
  2. Do you think logos or logotypes are more effective?

Until next blog,



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