Logos 101


All too often, marketing messages get lost because they are packed like sardines with other marketing messages.  There is no place that is less forgiving of that than a logo.  A successful logo captures the essence of a company with one quick mark.  According to Paul Rand, here's what a good logo must do.

  • It should be timeless.  It should be flexible so as the company evolves, the meaning behind the logo can evolve too.
  • It should be a mark that can be interpreted by anyone, almost anywhere.
  • It should send a clear message.
  • It should work in all media, in all colors and black/white combinations.
  • Above all else, it should be simple, recognizable and relevant.

How does your company's logo stack up?   

If you're wondering who Paul Rand is, he's the man who designed some of the most recognized logos in our culture:  UPS, Westinghouse and IBM.

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6 comments on “Logos 101

  1. Drew

    In capturing the essence of a company, many of the world’s most memorable logos also tell a story. The Starbucks, FedEx, Nike, and Harley-Davidson logos all reflect some aspect of the company story in their design. The logo is instantly recognizable to people who buy the product (or who are thinking of buying the product), and some even wear it as a “badge of honour” indicating some sort of ownership and participation in the story.

    Paul’s advice is timeless, and I like the way you addressed the importance of design to success in branding.

  2. Jonathan says:

    That’s awesome advice. Almost all of the corporate logos I can think of fit those characteristics. The ones for IBM, for example, are truly timeless. They’ve been around forever. What about some of the newer web2.0 logos? They don’t necessarily fit these descriptions but are enormously popular and recognized. Maybe they’re just a flash in the pan?

    Also, these logos are a main source of customer loyalty for people. People love brands and are willing to wear them on a hat or t-shirt. I think people can often be as loyal to a logo as they are to an actual product!

  3. Drew –

    Great points.

    Regarding flexibility and timelessness, it’s interesting to see how such a classic (UPS) has been successfully modernized (at least in my mind) while keeping an eye on tradition.

  4. Karen,

    Storytelling is such a vital part of every branding element. I always think of Harley and how people pay money to have their logo permanently attached to their body.

    Now, that is a powerful logo with a story to tell!


  5. Jonathan,

    When I think logos 2.0, Google comes to mind. I think it meets Paul’s criteria, don’t you?

    I don’t know how old you are so you might not remember this but Coke came out with a line of clothes (must have been about 25 years ago) and ultimately the line didn’t work. But for a long time, it was cool to wear Coke. Whether you drank it or not. So your point is well taken.


  6. Clay,

    Very true. Many of the iconic logos of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s have been updated. I think the key is honoring the original and just making some minor tweaks.

    Some people have really come out against the new UPS logo. What is it you like? (I think they did a pretty good job too.)


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