March 28th, 2007 - by Golgotha

If image is everything then your company’s logo is its first impression.

Before any knowledge of the company has been acquired, perceptions have already been formulated based off of the logo.

Have a look at the logo below:

company logo

  • What things come to mind?
  • What adjectives did you think of: clean, conservative, tech-savvy, conventional, boring?
  • What type of company do you think would use this logo?
  • You likely wouldn’t assume this logo for a restaurant, but you might assume an automobile company.

What makes a good logo?

While it may be difficult to pin down what it is that makes a great logo there certainly are some common characteristics that all great logos share. Let’s look at some great logos:

company logos

What characteristics stand out?

Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics that are common throughout these logos:


The majority of logos consist of but a single color, typically a primary color. Some may have two colors, but rarely do you see more than two colors. This makes it easy to attach an emotion to a logo.

Together the eyes and brain produce a cognitive and emotional response to each color. Because of this, colors themselves take on meanings. The exact meaning is often a cultural understanding and can have mulitple meanings across cultures. In the UK, white is considered pure and positive where in China, white is used in mourning, symbolizing heaven. Red is often used to symbolize strength and life, but is taboo in financial communities.

Some color meanings in the North America, Canada, and Western Europe include: Blues are said to be calming, loyal and trustworthy, greens are healthy, wealthy and natural while reds express passion, excitement or danger.

Finally, it’s also advantageous to use a single color for your logo as it will save you money when it comes to placing it on different medium; this can be a real bonus for many small business owners.

Case Study: Virgin


The color red and the name Virgin are linked in the minds of consumers the world over. Virgin devotes a lot of time to ensure that exactly the right red appears on their publicity materials, trains, cola cans and company vans. By ensuring that the correct shade of red is used, it helps consumers instantly identify a Virgin company or a Virgin product. Virgin finds this important enough that the company produces an eighteen-page guide to ensure ‘Virgin Red’ links all the company’s activities.


“If you can’t explain the idea in one sentence over the telephone, it won’t work.” – Lou Danziger.

You will notice in the above logos there’s nothing overly fancy, no gradiants or drop-shadows, just clean and simple lines. This helps to make the logo easy to recall on demand and pick it out from the many other logos you are bombarded with on a daily basis.

Case Study: H&R Block

H&R Block

H&R Block approached Landor Associates to develop a new identity that would expand the perception of the H&R brand beyond its historical roots in tax preparation. Landor developed a new corporate identity system, anchored by the green block. The block, an obvious graphic representation of the company’s name, expresses the solid relationship between H&R Block and it’s customers.

Design for multiple media in mind

One thing remains constant – change. The constant evolution of media and information delivery systems of today’s times means that a logo will likely take on more than one form of medium in its lifespan. Because of the likeliness that the logo will be found on more than just print it’s best to use clean lines. You don’t see drop-shadows or beveling being used. This allows for the logo to be easily placed on billboards, on business cards, on black and white fax copies, mugs, t-shirts, mouse pads and all the rest.

It’s recommended that the logo be developed in a vector program to keep the logo scalable and easily transferable across different media.

Case Study: Federal Express

Fed Ex

Lindon Leader, designer of the Federal Express logo, in an interview talks about creating a typeface that would allow for the ‘hidden’ arrow to be maintained across mediums. “I was studying Univers 67 (Bold Condensed) and Futura Bold, both wonderful faces. But each had its potential limitations downstream in application to thousands of FedEx media, from waybills and embroidered courier caps to and massive signage for aircraft, buildings and vehicles. Moreover, neither was particularly suited to forcing an arrow into its assigned parking place without torturing the beautifully crafted letter forms of the respective faces.”

Logo Longevity

A logo should be able to convey its message over a prolonged period of time and it must be able to adapt to cultural changes. It might be exciting to design a logo that is influenced by a trendy typeface, but it will become outdated and need to be replaced in later years.

Logos designed with a focus on current style and trends are often outdated in a short amount of time and soon become “quaint.” I don’t know of any clients who would like to be perceived as either outdated or quaint.

Case Study: ABC


The ABC logo, developed by Paul Rand, has been in use since 1962 and remains unmodified to this day. Rand said that he designed it for durability, function, usefulness, rightness, and beauty.

The typeface used for the famous logo is a simple geometric design inspired by the Bauhaus school of the 1920s.

This article has looked at some of the characteristics that make up a good logo: color selection, simplicity of design, support for multiple media and design for the long term. Hopefully the next time you have to design a logo these characteristics will come to mind and aid you in development.

* Much of the info in this article comes from the ‘Logo Design Workbook – A Hands-On Guide To Creating Logos’

74 Responses to “The Anatomy of a Logo”

1 tikimom

Found the arrow after going back again. Noticed the red tie … nice touch!
We are trying to come up with a logo for our company and it’s never as easy as it seems. Now the Lexus logo, there’s another great one!

2 min

@ ur dad

If you’re not muslim, there is nothing wrong with it ? If you’re into logo desing, don’t just see things with narrow perspective

3 Antony

Excellent read!! just curious though, anyone know any site that is great at designing logos for a startup? and has proven to know all this? I used to draw, and pretty good at that. But being that I am swamped with so many other things on the startup, it might be best someone else sweated it out…!

4 Sata

I thought this was a really informative guide. Although I don’t know what the K2 thing is, so I guess not all the logos are reckoniseable.

5 Alex

this website helps me alot!
even my daughter likes this website.

6 bubba

Keeping the colors limited to one or two solid hues also keeps costs down when making stationary, business cards, or shipping cartons. Google’s primary medium is the internet, where you don’t pay extra for gradients and multiple colors.

7 sonia

Good points about Starbucks logo are that newspaper and yellow pages ads will not lose impact and continuity if they have no colour because this logo does not depend on them. The starbucks coffe logo will not become dated (it has longevity) as it is not fluenced by a ‘trendy typeface’. It is a distinctive and appropriate logo that creates a memorised image in the minds eye. The use of only two colours helps to attach an emotion to the logo the colour of green is associated with new growth of spring, prosperity, and clean fresh air this gives a positive impression for starbucks. This logo also uses clean and simple lines this is good because this helps to make the logo easy to recal and pick it out from many other logos also using clean lines means that the logo would be easily placed on different media such as bill boards. The starbucks logo has been updated many times however they all contain the same picture of the mermaid, this is a really good point as people will always be able to associate the mermaid with starbucks.
Bad points about the Starbucks logo are that firstly, green is also a connotation for mold, nausea, and jealousy this can also trigger a bad impression for Starbucks. From far away the image is not that clear as the lines are quite close together. Having been updated many times eventhough all the logos link it has changed colours and shapes i think this can also be bad because people actually get used to the logo and then it changes.
This is what i worote for my homework, what do you think? :)

8 gc080

In the main picture, whats the logo in the bottom right corner (under Toyota to the right of NBA)?

9 DEEJAY 007

This is a great read. I am in the process of working with a graphic artist on a logo for a Entertainment Company / Dj booking Agency that I own.
Thank you I think that I knew most of the things that I read in this article but it was good to know that I was on the right road with what I think.

10 LogoBuff2009

The simplicity of most mainstream logos leaves one yearning for more. I personally feel that a more intricate design would attract a more sophisticated and well-learned crowd. Contrary to popular belief, the common man needs a diverse color palette for visual stimulation and a higher quality of life. Logos with less than three colors contribute to the ever-growing sense of monotony that pervades every aspect of corporate American living.

Don Quixote de la Mancha

11 Barbara Berger

Your article was very informed and to the point. I’m a designer, and one of the hardest things to do is design a logo that’s simple. It’s challenging to try to bring the very essence of a company down to one mark or symbol. But that’s just the start. After showing owners ten designs, many start to question the meaning of what they do. Being forced to “commit” to an approach often opens up a whole can of worms. Don’t get me wrong — I love what I do. Just wanted to emphasize that simple can be very very hard.
And I just wanted to add to those comments from people who didn’t see the arrow in Fedex. As someone who didn’t see it the first time, I love the fact that something so simple could hold such an element of surprise within. To me, it’s “the gift that keeps giving”!

12 daniel

Your article was very informed and to the point. I’m a designer, and one of the hardest things to do is design a logo that’s simple. It’s challenging to try to bring the very essence of a company down to one mark or symbol. But that’s just the start. After showing owners ten designs, many start to question the meaning of what they do. Being forced to “commit” to an approach often opens up a whole can of worms. Don’t get me wrong — I love what I do. Just wanted to emphasize that simple can be very very hard.

13 Sal

Ok, the Coca Cola logo is nothing more than the word Coca Cola in a certain script. Also, there are tons of examples of nice logos with bevels and/or shadows. For example:
Skype, many colleges, counties, cities, departments, Mercedes and more and more. Anyway, make a nice logo for your customer. Be sure that they love it and advise using your professional opinion.

14 Technology Blogged

Great article.

As a blogger and internet marketer by day, I actually am involved in business branding and logo design.

Your logo should reflect your business in some way, whether it be a colour scheme or first letter e.g. ‘M’ – McDonalds.

I disagree with an above comment saying that star bucks is green, which resembles mould. Green resembles eco-activity and portrays a business which looks after the environment, star bucks is also fair-trade – and active contributor to charities and actively promotes good working ethics.

The persons above view is wrong, the Starbucks logo has longivity and a good impression.

15 Elizabeth

I am currently working on a logo for a new company. The current design follows none of the “simplistic” conventions outlined in the article “Anatomy of a logo” save for the simple color scheme (black and white).

Still, I love the image. It conveys what I want it to convey and I find it striking and memorable.

I will only change the layout of the words below the image, justifying it rather than leaving it centered, and leaving out the second line (summits).

Any comments are welcome!

You can see it at



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18 Billl Stampe

It is even more effective if you have animation applied to your logo! or better yet create a real identity through a character that represents your product or business. ie: Michelin man, Tony the Tiger or SaskTel’s Lil Red Riding Hood!

19 Logo seeker

>>In the main picture, whats the logo in the bottom right corner (under Toyota to the right of NBA)?

It’s SUN Microsystems www (dot) sun (dot) com

20 web development

i’m currently working on my logo. i’ll try this tips on how to create a good logo for my website.

21 Mikki the aspiring logo designer

im trying to land a gig designing a logo and stuff but i haven’t the slightest idea. i’ve been using bevel and embosses and drop shadows on my samples and now i find that that’s crazy lol. thanks. big help.

22 Austin

Very Nice read, im inpressed :) and once you reliaze the arrow in FedEx you cant really not notice it, im going to look for it everytime i see a FedEx logo

23 Smykker Online

Nice to read about logo design

24 id meneo

Be careful not to mix up logos and pictograms.
Logos have to make the brand readable.
The WWF Panda for instance is not a logo.

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