A Logo Can Do Three Things

A logo is an identifier. It becomes shorthand for a company or brand. And while a logo doesn’t need to do any one thing in particular, it does need to tell part of your brand story. There are many brand communication tools at your disposal and evaluating your logo in the context of story, messaging, business offer, competitive set, and peer set are all important.

When looking at logos, it important to understand this ecosystem so you know how your logo can help and how it will fit in to your audience’s visual landscape. There are three things a logo can do:

Show what you do

A logo can be an illustration of your key business. An icon of sorts. The goal here is to quickly and easily convey a key part of your business. Simplicity and clarity are key aspects to strive for.

One example I always talk about is Hanes. Hanes is in the clothing business and their logo is a piece of fabric. It’s a strong reinforcement of their business and makes visual sense. This approach makes sense when your business is focused and won’t likely change any time in the near future. You shouldn’t invest in a logo that shows what you do if your business strategy includes diversification of offer.

Another perfect example is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra logo. This is a logo that combines an reinterpretation of the bass clef and the C in Chicago into a logo that clearly says music. This logo is simple and clear for an organization that is focused and will stay focused.

Reinforce your name

Recall of name is incredibly important in crowded sectors and the reinforcement of your name through logo design is a strategic choice.

The first way to reinforce your name is using a Wordmark. A Wordmark focuses solely on your company’s name and the design uses only the letters of your name. It is important to add traits from your brand personality into the design and skillfully craft the Wordmark. It sounds easy but crafted letters, personality, and legibility will all only likely come from world-class designers.

A recent example of a skillfully crafted Wordmark is the Tapestry logo. In introducing a new name for Coach Inc., the smart path to take was to focus solely on the name. When asking your audiences to learn a new name, it is often wise to not ask them to learn a new symbol as well. The letterforms in this logo create a strong, stable visual rhythm punctuated by the spirited upward gesture of the “y”.

The other way to reinforce your name is to show a picture of your name. Shell and John Deere are favorites of mine. They are mnemonic devices that help anyone who sees your logo remember your name.

Convey an Idea

Logos are often used to convey a key idea from a brand’s story. This is the largest of the three types of logos and can house a myriad of ideas. The idea may be about heritage, innovation, people, or really, anything. Rolex, Hallmark, and Budweiser use crowns to speak to royalty and excellence. Nike’s swoosh is about speed and progress. These logos help convey idea and more important evoke a feeling and emotion.

Hospitality is one industry where feeling and emotion are incredibly important. The logo for Nizuc, which just won a Hotel of the Year award, focuses on the idea of an elegant destination that identifies with its primitive roots. Mayans had a distinct visual language that consisted of glyphs in the form of humans, animals, and other abstract symbols. Elevating these symbols to the guest experience evokes emotion and creates feeling before guests even arrive. And through their stay, the Nizuc logo is a part of the entire experience, from the towels you wrap yourself in, to the cookies left on your pillow, and the bag you carry home on the plane.

When embarking on a logo redesign or creation, consider these three directions that you can take and how your logo will support your brand. It will help your brand tell a more complete and compelling story.