The ABCs of logo design.

How many of the companies above can you recognize from only part of their logo? Hint: They’re in alphabetical order.

Some were easy, right? They may have all been easy. Frankly, these are some of the most recognizable logos in the world. How do you think that happened? Maybe they were all so wonderfully designed that folks were just drawn to them? No, don’t think so, even though most are very smartly designed. There were a lot of factors that made them what they are. Not the least of which is exposure. All the marks above are viewed hundreds of thousands of times a day. Some even millions of impressions a day. That’s why you can recognize them. If they were people, they’d be celebrities.

It’s important to recognize the difference between a logo and a brand. They’re not the same thing.

Seth Godin, author of The Purple Cow, and multiple other books on marketing, had the best explanation I’ve ever heard: “So, the easy way to remember this is Hyatt Hotels. They don’t have a brand, they have a logo. Because if Hyatt had come out with a line of sneakers, we would have no idea what that would look like. But Nike… Nike has a brand, because if they came out with a hotel, we know exactly what a Nike hotel would be like, because of the expectation.”

In the beginning, the logo gives meaning to the company. Then over time, the company gives meaning to the logo.

Just because you have a favorable disposition toward a logo doesn’t mean it’s well-designed. Arguably, MTV was one of the worst designed logos ever. Yet it was a very successful brand, because they had a good product and a great company that came along au just the right time, as music itself evolved to become a visual medium as well as audio. All the stars lined up, and soon it became a symbol of pop-culture. The company gave meaning to the logo.

The opposite is true, especially for startups. As your company’s reputation evolves, good or bad, so does your brand. Paul Rand was a hall-of-fame designer who was the architect of the ENRON corporate identity, a wonderfully designed mark that is still contemporary even though it was designed in the late 90’s. Rand designed many iconic logos, many still in use today. But the final outcome of the ENRON brand is viewed with disdain, because of the fall of the company. The company gave meaning to the logo.

“A brand is the intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging and price, its history, its reputation and the way it’s advertised.”

— David Ogilvy, Founder of Ogilvy and Mather

MTV’s iconic logo is an example of a poorly designed mark with a positive disposition. By contrast, ENRON’s logo (below) was nicely designed but looked upon unfavorably as the actions of the company transcended the brand.

A few things to consider when designing a logo.

My esteemed professor, Vernon Merrifield, once said a logo should “roll downhill”. He didn’t mean it should literally be round, but that the design should be easy to grasp whoever is viewing it. From the top floor C-suites to the bottom floor maintenance suites. It should be easy to remember, and simple enough that a child could draw it from memory. It should incorporate—or at least not fight with—your brand strategy. It should look good in color or black and white. It should translate well to social media. And the colors and fonts should be consistent in video, online, and print.

Finally, your brand should connect in every visible touchpoint: your business card, stationery, truck design, signage, way-finding system, collateral and advertising designs. The television network CBS was so focused on this, that even the clocks on the wall were designed within the established framework, using their approved corporate typeface.

A new brand doesn’t necessarily mean a completely new logo.


There have been countless essays and theses examining the subliminal meaning behind Starbucks’ “twin-tailed siren logo. We won’t get into why they chose that particular symbol in this post. Just note that when they decided that they needed a brand update updated their brand, they didn’t “go back to the drawing board” for a completely new look. Their market had changed, but the perception they wanted was, and is, one of superior quality. The logo changed focus by cropping tighter with each transition. Like an artist chipping away at a stone, the design became stronger simply by removing each unnecessary element, including the name.

starbucks-logo-history

When is it time for a rebrand?

If you can answer “yes” to two or more of these questions, it’s definitely time to consider a rebrand or brand update.

Ad Agencies Reinvented.

This is nothing new. From Burma Shave signs to the Mad Men heydays to the current digital diversification, agencies have always had to evolve to remain relevant and cost-effective. What remains a constant is the power of creative ideas and innovative means of communicating easily understood and persuasive brand stories—two disciplines Broderick Advertising can deliver, no matter the medium.

Answers to logo quiz: Airbnb; Bridgestone Tires; Chick Fil A; Disney; Edge Browser; Ford Motor Co.; Green Bay Packers; Hilton Company; IBM; JBL; Kellogg’s; Lexus Motors; Motorola; Netflix; Opera Browser; Pinterest; Quiznos; Reese’s; Sheraton Hotels; T-Mobile; Unilever; Visa; Walgreens; Xerox Corporation; YMCA; Zurich

Note: All logos depicted on this page are the property of their respective owners. No claim of ownership is implied by the creator of this website.

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