5 Iconic Logos – Why They Work and How to Make Your Own
Without logos, we’d be stuck reading every single label and description to see if the product is any good.
A logo is a sign that ‘it is’. Or that it isn’t good—but let’s stay on the bright side of things.
Think of a logo as a wedding ring: it has to show what it stands for, convince you, represent a good match.
It’s something you give your clients, and they are proud to show off to everyone who did—and didn’t—ask.
Any designer can tell you about the basics of good logo design.
They have to be unique, scalable, simple and work well even in monochrome. That gives you a framework to work within, but you also want to stand out.
Luckily, you can follow these standard rules and still find your brand’s identity along the way.
Let’s take a look at 5 of the most iconic logos to this day, what makes them strong, and what you can learn from that. After that, we will give you some tips to make your own iconic logos.
The story behind one, if not the most recognised logo designs ever made, is quite an unexpected one.
First of all, it comes from Greek mythology. Not as shocking, right? But, it was designed and sold for a mere $35. Now, that ought to hurt.
The brand’s name comes from the Greek goddess of victory, Nike. The swoosh we all know so well mimics the wing of this goddess, combined with Nike’s brand traits: speed and agility.
It also resembles a checkmark, a ticked box. ‘Just do it’ becomes ‘you did it’, just by looking at the logo.
It’s a simple way of symbolising reinforcement and positivity.
Lesson 1: Iconic logos can be recreated by hand, off memory
Even though not many people would have been able to come up with the logo without any knowledge of Greek mythology and Nike’s brand traits, nowadays anyone can draw the Nike logo, eyes closed even.
It’s easy to remember, which makes it adequate to be stored in our long-term memory.
Are you looking at making iconic logos? A slightly different take on common and simple symbols or images might just do the trick. Check, check, double-check.
Nobody needs to look at a logo and know exactly what the company does. Apple doesn’t sell apples. Porsche isn’t quite in the horse business. Michelin doesn’t make marshmallow men or white car tires for that matter.
Us humans love ourselves a little mystery, and if you can get people to look at your logo for longer, you capture their attention, and it will linger in their memory.
Lesson 2: Iconic logos are ambiguous and a little bit intriguing.
That gives room for creativity, which, yes, can also be daunting, because where to start?
Dig a little deeper than your brand name, product, service or the market you’re in, and you might find some tremendous double meaning, symbolism or history you can use for your logo.
Moreover, ambiguity also ensures longevity.
What if Apple had used a computer screen as their logo?
Where would that leave them now, selling phones, iPads, and soon even cars?
Literalness in logo design is a risk for the future branding of your company.
Make your logo a tad mysterious, and it’s also future-proof.
Ask anyone to describe the Coca Cola logo, and the first thing they’ll mention will be the colours.
Their logo has shape-shifted quite a bit since the launch in 1886.
There’s no more actual cocaine in the sizzling soda, but they’ve stuck to their colour scheme: red and white. With a reason.
Lesson 3: Colour is more than just a detail.
Colour is more powerful than you might think.
It’s influencing us consciously and subconsciously, affecting our thinking, triggering reactions, and even stimulating bodily hormones.
According to colour psychology, bold, bright red in marketing triggers impulse purchases — such as a can of soda at a gas stop.
The white, cursive text suggests a return to a more classic day and age — hinting to how the popular drink has stood the test of time.
Choose the colours for your logo and ultimately branding carefully, but don’t throw every other design rule overboard.
A strong logo works in black and white too, for instance when it’s reproduced in monochrome for print.
Think about it: you see a drawing of a mermaid-like being in dark green colours, and your mind jumps to coffee. Or pumpkin-spice latte. Or those white chocolate chip cookies…
Lesson 4: Make it iconic.
Now, the lesson in the Starbucks logo design is not as much in their design, but much more in their redesign — and the reasoning behind it.
Our little mermaid friend used to be accompanied by a circle around her with the word Starbucks Coffee in it. Makes sense, right? But, it didn’t.
The circle reminded people of donuts and the negative and low quality of some of the standard coffee shops on every street corner.
At the same time, Starbucks had ambitions beyond selling coffee, so these words in their logo held them back.
So, they broke the Siren out of her circle, made her the face of the company and removed the words “Starbucks” and “coffee” altogether.
People associated the green Siren with Starbucks so thoroughly that no reference to the name was even necessary.
Give the masses a white cup with the Starbucks logo on it, and they will happily share pictures of it on any social media channel within their reach. Talk about free marketing.
Video killed the radio star, and MTV was complicit.
The logo of the network became a kaleidoscope of changing patterns and colours, while the form of their logo stayed the same.
Are they breaking any logo design rules here?
Not quite. They made change a consistent factor and their signature, while still being recognisable.
Lesson 5: Think about placement and your target group.
When keeping track of what’s hip and happening is your core business, a rigid logo isn’t the way to go.
Having the benefit of always having their logo on the screen (during every video clip), MTV turned it into a chameleon that stands out instead of blends in.
Not only did they make smart use of the placement, but they also connect with their target group that continuously picks up on new trends, new hair colours, is easily bored and thus needs to be consistently entertained and surprised.
How to make iconic logos
Sure, Uber just spelt out their name and called it a day.
But, let’s assume finding a fitting logo won’t be as easy for everyone. We’ve got some ideas to get you started.
Brainstorm and research
If no visual comes to mind directly, brainstorm on it.
Maybe play with the name, makes some word webs, and you’ll see you can derive inspiration from far more than that.
Do the same thing for your industry, or services, your demographics. Basically, try some good old word association.
Now, take it up a notch. Find your values. Write down your history, go as far back to your childhood as you need to, there might be something there.
Get to know your ideal customers. And your employees! You’ll need them for the next step.
Know your audience
You’re not making a logo just for you.
It should work two ways: your employees should feel pride and a positive connection towards it, and your customers should recognise it as quality, trustworthy, fun, or whatever you want to project.
When designing or even brainstorming a logo, do a little research on the opinions of both parties.
Find out what words or images they link to your company, or what they think of the first drafts.
The easiest way to do so is with an online quiz. Make one wholly tailored to the questions you have, right here!
Understand where it will go
The placement has some consequences for quite a few aspects of your logo.
Think about where the logo will be used. Is it just going to be web, or is it going to be printed on, let’s say, shirts?
If something like that’s the case, make sure to test the logo for movement and printing to prevent any blunders.
Also, make sure the colours you pick are suitable for where the logo will be used.
It’s essential to be consistent, and even a slightly different tone could throw people off.
Want to play it safe? Keep in mind that iconic logos are even recognisable in black and white, and when it’s printed, this often could be the case – no matter how much thought you put into colour psychology.
Last, but not least, make sure your logo is easily scalable.
It should appear as great on a billboard as it would on a smartphone.
That means impressive on a large scale, but still recognisable when it’s small.
A logo might seem small, but it has a significant impact on your branding and what you can do marketing-wise, visually.
Be inspired, but make sure that at the end of the day, your logo is unique and sends the message across.
Need some help? Read more about our logo design service. Investing in your logo is an investment in your future.
We’re looking forward to creating your iconic logos!