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Good logos are made of this!

The Oxford Dictionary defines a logo as "...a printed design or symbol that a company or an organization uses as its special sign." Corporate history has shown that a logo is much more than that to a company. The prima facie identity of the company. Rarely does one find a piece of corporate identity that can so effectively and quickly transform the perception of the company in the minds of the people as a logo can. No sooner does a company change its logo than it is suddenly seen in a different light and so is the company.
A logo helps attach adjectives to a company - smart, fast, tech-savvy, conventional, hip, boring! A change to a logo makes the audience sit up and notice (often rethink) about the company. The human mind has a tendency to attach personal or humane characteristics to something intangible as an organization image that helps the logo.

What's in a Logo?

1. Which company's logo is blue and has a crosshatch design?
Not many people are able to answer this question correctly in the first shot. Rightly so, for there is no information about the product or service industry that the company is into or the market it serves. One would naturally require answers to these questions before guessing the company ... or would one? Now lets look at a similar question:

2. Which company's logo is red and resembles a tick mark?
No prizes for guessing that. Most of the people get it right. It's Nike! One doesn't have to even specify the product. The recall of a powerful logo is such that the company itself becomes secondary to the logo (that's why Nike doesn't need to mention its name on its shoes since 1995 and maintains just the swoosh...and this applies for its website as well!)
The first company who also is in the same industry, by the way, is Reebok. Nike has worked hard to create a strong image around its logo and its effective marketing campaigns and advertising stress the logo along with its message. Both the companies have similar quality standards and performance levels. The designs that both companies employ are equally creative and innovative - still other things remaining the same, the logo ... and the image isn't!

Technically speaking

Successful logos throughout the world have certain characteristics that make them popular and memorable.

These logos are distinctive, they are different than the rest. Even the fonts of these logos are designed in a custom manner - it could be a completely new font created or tweaking provided to an existing font.

Logos are the longest living corporate identity that an organization enjoys, sometimes more than the employees in the company. Successful logos stand the test of time - the shelf life of an average logo is considered to be around 20 years. Though there have been cases where logos change in lesser time than that, the changes are usually evolutionary than sudden in nature. An evolutionary change may be needed in bringing a logo more in tune with changing business conditions but a sudden and drastic change can more often than not affect the company adversely when consumers are not able to adapt to the change thus bringing the company to square one.
Coca-Cola is a classic case in this aspect. Designed in the late 19th century (1886) by the company's book keeper, the logo still looks fresh and attractive and denotes a distinctive feel to the company image.

Able to evoke emotions:
Successful logos are able to evoke desired images in the mind of the prospect. Logos facilitate carrying the desired corporate image to the consumer in the shortest possible time. Whether it is the font type that expresses this or the accompanying graphic and colors, the message that gets across to the audience.
For example, the Michelin man - the logo (cum mascot) of the French tire company Michelin develops an amiable feeling towards the company with the use of a human character.

A slightly technical point here, but important nevertheless. Good logos look good on huge billboards, on visiting cards, on black and white fax copies, on gold embossed door plates and if you must, mugs and t-shirts. The font and graphic designed should consider the media over which the logo appears while designing.

Times are changing ... and so are the logos. Logos in earlier times used to be very elaborate and 'detailed'. Nowadays they more simpler, minimalistic yet elegant and attractive; somewhat a sign of people not having the time to look at detailed logos.
Needless to say there are certain logos that maintain their earlier look but quite a few companies changed their logo to reflect changing times and even changing cultures.
The AT&T logo for example experienced such changes making it more sleeker and less cluttered along the way.

Finally, a good logo like a good product has to be advertised and given due exposure. Some logos even though they are great images do not remain at the top of the mind because they are not advertised as much. Not many companies place a premium on their logos as companies like Nike and ATT&T.

Logos have been around since ancient times. Traders since the 13th century used to mark their wares with monograms to claim ownership and right to title of the goods. But it is only in the last century that the logo started generating more interest (and more so particularly after the concept of branding was introduced by the likes of Pavlov and David Ogilvy). Modern history of logo dictated companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors who had similar working products to sell.


Different and often weird situations have inspired and led to creation of the world's most famous logos. One thing these famous logos have in common is that they strive to be different and distinct. There have been changes to these logos but most of them have been evolutionary in nature than sudden. The logos that have changed over the years show a trend towards being simplistic and 'leaner' than their earlier versions - possibly a change to reflect changing (and faster) lifestyles. Below are some interesting examples (logo images shown below):

Nike's swoosh was done by accounting class teacher cum freelancer at Nike called Caroline for only $35!

At the turn of the century, 3M was more concerned about its survival than it was about a logo. The young abrasives company was comfortable in its descriptor..."Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Company.". The first logo was churned out in 1906 with the current logo designed as recently in 1978.

The current Fiat logo has the letters F-I-A-T written with a silver line between each of them. The lines were added by the company’s design chief when one day passing under the factory, he noticed the sky at the backdrop of the huge FIAT letters on the top of the building. The lines added are actually the spaces that he saw in the name over the building and decided to keep it.

Named after the founder Adolf (Adi) Dasler, the Adidas logo has a triangle cut into three pieces. The three pieces reportedly represent his three sons!

The blue and white parts of a circle are present in the BMW’s logo that we see on its automobiles. The origin of this dates back to the 1st world war when, the fighter planes had their propellers painted by the company in blue and white so that the pilots could see through them. This inspired the design that we see on BMW’s cars.

The competition to Windows and Mac OS, Linux also has a penguin as its logo (and mascot). Named 'Tux', the penguin was chosen from a list of sharks, foxes, eagles and hawks as the Linus Torvalds, the founder of Linux, had a liking for the bird and thought it to be unusual and different for a logo. While the other creatures were fierce and strong, Linus insisted on the penguin being “fat, cute and cuddly - instead of anything else. Incidentally the name 'Tux' was brought up from Torvalds UniX -TUX.

(All the logos and trademarks in the article are properties of respective companies and have been used above only for informational purposes. Neither the author nor this newsletter or Webizus places any claims on any of them)

Good logos are made of this - i Innovate (June 2003 Vol.1, issue 15), Webizus Technologies, Mumbai, India
Copyright ©1999-2003, Webizus Technologies, All Rights Reserved.

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