Branding Breakdown: What Makes a Lovely Logo?

| by Christina McQuilkin


Branding your business is more than a one-trick pony. There’s the need for a killer website, a memorable social media presence, and a mission statement that clearly displays what you’re all about. Amid all of those important factors vying for your attention, one that you shouldn’t sleep on is a tiny little graphic that separates your unique business from all the rest.


That’s right! We’re talking logos, and although deciding on yours may seem arbitrary and rooted in aesthetic opinion, it could be more involved than you think. In essence, it gives both loyalists and future fans a snapshot of your brand’s personality, letting them recognize and understand what you’re about at-a-glance. It’s the image they’re most likely to remember when they see your other marketing efforts, which could be key in getting and retaining their attention.


Has all this talk got you thinking that your own logo ideas might be a little lackluster? Not to worry. We’ve got some ideas to keep in mind when you’re designing, so you can brand yourself better than ever before.



More than Just a Symbol

Digital marketing is completely visual in nature, which means that appearance is just about everything. Selecting a logo is the equivalent of posting your picture alongside everything you do online and off, which lends to the brand transparency that customers are clamoring for right now. When they see your little emblem, it should bring to mind every element of your company’s essence, from quality to purpose and beyond.


Take Starbucks for example. The java giant may have a restaurant on nearly every city street corner around the globe, but that’s not the only thing that’s made them one of the most famous names in coffee. Their logo is easily recognizable—the beautiful siren, depicted in a circular portrait of green and white, represents the creature who sang irresistible songs to mythological sailors that (sadly) drew them to shipwreck.



Wondering what that has to do with coffee? Turns out, it’s more about attitude and corporate aims than it is their Pumpkin Spice Latte. The company’s name alone is a nod to a seagoing Dickens novel and their roots in the Pacific Northwest inspired them to find an oceanic icon to call in the customers. Now, it’s affiliated with bold blends, inventive flavor combinations, and the upscale feel of their coffee shops. It’s not just a way to dress up their cups either—they’ve got branded merchandise that includes everything from tote bags to tumblers.


Without a clear idea of your business identity, it’s nearly impossible to create a purposeful logo. After all, it’s just an icon designed to represent the brilliant name behind it, so the real design work starts with your own vision way before you hire a creative team to bring it to life. Once you’ve got a clear idea for how you want your brand to feel, however, it’s time to get to work.


A Logo for the Ages

Experts say that there are three main logo styles to choose from:

1. Illustrative logos – Think of this as the literal type of logo, where the image depicts precisely what the company is or does. For instance, Taco Bell, the NBA, and Poland Spring all utilize emblems that have some portion of their organization’s name or mission right in the imagery.

2. Font-based logos – These icons usually use their own variation of a font to make their name their trademarked logo. Think Disney, Coca-Cola, and Kellogg’s to get a clearer picture in your mind.

3. Abstract logos – This style of logo is where you get to be completely and totally creative, but might require the strongest brand presence right out of the gate to resonate with your target market. Creating a symbol that is totally your own based on shape or desired color palette is great for imaginative types, and has worked quite well for Pepsi, Airbnb, and NBC.


Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to get a firmer grasp on the first rule of great logo design: try to create something that will stand the test of time. There is something to be said for paying attention to trends, but the baseline idea should remain for continuity and trust-building purposes. If your original logo doesn’t wind up accurately representing your future brand, the details can always be tweaked and streamlined to keep up with the times.



Next up? Familiarize yourself with your own perfect color palette. Pantone is considered the authoritative voice in shades for digital media, and they frequently roll out new palettes that set the standard in the industry. Which should you choose? Shop around for that which is bold, bright, and striking. Even if you decide on a minimalist design, coupling that with an ultramodern color scheme can make your logo pop.


Another great tip is to do a little market research before you finalize your logo. Find out what your competitors are using in their branding scheme, and decide what they’re doing well. For instance, if you’re a toymaker, are your industry foes awash with bubbly fonts and jack-in-the-box images? Conversely, if you’re the head of a law firm, is it all simplistic script and listed prefixes? Understand the standard, and evaluate whether you want to fall in line with the status quo or forge your own picture-perfect path.


Finally, understand that you’re not on your own when it comes to nailing down an amazing logo design. We’re here to help you every step of the way, and if you’d like more information, accessible at the click of a button, check out our free Branding Development Worksheet below!

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Author: Christina McQuilkin

Christina helps small business owners craft content and strategies that focus less on "the sale" and more on the unparalleled value that we can bring into the lives of others.