Our daily lives are dominated by visual elements. We are bombarded with ads on TV, ads on our computers, ads on the sides of buses. Some we remember, and some we forget almost instantly. But for a moment, they have your attention and the focus of many advertisements are the logos for the companies they are promoting. So what makes or breaks a good logo when it comes to branding? How do you get the public to recognize a shape or flash of color in an instant as you drive past a billboard?
Let’s take a look at five famous logos and figure out what makes them so successful.
While some logos bend and change and evolve with the times, there are some successful logos who have done the opposite – they’ve established themselves as timeless with minimal changes to their look, feel, and identity. McDonalds long ago branded themselves with their classic red and gold and their logo featuring their golden arches hasn’t changed much since it was first created in the 1960s. Whether you like their food or not, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t recognize their brand on sight, thanks to their time-honored logo. They’ve integrated their logo so well into their branding that even many of their restaurants are built with golden arches!
On the other hand, there are some brands that have changed with the times, and have created logos that evolve with modern-day trends. Starbucks is one of those evolutionary companies. When the coffee company rolled out their newest logo in the spring of 2011, there was the expected debate over whether or not Starbucks was going too simple or if their minimalistic approach was a celebration of a growing design trend. Regardless of what side you take, it’s apparent that whatever Starbucks is doing, it’s working. “Over the last 40 years we’ve made some changes to [the Starbucks] identity. Now we’re doing that again, to keep ourselves relevant as we evolve without ever losing sight of our heritage. But the Siren has always been there. She is at the heart of Starbucks.” – Steve M., senior Starbucks writer. The Starbucks Siren, no matter how minimal her identity becomes, is recognizable by every coffee lover in the world.
Some logos incorporate mascots or avatars or iconic figures. Some go for a flat, minimalistic type approach. And others, like Coca-Cola, create an innovative use of typography that makes all the difference. The original Coco-Cola logo was created in 1887 by Frank Mason Robinson and hasn’t changed since. Good ol’ Wikipedia tells us, ” The typeface used, known as Spencerian script, was developed in the mid 19th century and was the dominant form of formal handwriting in the United States during that period.” The logo was so trendsetting that there were even some nameless competitors who tried to use a similar font. When something works this well, why change it? According to Business Insider, “The red and white Coca-Cola logo is recognized by 94% of the world’s population.”
Colorful and Bold
Oh Google. What would a brand success list be without Google gracing the pages? The company is everywhere it seems. You can’t use the internet without finding yourself on one of their pages. And many times, the first thing you see, is their colorful, bright, bold logo. The layout of the famous logo hasn’t changed over the years, but the font face, drop shadow, and color gradients have been tweaked since it’s original creation (you know, other than the crazy, wacky fun logo variations the Google Doodlers give us). It was a subtle growth though, and everyone recognizes the primary colors that grace the typography. Color can be a game changer in the branding world and Google knows this and has embraced it.
I don’t know about you, but I LOVE when I’m surprised by the cleverness of a logo and even more so when that cleverness is subtle and has meaning. Amazon.com’s logo is a fabulous example of a subtle, clever logo. What many folks see as just a smile, is actually a representation of the entire identity that is Amazon. Why? Because if you look carefully, that smile isn’t just a smile. It’s an arrow. That points from A to Z and everything in between, which is what you’ll find in the company. Isn’t that clever? Out of all the logos I’ve posted about, Amazon has had the most changes to its brand and logo since it first opened to the public in 1995. I found this brand timeline of the Amazon company and it’s interesting to see where it came from. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad this is the direction it went in. Happy logo = happy customers (or, at least, happy brand enthusiasts).
By looking at these five logos, it should be fairly easy to come up with the Secret to a Successful Brand, right? Well.. maybe not so easy. Each and every one of these logos is different – some have changed over the years, some have stayed the same. Some use minimal color, some use a lot. The secret is to stay true to your identity. The secret is to understand the times, trust your instincts, and create a logo that is the very best of who you are: timeless, evolutionary, trendsetting, color, and clever.
We would love to hear from you! What do you think makes up the most successful logos in branding?