Let’s do a quick exercise.
Envision a logo. Any logo you can imagine without seeing it.
Now that you have your logo in mind let’s take a look at…
10 Legendary Logos
What makes a legendary logo? What characteristics cause one logo to stand out and be more memorable than another?
Often, the most effective logos are simple with very little detail or shading and use between one and three colors. According to a list of the most valuable brands in the world provided by Brand Finance, 22 out of 25 logos for the top 25 brands are between one and three colors, and all 25 of them are simple with very little detail or shading.
To demonstrate this further, let’s look at ten simple and legendary logos and compare the similarities among them.
Logo #1: Apple
Apple maintains the gold standard when it comes to branding and product development. At one point this year, they were the highest valued company in the world and had more cash than the U.S. Federal government (although I’m not sure if that says more positively about Apple or negatively about the Federal government).
Apple prides themselves on a design-first philosophy. So much so that designers reported directly to Mr. Jobs before his passing. That’s how important design is to Apple.
So what kind of logo do they have?
Theirs is a one dimensional, one color apple with what looks like a bite taken out of it. Sometimes the logo includes a slight gradient (as pictured), but for the most part it’s simple, one color, and straightforward.
Does it fit the criteria of a simple and effective logo? Yes. Check the box for Apple.
Logo #2: Mercedes Benz
Mercedes Benz is one of the top luxury companies in the world and is rated as the second most valuable automobile brand, behind Toyota, according to the Brand Finance rankings.
What kind of logo is good enough for a prestigious luxury car manufacturer like Mercedes?
Their logo is an iconic circle with three lines drawn to the center. It consists of one color and uses simple shading to add a slight multi-dimensional effect.
Mercedes’ logo fits the criteria for an effective logo–simple and between one and three colors.
Logo #3: Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola distributes worldwide and has a logo that is recognized across every continent and in every country. This partly has to do with Coke’s ubiquitous appeal, and partly has to do with Coke’s effective branding.
Their logo is the company name in red (or white on a red background) with an appealing, cursive font. Of all the logos on this list, they use the fanciest font, but still keep the logo simple with one color and one dimension.
Once again, Coca Cola’s logo fits the criteria.
Logo #4: McDonalds
McDonalds has served something like 100 billion burgers worldwide (or whatever the counter is up to now), and customers recognize their logo around the globe.
What does it look like? Kids can see and recognize the logo from a mile down the highway.
Two golden arches. Simple and memorable.
Logo #5: Target
Target has a simple and effective logo.
It uses two colors–white and red–to create a brightly colored logo that is very memorable and recognizeable. It also uses a simple, three-ringed image of a target to add a pictorial element that ties directly to the brand.
Once again, Target’s logo provides an example of a legendary logo that is both simple and memorable.
Logo #6: Nike
Like Apple, Nike is known for its design-first philosophy.
Like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, they also have one of the most recognized logos worldwide.
It’s a very simple, one dimensional, one color check mark known as the Nike Swoosh that comes in a variety of colors.
Other shoe brands have fancier logos, but none is better recognized than Nike.
Logo #7: Jordan Jumpman
Early in Michael Jordan’s career, the Jumpman logo represented Jordan’s line of Nike shoes; near the end of his career, it became it’s own brand.
It’s the iconic image of Jordan soaring through the air, mimicking his dunk-contest-winning slam when he took off from the free throw line. It’s one dimensional, one color and a great example of a simple yet effective logo.
Logo #8: Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are described as America’s team, and whether you’re a fan or not, it’s hard to argue that the Cowboys don’t have an excellent logo.
It’s the widely recognized white star with blue outlining on a silver helmet background. Compared to other NFL teams that have logos with more detail, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Cowboys’ is more simple, more elegant, and more effective.
Logo #9: New York Yankees
The New York Yankees have the highest payroll in Major League Baseball. Unfortunately for them, that hasn’t translated into World Series success over the past couple of years.
Regardless, they have a huge fan base that proudly sports the iconic Yankees logo. It’s a one dimensional logo of the letter N placed over the letter Y.
As the highest valued Major League baseball team, you might think their logo would be detailed and complicated. Instead, they provide another great example of a simple logo being the most effective.
Logo #10: Texas Longhorns
The Texas Longhorns have the premier logo when it comes to college sports (disclaimer: I graduated from UT). Love them or hate them, college football fans recognizes the Texas Longhorn logo. It’s a solid-white (or burnt-orange), flat outline of a Longhorn steer with no details.
This is also a great example of a logo that could easily be more complicated. It could have eyes, ears, and a nose drawn in to make it more lifelike.
But would this help it to be more memorable and stand out more?
The answer is no. The Longhorn logo is effective because of its elegant simplicity.
How does your logo stack up?
What logo did you envision? Is it your logo? The logo of a mega brand?
How many colors is it? Is it one-dimensional? Is it simple?
Share your logo in the comments.
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