Cubicle Fugitive Scribble
Jan 13, 2012
Posted in Branding

So, what makes a good logo?

Since the dawn of time we have used symbols to communicate. Today we have universal symbols, traffic symbols, web symbols and monkeys with cymbals. One of the most popular uses of symbols today is what we call a logo. A quick Wiki search yields a comprehensive explanation of what a logo is. Take a walk in any major city and you will quickly learn the power of a good logo. We are bombarded with them from the moment we open our eyes. Most people can identify more logos than tree species. We covet items (real or fake) simply because they have a certain logo on them. People revolt when logos are changed. The logo is a powerful marketing tool. However, not all logos are created equal.

Below are just a few thoughts that should be considered before the logo is designed:

Your company name - No matter how good the designer is they are going to have a hard time making the logo legible if it contains too many letters or words. The most recognizable logos contain one or two words, and are usually short ones at that. This approach increases recall, makes it easier to spell and say (how can someone recommend you if they can’t say your name?) and it makes it easier to search, reducing the likelihood of mistakes. Sometimes long names are inevitable. In this case reverting to an abbreviation for the logo can help achieve the aforementioned.

The message - the logo doesn’t have to communicate what the company does. In fact, it’s often better to not be specific. While some applaud Starbucks for being so recognizable that it could drop the identifiers in the logo, in reality it was probably a strategic move to position the company as one that offers more than coffee. Once you’ve put your stake in the ground it is difficult (and expensive) to change perceptions.

Creating a logo may seem like an easy task, after all it’s just a font with or without and icon/image. But creating a good one takes more than a computer. This is how the Cubicle Fugitive rebranding process started. We developed our strategic direction, and then began the brain dump using good ole’ fashioned paper and pencil. Sketching like this allows the artist to think quickly using their skills and experience and worry about the finer details later. Figuring out whether the logo should be in a box, circle, big, small, line, bold, or slanted, is much quicker and easier to do with a pencil. By using the computer as the sketch pad it’s too easy to get caught up in the fine details - what font, what size, what spacing, the list continues. As you may expect, this process can be time consuming, but the result is often far more compelling and strategic. To get the best logo you have to explore all the options and they are plentiful.

The criteria for a logo has not changed in some time. A logo should:

  • be relevant

    your logo is often the first impression of the company. When it is received it should send a message about the business or culture. A professional, custom logo can and should help establish trust.

  • be simple

    The design has to work in one colour - black. Relying on colour or treatments to “sell” the design only masks the design deficiency. At some point it will need to be simplified. If the design is simple it will allow the logo to be used in a variety of sizes (postage stamp to football field) and formats. Too complex and visibility, legibility and recognition are compromised.

  • be memorable

    the easiest way to be remembered is to be different. Perhaps that means a unique shape, font or the addition of a secondary design element.

  • be versatile

    The logo needs to work in a variety of sizes, formats and situations. How will the logo look when it is on a dark background? Can it be placed over an image and still be effective? Sometimes it is what you do with the logo that is just as important as the logo itself.

  • be timeless

    Leave trends to the fashion industry. Adding unnecessary flourishes, treatments or stylization will quickly date your logo. You can change your jeans. Changing your logo is a little more expensive.

A good logo should be all of these things. Take a look at some of the most recognizable logos and you’ll agree that they meet the criterion. Note that they do not rely on colour, fancy production techniques or animation to make them work. Of course there is more to a successful logo than just design. Here are a few necessary ingredients to logo longevity.


If your company is lucky enough to have something that is unique, own it. If you don’t have something unique, invent it, then own it. This could be a tag line, a colour or a secondary design element, but once you have that thing that will make you unique, embrace it, love it and have the courage to show the world. Stay true to it. Today, you don’t have to spend millions to have many eyeballs on your logo. Eventually you can be known for that one thing that makes you unique and you will earn a spot in the memory for perpetuity. By being the only one or the first you can establish yourself as a leader.


When something new is introduced it can be hard to get everyone to love it. Decision by committee can be difficult. 100% consensus can seem like a zebra unicorn. Adhering to the “good” list can help speed the process and offers measurable qualities to cross-reference while the logo is under development. Once you have it, believe that it is great and it will be.


If your logo is established to communicate that the business is an approachable, friendly company, but everyone in it is miserable, than no one will believe the logo. The logo will lose credibility. The company and the people in it have to live up to the promise of the logo. You can design a logo to be luxurious, but there are many other factors that contribute to whether people perceive it as such.

Sometimes a logo is just a logo. It doesn’t attempt to meet this criteria, it just exists. This is usually a conscious strategic decision. The logo becomes a secondary element to other elements that will shape the brand. This maybe a unique shape, colour or combination. Elements like this as well as photography and art direction can be the leaders in shaping your brand. A good design company will have these things in mind while they design the logo. It is all of these elements together that shape how your company is portrayed. Logo utopia is achieved when the brand becomes so powerful the logo isn’t even needed for brand recognition. And that is the power or marketing

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