The Characteristics of a Good Logo

Your branding and company logo design is the face of your business. It should be the mark the represents what your company stands for. As such, you need to ensure that you work with reputable logo designers. You don’t need to be a designer yourself but by understanding what makes a logo effective, you will have confidence working with a designer and be able to evaluate the designs and provide constructive feedback. Here are the four fundamentals of great logo design.


The best logo is often times the simplest one. It effectively conveys an emotion or idea without trying to say too much at once. Flat shapes, bold lines and clear type are hallmarks of effective logos. They never run the risk of appearing busy, confusing and hopefully not cliche.

There are those that push a logo to convey as much meaning as possible. Not only is this unnecessary, in many cases it’s a distraction. Your logo shouldn’t be a puzzle or poem or confusing. It should be a clean and simple icon to symbolize your organization’s personality and values. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

The Nike logo. It’s about as simple as a logo can get, but it’s iconic, timeless and unforgettable. It has become one of the most recognizable brand logos in the world. The concept is rooted in Greek mythology. The Nike is the Winged Goddess of Victory. The logo is derived from the goddess’ wing,’ swoosh’, which symbolizes the sound of speed, movement, power and motivation.

The Amazon logo was created to represent the message that it sells everything from A to Z (the arrow connects the two letters) and also represents the smile that customers would experience by shopping on the Web site (the arrow becomes a smile.)


An effective logo needs to be versatile so that it works in all contexts, media and applications. It might one day be as big as a billboard or as small as a postage stamp. At minimum, your logo should consider the following

  1. Readable at any size.
  2. Works in color and black and white.
  3. Logo works in a horizontal format.  A vertical format is a nice addition.

Your logo should be readable in color and black and white. Some designers provide a vertical and horizontal version of the logo. Horizontal layouts work well in the header of a website or on a business card while a vertical logo might work in video or even a t-shirt. Will your logo still be clear and effective if it appears in a single color or on a black background instead of a white? The best logo designers consider these factors and plan ahead. Your logo should also come with a style guide. This provides instruction for using your logo in various applications, across various channels.


The best logo design centers around a single attribute that is relevant to your prospects and your industry. Does it emphasise power, agility, connectivity or innovation? The message should be relevant and resonant to your audience. A childcare center would likely choose a logo that is colourful and fun, while a law firm should consider a traditional logo with a confident colour scheme. This may seem obvious, but it’s worth emphasising because it is critical to your brand image.

Relevant also means your logo should be aligned to your business objectives, rather than your personal taste. Avoid unnecessary elements that may be visually pleasing but don’t support your message. Again, the Amazon logo supports the notion that they deliver everything … from A to Z and that the customer will be happy with their service.


Ultimately a great logo is like a piece of art. Like all great art, it can instantly evoke feelings of joy, gratitude, anticipation or calm. It combines colour, font, layout, and graphic elements into a visual that can communicate in a single glance the passion and integrity behind your business. It takes real artistic talent to arrange these elements for maximum impact and influence. In our experience this is where logo design most often fails.

The aesthetic elements of the best logo design can be broken into four distinct categories. By evaluating a logo through each of these viewpoints it becomes easier to move the design of a logo into its ideal finished product.

Gary M. Smith

Gary M. Smith

Gary is the founder of At Play Creative and an experienced Creative Director with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing, advertising, and entertainment industries. He's helped a wide range of small, medium and large brands connect with audiences around the world.

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