Four principles to which all logo designers should adhere.

The world over, logos date back to the distant past (and a lot more distant, if you include hieroglyphics and cave paintings and the like). That’s because traders – pubs and shops etc. –used simple, unique signage to convey to the public the particular services and products they offered, be that meat, bread or candlesticks.

Oldest logos

Photo of pub: Adam Bruderer/Flickr

Heraldry Artwork by British Artist and Photographer Andrew Stewart Jamieson

Bass and Co pale ale original label

However, although logos have been around for way longer than me and you, and have developed in thought and sophistication, some businesses – and the designers they employ – don’t seem to have learned the lessons from history, and are still making basic mistakes.

So, I’d like to explain four important ingredients that, when blended together, go to make a unique, memorable logo. Because choosing to invest in your logo is one of the best decisions you can make.

Principle Number 1: Values.

It's essential for a logo to convey the core values of your business, and distilling these into a logo will not only give you a solid foundation from which ideas for marketing and promotion can spring, your audience will also get a feeling as to what your business offers and what it stands for – instantly.

Seduced by fashion, some people will always want a logo that is on-trend. However, this throws up two issues. The first is longevity. Designing a logo around a current trend will, by the very nature of trend, render it looking and feeling outdated almost immediately.

Some of the biggest brands have made this mistake, just look at airBnb. The company only started in late 2008 and has already had three iterations to the logo.

Airbnb logo evolution

Different variations of the Airbnb logo since 2008

On the other hand, designing a logo around the core values of your business will give your brand the force to stay relevant. Now that doesn’t mean a logo won’t need to be updated later on down the line, but doing it as little as possible will show confidence to your audience, and save you money along the way.

Principle Number 2: Uniqueness.

With the world saturated with competing brands, logos and messages (on average, we see 5,000 advertising messages every day), your business needs to distinguish itself from any other in your market if it’s going to stand out and succeed. It sounds obvious but, as a principle, it’s all too often ignored (lucky you). By creating a logo rooted firmly in your values will put your business well ahead of the pack. You’ll be the alpha huskie, in the lead.

The Harley Davison logo does just that.

Harley Davidson Logo

The Harley Davidson logo

The Harley Davidson logo encapsulates its core values perfectly – with an uppercase, sans serif wordmark, contained in a bold shield-like crest outer with the letterforms arranged in a way that gives compression. The archetype of an aggressive stance.

You instantly get what Harley Davison's values are. It hits you in the face like a hammer, with not a care in the world, and visually sets itself apart from other motorcycle brands.

Motorcycle logos

Different motorcycle logos

Principle Number 3: Scalability.

With so places that your logo will appear, both in digital and print, it must be scalable.

What do I mean by Scalability? I hear you ask. I simply mean the design’s ability to live comfortably within the location where it’s placed, i.e: on a website, billboard, business card and on any 3D promotional material, such as pens and USB sticks.

The days of sketching a small 25 x 25mm square and making sure your logo design would work within it are long gone. That said, I still think it's good practice to have this principle in the back of your mind, as it forces you to think 'could my logo be simpler?, or, 'Is this logo bold enough.'

Now, in the digital age, designing a logo must also adhere to the principles of digital design. This means simplifying it time and again, fulfilling a series of specific requirements, into its absolute purest form. It's the only way to make sure the logo can adapt to work beautifully in such a digital-dominated environment.

A great example of this can be seen in the treatments below:

Responsive logos

Responsive logos of Google, Nike and Skype. Via

To be honest (hands up), I was at first hesitant to endorse this approach. I felt it worked well for an established brand (Nike has been around since 1964, for example) and was – and is – ubiquitous.

But for a new, or unknown business to the market, was this approach right? And as apprehensive as I once was, by reading 99designs’ fantastic and illuminating post, Responsive logos: what they are and why you need one, my mind was changed. Have a read and you’ll see what I mean.

Principle Number 4. The Tailored Wordmark:

Too often these days I come across a business that’s proud to show the world what they call a logo. But in reality, all I see is a typeface. This is not only lazy design (lazy design they’ll have paid handsomely for), it can also raise other issues, not least those of a legal nature.

The truth is, you can't just download any old typeface and use it. And the same goes for photography and illustration – but that's another blog, for another time.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with beginning with a commercial typeface, but it must only form a starting point of your logo. Your logo needs to be unique and tailored to reinforce your values, as explained above.

Take my work for the Royal Parks, for example. I was commissioned to create eight unique logos for the eight royal parks of London.

Each logo needed to reflect the personality of the specific park, with the rule set that I couldn’t create an icon to accompany the logo. I was tasked to reflect the values of each of the parks in a way the public would get instantly.

I was also restricted to using the primary typeface as the foundation of each bespoke, park-specific font I created – Book Antiqua.

The result was eight unique logos, all of which born of the same family, but evoking a different response and conveying a different feeling.

It’s this kind of discipline that focuses the mind, and helps produce the best work: work that works.

Royal Park logos

Eight examples from the Royal Park logos

Of course there are other contributing factors that go to make up a good logo – colour, composition, structure etc. – but I’ll save all that for another time.


Ensuring that when your logo is designed, that the designer adheres to these principles will help your business to better connect with your audience – leaving a lasting impression, and helping build a robust, trustworthy brand that will ultimately help your business succeed.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the above. Comment is free, as they say.

#logo #design #identity #business #process #branding #marketing #brainfood

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