What makes a good logo?

By Caitlin Hottinger

A good logo is a core component of a strong brand, and an essential asset of a credible, recognizable, successful business. But what exactly is a good logo? From the meaning behind it to the technical design principles, this article outlines important criteria for evaluating logos and determining if it’s time to invest in an updated logo design.

image of a laptop and a phone

Logos designed by Caitlin Hottinger Design

What is a logo?

A logo is a graphic mark that represents an entity. It serves to identify the entity while also visually communicating some of its defining qualities or characteristics. The design of a good logo will set the tone for what to expect from a brand. For example, a well designed restaurant logo will at once tell you the name of the restaurant while also hinting at the type of experience you can expect to have while dining there (e.g. formal, casual, fun, relaxed, modern, or traditional).

What makes a good logo?

While there are many different types of logos and ways to use them, good logos all share a few very important characteristics: meaningfulness, originality, flexibility, scalability, timelessness, memorability, and emotional appeal.

A good logo is meaningful

First and foremost, a good logo has intentional meaning behind it. Every element within a logo should be there for a carefully considered reason. The style of the type or lettering, the shape, and any symbols or icons should be derived from or inspired by qualities of the brand, business, or organization it represents. For example, the logo Caitlin Hottinger Design created for Aline Browers Interiors features geometric representations of Aline's childhood home, which is a meaningful source of inspiration in her work, while also conveying her modern and refined design style.

Adobe Lightroom photo editor

A good logo is ORIGINAL

Logos are like signatures — uniquely representative marks that only the one they belong to can authentically produce. To achieve originality, a logo must be primarily informed by the nature, essence, and history of the entity it represents, rather than external sources of inspiration. This idea is closely tied to the concept of meaningfulness, but also stresses the importance of authenticity and avoiding accidental copying by looking within first, and combining many different sources when gathering research.

For the logo we designed for Smoke and Slate, we honed in on one central aspect of Smoke & Slate's brand: knitting by hand. In order to convey the idea of something handmade, we utilized handwriting for the logo design. By refining letterforms drawn by hand, we ensured Smoke & Slate's logo would be a truly one-of-a-kind and original mark.

hand knitted hats with the Smoke and Slate logo

A good logo is flexible

A logo is not a standalone graphic; it is a central piece of a visual brand system, and needs to work in lots of different contexts and formats. It must be legible and visually appealing in horizontal as well as vertical layouts, centered on a page and aligned to one side, printed and on-screen, and overlaid on a photo or patterned background. In order to achieve flexibility, logo designers will often create multiple versions of a logo, with different color combinations, different arrangements of elements, or reduction of certain elements, to account for all these conditions.

A good logo is scalable

A good logo can be sized up and down without sacrificing anything essential. It will be equally legible, crisp, and effective on a 14-foot billboard as it is engraved on the side of a quarter-inch pen. This is again where logo variations come in handy—a brand with an ornately detailed logo will require a simplified version for small applications.

A good logo is timeless

A good logo design will stand the test of time, remaining relevant and appealing for many years. Too often logo designs are driven by trends rather than intrinsic qualities of the brand it represents. When the trend fades, the logo will inevitably become dated. This can easily happen with “premade brand kits.” By definition, these kits consist of generic, one-size-fits-most graphics, because they are designed without any intimate knowledge of the specific businesses that end up using them, therefore relying on trends and arbitrary design decisions. 

A good logo is MEMORABLE

A good logo has something about it that sticks in your brain. Whether it's due to a unique illustration, expressive typography, or nicely executed gestalt principles, a logo that is memorable will help foster brand recognition and customer loyalty.

A good logo creates an emotional connection

A good logo creates an emotional connection between a brand and its audience. A good logo has a lot of power—people choose to wear clothing and accessories because of the logos on them, they get tattoos of beloved logos, and they pick one product or service provider over another in saturated markets because of the branding that speaks to them most. Whether conscious or unconscious, good logos make strong connections with our brains and our hearts, ultimately influencing our decisions, purchases, and investments.

A good logo is worth the investment

Working with a logo designer is an investment in the long term success of a business. Having a well designed visual branding system with a flexible, meaningful, and timeless logo will serve your business for years to come by establishing stronger connections with your audience and helping drive growth, sales, and increased revenue. Schedule an initial consultation for logo design today!

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