features of an iconic logo

Features of an Iconic Logo

When people are looking for products or services, the first thing they see is often a logo. Logos serve as proof that the product they’re purchasing is genuine and legitimate — in other words, they help make a great first impression.

You want your logo to stick in the minds of customers for months and years after you make that first impression.

Here are five characteristics to aim for when designing an iconic logo.

1. Simple and Uncomplicated

The most important characteristic of iconic logos is their simplicity. It’s much easier to achieve the other four traits covered below once you’ve achieved simplicity in your design.
It’s important to remember that simple does not equal boring; it simply means straightforward and uncomplicated.
The majority of the time, a simple design is all that is required. Adding too many elements to a logo can make it appear cluttered, and the human mind responds to clutter by blocking out the majority of it.
Uninteresting or indistinct elements compete for the viewer’s attention, making it easier for them to skip over (especially now that attention spans are shorter than ever).
Simple logos are easier to understand and absorb, but they’re also easier to remember when they’re seen again. A simple logo will help you catch someone’s attention while driving down the highway or make your product stand out on crowded store shelves.
For example, to represent their brand and stand out, Nike, the world’s largest shoe manufacturer, uses a very simple graphic swoosh.
Keep in mind the cliche but useful acronym K.I.S.S. (“keep it simple stupid”). Don’t add elements to your logo just because you think it’s boring. Always ask yourself why you’re adding a new colour, font, shape, or other graphic element.
Don’t include it if it won’t improve the overall design or your brand message.

2. Appropriate

The second quality is appropriate. Although a logo must be simple, not all simple logos are iconic. The logo must be appropriate for the intended use and audience.
Logos don’t have to say what a company does; instead, they must convey the appropriate emotion. Consider well-known logos. Apple’s logo isn’t a computer, BMW’s logo isn’t a car, and American Airlines’ logo isn’t an aeroplane.
A logo, on the other hand, can be literal. Consider Target or Shell: their logos are visual representations of their company names, which is fine.
But consider these two logos: Target doesn’t use a bullseye as their logo to convey what the company does; they do it to make themselves identifiable. Let’s be clear: a logo’s primary function is to identify a company.
Iconic logos are also intended for a specific audience. Consider the difference between a bank logo and a logo for a children’s toy store. For the toy store, a childish, wacky, or fun font and colour scheme would be appropriate. This, however, would not be appropriate for a bank because no one would take them seriously or trust their operations.
The Toys”R”Us logo is an excellent example of a suitable logo. It looks like a kid drew it, with the hand-drawn font, backward R, star symbol, and wacky colour scheme. Children are drawn to the store because they recognise the logo.

It's not about complicated design elements or fancy visual tricks. It's all about creating a logo that conveys the right emotion.

Logos are for identification, not communication; they shouldn’t try to say too much because marketing and communications can do that. Instead, the logo style should be relevant to the target audience and convey your company’s personality. 

3. Uniqueness

The third characteristic of an iconic logo is its uniqueness. Why do we prefer distinct to memorable? Because what makes something memorable is that it is distinct enough to be remembered, even in a crowded marketplace.
If your logo design is memorable, people who have been impressed by your brand or company will be able to easily describe it to others who might be interested. This can be accomplished by keeping the elements to a minimum and employing only one visual trick or technique.
As previously stated, many businesses use complicated logo elements to stand out in their designs. However, a busy logo is more difficult to understand and remember.
Instead, the goal should be to create a logo that is distinct enough that people can recognise it after only seeing it once.
One good test is to see if someone can redraw a logo on a piece of paper with just one glance. (It’s also worth noting that iconic logos can be recognised even when they don’t include the company name.)
Apart from the benefit of being memorable, people who are more familiar with a logo are more likely to associate the brand with positive attributes. Consumers are more likely to notice distinctive logos and want to learn more about the brand.
Remember: If people can’t remember what your logo looks like when it’s not in front of them, it’s not doing its job. If you want to create a memorable logo, it must stand out and be simple to understand. It should be distinct from your competitors and stand out from the crowd.
The McDonalds logo is a great example of a unique design. It’s easy to redraw after only seeing it once (and can be seen from a long distance on a highway billboard), and the two golden arches that form a “M” are easily recognised all over the world.

4. Versatile

Logos with iconic status are also versatile. The term “versatile” refers to the logo’s ability to look good in a variety of sizes and applications. It looks great in any colour and can be used in both horizontal and vertical formats.
To create a versatile logo, you must make sure that it will work in any situation. Consider websites, business cards, signage, labels, vehicles, and other marketing materials. The logo should be impactful and legible in any size, from a giant billboard to a postage stamp.
Legibility always suffers when a logo has too many details. When you try to reproduce the logo in smaller sizes, too many colours and elements will be lost.
It’s also important to keep in mind that you won’t always be able to use a full-color logo. The logo should work in both black and white and not rely on visual effects to stand out.
A flexible logo, also known as a responsive logo, is another option. To accommodate and adapt for different sizes and screens, these types of logos can change in size, complexity, and even colour.
There are more places than ever before to use a logo, and they all vary in size. To create an iconic logo, make sure your design is recognisable and adaptable, even when it’s a tiny 16 x 16-pixel favicon at the top of your browser.
A well-known example of a versatile logo is the Apple logo. It works well in black and white, as well as small and large sizes, and it can be used as a favicon without changing the logo.

5. Timeless

The final — and most difficult — quality is timelessness. It’s the last trait on the list because it’s nearly impossible to achieve without the other four.
You can’t be sure that a logo will stand the test of time because design trends come and go all the time, and the world is constantly changing. However, you can ensure that a logo has the characteristics to be timeless.
A timeless logo is simple enough to resist trends, appropriate in tone, memorable enough to be remembered, and adaptable enough to work in any size or application.
Only when all four characteristics are met can you be sure that the logo is in the best possible position to stand the test of time.
After 10, 20, or even 50 years, an iconic logo is still in use. It should be able to withstand any company trend or situation. If the logo doesn’t stay effective over time, you’ll have to design a new one every time it becomes outdated; this can be expensive and avoidable.
Every day, we come into contact with iconic logos such as Nike, Coca-Cola, Apple, and others. All of these logos have at least one similarity that ensures the logo’s timelessness and public recognition:
  • Shape and form are simple
  • Distinctive
  • There are no complicated graphic elements
  • Limited number of colours that are appropriate for the mood
  • When scaled up or down, it remains recognisable.
The most important thing to remember is to avoid following design trends. Trendy logos (glossy shading or complex gradients) are rarely timeless because they aren’t versatile. If you follow trends, your logo may become obsolete.
Logos become out of date for two main reasons: font and colour selection. People frequently make the mistake of believing that simple, classic fonts are boring and unoriginal. Not at all! Sticking to classic, well-crafted fonts will help your logo stand the test of time.

Another good idea is to use a limited colour palette: one main colour, possibly a minor secondary colour, and one neutral colour (like black or white).

A design with more colours is more likely to become dated. Slack, for example, recently redesigned its logo and reduced the original shaded colour scheme to just four primary colours (plus black).
The Coca-Cola logo is a prime example of a timeless logo, despite its obviousness. It is one of the most timeless logos in history, having remained nearly unchanged since the early 1900s.

Getting to a Iconic Logo

An iconic logo is simple enough to understand at a glance, appropriate for conveying a feeling, memorable enough to remember, adaptable enough to work for any size or application, and well-designed enough to stand the test of time.
Follow these five traits if you want to make a great first impression and have a logo that will last for years.
In this article, all of the logo examples are presented in black and white. This was done on purpose to demonstrate that iconic logos don’t need the brand colour to be recognised; a simple and distinctive design is far more important.
Finally, when designing your logo, think about subtracting elements rather than adding them. This does not imply that you should eliminate the entire logo. Instead, consider why each component is necessary and how it communicates your brand to the rest of the world.