What makes a great logo?

By Fortunato Restagno | February 21, 2012 | Last updated on September 21, 2023
4 min read

When you think of a powerful logo, which companies come to mind? Perhaps Apple, McDonald’s or John Deere? How important is a logo and how does it affect buying habits? As a brand strategist, I work with advisors and their teams who are focused and committed to providing support to their clients. However, they often struggle with the ability to effectively communicate their uniqueness and to attract more of the right clients.

Before we discuss what makes up a great logo, there is something else we need to consider first. What goes through your mind when you meet someone for the first time? Do you judge them on how they look, what they are wearing, or how they are speaking to you? Are you most interested if they are like-minded and share some of the same interests and values as you? Probably! Most people do. As your mind goes through this thought process there is something else happening–that person you are speaking with is judging you too. Within seconds you have both created a story about each other. You will share that story with colleagues and co-workers.

Now think about the logos you have seen on TV or the internet. A logo should tell the story of your business at a glance. However a logo alone can’t tell the whole story. A full marketing strategy and a unique process need to be put into place. Think of your logo as your own personal tattoo. What does that image look like in your business?

Here are 4 elements to consider when creating an effective logo:

  • Unique and Distinctive You want your audience to recognize your business easily and quickly. The simpler, the better. The logo should fit the service, personality, the value and what your business stands for.
  • Reproducible Logos must work on all your marketing material, e.g. brochures, stationery, websites, office documents, etc. It should be a Pantone colour that works well in CMYK and RGB. Most branding firms and printers can clarify this for you. Some colours may work well in print but can look completely different on the web. The logo should work well in black and white. It also needs to produce well if reduced in size like on a pen, for example.
  • Long-Lasting and Memorable Your logo should stand the test of time. Never change your logo simply because you feel like it. You might get tired of it but your clients won’t. There are however, some very good reasons to change your logo. If it was not originally designed to fit your brand message, if it’s not compelling or does not reproduce well. Or, if you changed your services and market. Keep cultures in mind. Make sure you aren’t using a shape or symbol that could be offensive or negative.
  • Use a Professional Branding Firm I’ve seen many logos designed by individuals with little or no experience regarding logo design. It often results in costing a company time and money down the road because the logo does not position the business effectively. If you are a professional, you will find it beneficial to invest in getting it done right. Logo design is a science. Significant planning and research is involved in order for your logo to ultimately represent your values, mission, story and service.

So how do you know if your current logo is working? Next time you are talking to one of your most valued clients take an extra 3 minutes and ask them this one question: If our firm was a person how would you describe its personality?

Write down key words that stand out (e.g. helpful, wise, understanding, fun). You may also want to ask this same question to a mentor or a team member. Once you have collected your key personality words, put all of your marketing pieces, containing your logo, on a table and spread them out. Look at your logo and how it is used, then ask yourself this. Does your logo match the personality you have just uncovered? Does the look, colours, shape and symbol align with who you are in your clients mind? Is the message consistent? How does the logo make you feel?

Sometimes it can be a scary thought to change your logo. Especially if you’ve had it for years and your clients are used to it. Out of all the logo enhancements and revisions I have done in my career I can tell you that I have never seen an issue with logo change. Put a communication strategy in place to inform your clients of the upcoming changes. What you don’t want to do is continue to use a logo that doesn’t truly represent who you are. This goes for your logo and all of your marketing materials.

In summary, a logo is your mascot and personality of your business. If your logo makes you feel confident about who you are and what you provide for your clients you have the right logo. If you don’t feel this way it’s time to get a better one.

Fortunato Restagno