Should a Logo Seen On It’s Own Have Clear Meaning? Why?

05.24.2010 / Question submitted by: Steve Zelle

7 replies. Share yours.

Creative Process Discussion

Matt Van Ekeren:

Yes, a logo should be able to stand alone anywhere and people should know what and who it represents. A logo should be a harmonious combination of design elements that will be used to determine the rest of an identity. The shapes, colors, typography and composition of a logo should be the foundation for every design element throughout a company. Whether it be the die cut of a business card, the name plate on the corner office or the color of the company golf shirt. When people interact with those elements, they should be reminded of that logo and subsequently who and what it represents. If a logo can’t stand alone, then all of the accompanying elements will seem like a grab bag of random thoughts and your entire message will be overcome by user confusion.

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  1. Steve Zelle

    I find this topic very interesting. While at first glance it seems that the uniqueness of a logo is vital — you don’t want the same mark as your competitor, in the long term, the application and use of the mark is even more so. Strong, immediate symbolism in a logo seems most important to organizations that have a limited marketing budget for developing a complete visual brand. While I am not convinced clear meaning is always a requirement in a logo, I do think it has to have an appropriate connection with the overall brand. This is where so much of these $99 and clip art stock logos fall short. Very interested to hear how other designers feel about this.

  2. Lisa Raymond

    I agree, a logo should be easily identifiable away from the accompanying elements. Target and AT&T are great examples of this. Unfortunately, while I agree with Steve on his views of the $99 logo and clip art stock places, there are always people who would rather pay less for “more”, completely undervaluing the industry. Trouble is, it’s hard to educate those people on whether or not their “art” is original to their business, and whether or not it would be appropriate to trademark that particular brand of “art”. These places are very limited in their knowledge and may do more harm than help to a company’s image.

  3. Steve Zelle

    Thanks for joining in Lisa.

    There seems to be two questions here:

    1. Must a logo have clear symbolism and meaning.
    2. Must a logo be able to stand completely in it’s own.

    There are many examples of logos that do not have clear symbolism such as Nike or the wordmark for Microsoft. Both of these work on their own because of our connections to them, developed through exposure. For logos with less exposure, does symbolism become more important? I recently wrote the somewhat related post “Ugly and Bland Can Win the Race” on idApostle that some might find interesting.

  4. Glen HOmer

    yes, yes, yes! Without an enormous advertising budget, we rely on maximum impact in minimal exposure. It is true that as time goes on and a company develops into a Super-brand, one could redesign to become more abstract.
    In the end, as designers we want to keep the odds of success in our favor: a more descriptive logo will more easily be remembered and associated with its company, whereas a more “random” logo is basically a luckshot. Plenty of success stories out there, but even more “titanics” we never heard of thinking to themselves… “my swoosh is just like Nike’s… why won’t it work for me!?”

  5. Thomas Eales

    It just so happens I wrote a blog article on the importance of logo’s not so long ago.

    “When speaking with clients about the importance of their logo I like to give the following metaphor to illustrate just how key they are to their overall brand image;
    Imaging your company as tall office building; within the office building there are conference rooms, hospitality suites, spa’s, etc, these are the services you offer to your clients. Delve deeper and you find the vents, boilers and copper guts supplying the building, these service channels are your company architecture, they supply power to the buildings occupants each day, keeping everything running.
    However before a client can engage with the services you offer within your conference rooms and hospitality suites and well before they can learn about what makes your company tick they have to pass through the lobby;
    Imagine your logo as the lobby to your brand, gleaming, sleek, leather bound and inviting; your logo is the first touch between your brand and any potential clients.

    Of course while potential clients initially enter through the lobby, they will hopefully also leave through here too and not the emergency exit, in many cases your logo is not only the first touch point with potential clients but also the last. ”

    For the full article please follow this link,

    Cheers guys,

  6. Naina Redhu

    It should but I doubt most would.

    Nike’s logo, for example, has a clear meaning when it is seen on it’s own because we’ve been staring at the branding / advertising all our lives. If Nike was launched in today’s date, with nothing but that logo, we’d all scoff and wonder what that logo means. Forget being seen on it’s own, even with supporting advertising & branding, it would take a while before the consumer understood what it all meant.

    Thomas, thank you for the link to your article. I will be quoting you on my blog using the very same excerpt above.

Should a Logo Seen On It’s Own Have Clear Meaning? Why?