- A corporate logo is an image or visually appealing set of words that reflects your brand’s values and distinguishes you from competitors.
- To create a logo, you’ll need to reflect on the meanings of certain fonts, shapes, lines, and colors and how they dovetail with your brand. Obtaining audience feedback through a focus group is helpful.
- You should change your logo if your offerings shift, your brand has recently received negative press, or your logo is outdated. But be careful: Altering a popular logo could hurt customer loyalty.
- This article is for small business owners who want to develop the perfect logo for their company.
Given how prominent logos are, rebranding can have an enormous impact on a company. It’s critical for businesses to go about rebranding the right way and avoid confusing or upsetting their audiences.
In a recent study, C+R Research examined some major brands and how their logos have changed in relation to their revenue over time. The results shed light on corporate logo design and the benefits and risks rebranding poses to businesses.
Major companies like Starbucks, Apple, Amazon and Levi’s have each taken different approaches to logo redesigns and rebranding throughout their histories. These industry giants’ rebranding experiences hold valuable lessons for small businesses considering changing their corporate logos.
We’ll explore the importance of a corporate logo and how to design an effective logo that will represent you well to consumers.
FYI: Creating a visual brand identity isn’t just about your logo. You’ll also need to consider product images, advertisements, social media images and more.
What is a corporate logo, and why do you need one?
A corporate logo is a symbol that represents and identifies your business. It distinguishes your business from others and hints at your identity and values. It also invites people to learn about your brand and helps build customer loyalty.
Perhaps most importantly, your logo goes everywhere: on your business website, social media pages, business cards, marketing materials and more. If you run a storefront, it goes there too. Think about all the Target logos you see when you shop there.
Did you know? People often develop human-like relationships with brands and think of them as partners. How they react to a particular brand is a result of their positive and negative experiences with it.
How to create a logo
According to C+R, the most effective logos are wordless and minimalist. Dan Ferguson, CMO at Adore Beauty, advises businesses to keep logos consistent, simple and memorable.
“Whether you’re starting from scratch or just want to give your logo a facelift, think carefully about the colors, shapes, patterns, and fonts you use and the emotions they create around your brand,” he said. “If there is a mismatch between your identity, values, and logo, it can lead you down the difficult path of trying to market a disengaging or downright confusing brand.”
Ferguson offered the following insights on different logo elements and what each can convey to consumers.
Color psychology plays a massive part in the messages your logo sends and how consumers interpret those messages, said Ferguson. What do your logo colors say about your brand? What emotions do your colors elicit?
Research by 99designs shows that consumers associate warm colors like red and orange with passion, vigor, and energy, while cool colors like blue and green are associated with tranquility, refreshment, and nature.
Shapes and lines
Logo shapes mean more than you may think. They can enhance your overall brand meaning and provide further insight into your identity and emotional messaging, Ferguson noted.
- Circular: Circular designs can convey ideas of positivity, endurance, community and even femininity (e.g., World Wildlife Fund, Chanel).
- Square: Square designs or those that use sharp, hard edges connote balance, symmetry, strength, professionalism and efficiency (e.g., Adobe, National Geographic).
- Triangles: Triangles communicate messages intended to be masculine, powerful, scientific, legal or even religious (e.g., Adidas, Google Play).
- Horizontal: Horizontal lines impart emotions associated with tranquility and community.
- Vertical: Vertical lines are more related to strength, aggression and masculinity.
Just like colors, fonts become identifiers for your brand and behave in a similar way to shapes. What messages do your fonts carry or reveal about your brand?
- Angular: Angular fonts can reveal your brand identity as dynamic and assertive, while gentler, rounded typefaces come off as youthful and soft.
- Bold: Bold fonts are more masculine, while cursive fonts are more feminine.
Ferguson notes that one font in a logo is ideal, but don’t mix more than two fonts. Whatever you choose should be clear and easy to read.
Words vs. no words
You should use a consistent font in your marketing emails, graphics and other visual materials. In fact, email marketing services like Mailchimp often prioritize logo use. (Read our Mailchimp review to learn more.)
However, you don’t need words in your logo, though they’re generally recommended for smaller, newer businesses.
Think about it: Can your company really convey its message with just an image before becoming a household name? The answer lies in how a handful of corporate logos have changed over time.
Once upon a time, Adidas, Shell, and NBC all had symbols and words in their logos – a “combination mark.” Each logo included the company’s name under the image. Over time, as these companies became trusted household names, they became identifiable on image alone. They dropped the name and left behind a visual-only logo known as a “brandmark.” The result is a crisper, more compact – but no less identifiable – logo.
Tip: If your company isn’t yet prominent enough for a brandmark logo, but you want to go visual only, an emblem logo can work. Some examples of these logo types are GE, HP and Chanel; they’re all enticing images in which the company’s name appears.
Target audience feedback
Your logo is among the key ways you’ll reach your target audience. It only makes sense, then, to get your audience’s feedback on your logo. Focus groups consisting of your target customers can help here. What about your colors, shapes, lines and fonts has a meaningful impact on them? What misses the mark?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you can incorporate this feedback into a revised logo. You might also want to present more than one logo option to make the most of the occasion.
Tip: You can also use different types of business surveys to gauge customer response to your logo.
Different logo options
If you invest all your time and energy into developing only one logo, you might get tunnel vision and fail to consider some glaring flaws. That becomes a nonissue when you draft several logo options. You can bring all these options to a focus group to determine the most impactful. Then, with the group’s feedback, you can adjust the logo to further strengthen its impact.
What you can learn from household-name corporate logos
While the C+R study found that each company’s revenue sometimes fluctuated around the time of logo change, there was no consistent correlation. The conditions surrounding a redesign and the actual product or service are likely more important, said Matt Zajechowski, outreach team lead for Digital Third Coast.
“One thing this analysis confirms is that a lot of marketers who are fretting about the relation of brand aesthetic to revenue should probably be turning their attention to other things first,” Zajechowski said. “There was no consistent, noticeable correlation that showed different logos lead to more or fewer sales. … The most interesting pattern we noted is that many major brands, particularly tech brands, fuss with their logo a lot in the early years. Then, as soon as they take off and experience explosive growth, they back off the logo and leave it alone. Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter are great examples of this behavior.”
So what else can we learn from C+R’s findings? Below are some key takeaways from four corporate giants included in the study.
Starbucks, the ubiquitous coffee shop, was established in 1971 with a retro, brown version of its now well-known circular logo. It first added the green-and-white color scheme in 1987, then updated it with a sleeker style in 1992.
In 2011, Starbucks dropped the text “Starbucks Coffee” from its logo entirely, leaving just the central image. Each rebrand was a new iteration of the same logo, with minor changes, often in the direction of a sleeker, more minimalist style.
Founded in 1976, Apple launched with a drastically different logo than the well-known apple it boasts today. The following year, Apple underwent a redesign that introduced the first apple logo with a rainbow color scheme.
In 1998, Apple rolled out two new logos based on the same image: one in black and the other in a light blue. In 2001, Apple’s chrome logo debuted. Then the company started to increase sales and, in 2007, debuted another chrome apple logo with a shimmery new finish.
Finally, the company introduced a new iteration of the simple black apple logo, which it still uses today.
Apple’s logo redesigns almost always seem to be moving toward a futuristic or advanced feeling. These efforts would naturally be helpful to a big technology company’s brand.
After incorporating in 1994, Amazon rebranded in 1997 with two new logos, one of which would go on to serve as the basis for its modern “Amazon.com” imagery. One year later, the company developed two more logos. In 2000, Amazon rebranded yet again, this time sticking with the logo for the long haul.
Amazon has cultivated a brand around one image after iterating six different logo designs in its first six years of existence. Importantly, Amazon began as a bookseller, then expanded to “books, movies, and more,” and now has a hand in seemingly everything. It’s common for a company to rebrand when the business model changes or expands.
Did you know? Amazon hasn’t updated its logo in more than two decades. Its unparalleled success suggests that you don’t need to fix a logo that isn’t broken.
Levi’s is known for one major product: jeans. This famous denim company was established in 1853 and only once changed its logo – in 1936, to today’s red-and-white Levi’s imagery. The brand has used the same logo ever since.
With such an iconic name – Levi Strauss – attached to an easily identifiable product, it’s worth asking if Levi’s ever really needed much of a logo redesign beyond the simple, recognizable logo designed in the ’30s.
When should you change your logo?
Here are some instances when you should consider a logo change:
- Your logo’s style is outdated.
- Your company is expanding its product line.
- You are merging with another company.
- You want to reduce negative associations with the brand.
- The brand has globalized, making language less relevant.
What are the risks of logo redesign?
These are some potential downsides of a logo redesign:
- If consumers are attached to the existing logo, a redesign could backfire and hurt sales.
- Seeking feedback prior to release from focus groups, for example, can expose weaknesses in the redesign.
- Change doesn’t always mean progress.
Max Freedman and Chad Brooks contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.