The Secrets of Successful Logos

Six Design Tips for Logos By Kara Ohngren |   December 9, 2010

The inspiration for the iconic blue bird that’s come to represent San Francisco-based Twitter Inc. didn’t come from the company’s founders, or even a high-priced marketing firm. It came from the users. Soon after the 2006 launch of the micro-blogging site, people started referring to their individual messages as “tweets.”

“The best thing we did was listen to how people were using the site and how they considered the brand,” says co-founder Jack Dorsey.

Twitter’s logo works well because it is “reflective of the community spirit behind the site,” says Matt Mickiewicz, founder of the Melbourne, Australia-based crowdsourcing-design website 99designs Pty Ltd. “It’s fantastic.”

An effective logo, like Twitter’s, should communicate the purpose of the business and the values that the brand represents. “A poor logo doesn’t mean a business will fail, and a good logo doesn’t mean it will succeed — it just helps,” Mickiewicz says. “Ultimately a good logo is something that people recognize instantly and relate to.”

There are any number of ways to devise a logo, but it’s essential that the end result is unique and accurately represents the business, says Cono Fusco, creative director at, a Deluxe Corp. online services firm.

Here’s a look at how three small businesses came up with logos, when they were just starting out, that have become synonymous with their brands.

SmugMug’s Smuggie

Sometimes the best logo ideas happen by whim. Like when Don MacAskill and his father Chris were developing a Mountain View, Calif.-based photo-sharing site, they couldn’t decide on a company name. When several friends and family suggested “SmugMug,” they worried that the name sounded negative and misleading.

As Smuggie’s story and the others suggest, logo design doesn’t adhere to a strict set of rules. But there are guidelines most designers try to follow. The creative team behind online logo design firm The Logo Factory offers these six tips for creating a company logo:

How to Work with a Logo Designer

Busy or design-challenged business owners often choose to work with a professional logo design firm, rather than go it alone. If you choose this route, consider these tips from Cono Fusco at for getting the most from a logo designer:

1. Meet with the design team in person or by phone. Such direct communication is best. E-mail-only contact usually won’t cut it.

2. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Don’t let a designer talk you into something you’re uncomfortable with.

3. Be sure to get the master files so you can print the logo anywhere.

4. Negotiate a flat rate for alterations.

  • Don’t worry about conveying exactly what the company does. A good logo can be adapted to whatever direction the company takes. Think about McDonald’s golden arches or the Nike swoosh.
  • Size matters. A logo may be reproduced in a variety of sizes. Consider how the logo will look printed on everything from business cards to the fax header to ballpoint pens.
  • Proper ratios are vital. A logo usually won’t be visually pleasing if it’s tall and skinny or wide and short. A logo that approximates the proportions of a typical business card is generally more adaptable to working in other artwork. Designers call this the “golden mean.”
  • Consider the target market. A logo is meant to appeal to customers and should be created with them in mind.
  • Seek instant impact. You have only a few seconds to grab customers’ attention. Make sure your logo stands out in a cluttered marketplace by having something that’s unlike your competitors’.
  • Once it’s finalized, don’t change it. Small occasional tweaks are fine, but once you’ve developed your logo, it’s best to keep it. Brand recognition takes time.



3 Responses to The Secrets of Successful Logos

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