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I was recently asked about the simplicity of so many successful logos.  I love the opportunity to answer questions like this.  I swear that if I ever stop designing it will be to talk/teach about designing.

Why do large companies with plenty of money and access to the best designers often end up with relatively simple logos?

The short answer, of course, is "because simple logos work."  But, that short answer would spark a much more complex question: Why do simple logos work?  Why does building on foundation of simplicity lead to successful brands?

When we went to school we learned "The Three R's."  This is probably the worst title ever.  I get that I like alliteration more than most people, but at least two of the 3 R's should actually begin with R!  Today, class, we are going to learn about the Three R's of Branding.


Though we've already covered this topic to some extent in previous posts, I think it is important to go over it again here.  In almost ever venue, it is important that your branding be readable.  By readable I don't mean able to be figured out or deciphered.  I mean that it has adequate perspicuity at a glance and from a distance.

If your logo cannot be read than your brand cannot make an impression.

On that note, whenever possible, I encourage people to use lowercase letters.  We read the tops of letters.  In the English language our capital letters look more similar to each other that our lower case letters.  The letters DOC are less varied than the letters doc.  Even with varied lower case letters the top half of those letters contains the majority of the variety.  So, we read the top half of doc as opposed to the bottom half.  This is important when determine what your logo looks like and where it goes.  For example: Which one is easier to read?

Bottom of the Google LogoTop of the Google Logo


Once your clients read your logo they need to be able to recognize it whenever they see it.  Actually, that's not true.  The need to be able to recognize it when they see just part of it ... from a distance ... at a glance ... behind what they're really looking at.  This is more important than you realize.

People will only read your logo once.  After that they just recognize it.

We think we look at the names of brands, but we don't.  We look at the colors, the shape and the graphics of brands.  Don't believe me?  Which soft drinks can you recognize without even seeing enough of the logo to read?

Cross Section of the Dr Pepper LogoCross Section of the Coca-Cola LogoCross Section of the Mountain Dew Logo


If you've got good branding you will want to put it everywhere.  You will want hats and t-shirts, letter-head and thank you cards, billboards and websites.  So, you want your branding to look good large or small, on busy or solid backgrounds, on t-shirts or on the side of semi.  That means you have to think through colors ... and number of colors ... and graduated colors.  But, for the digital age in which we live, proper branding needs to think through another aspect of replication.

The best brands are iconizable.

Apple IconCan your logo be an icon or a button?  Can you sum up who you are and what you do in space that is a tenth the size of a stamp?  What would your logo look like as an app on someone's smart phone?  Can your logo be recognized if the logo itself is never shown?  Will people still know who you are?  Hmmmmm.  Anyone not know who this company is?