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A logo (from the Greek λογότυπος = logotipos) is a graphic element, symbol, or icon of a trademark or brand and together with its logotype, which is set in a unique typeface or arranged in a particular way. A typical logo is designed to cause immediate recognition by the viewer. The logo is one aspect of the brand of a company or economic entity, and the shapes, colors, fonts and images are usually different from others in a similar market. Logos may also be used to identify organizations or other entities in non-economic contexts.



A logo is an iconic symbol designed to represent a company, organization, product, service, and sometimes certain places (e.g., Canada).

In recent times the term 'logo' has been used to describe signs, emblems, coats of arms, symbols and even flags. In this article several examples of true logos are displayed, which may generally be contrasted with emblems, or marks, which include non-textual graphics of some kind. Emblems with non-textual content are considered one aspect of a complete logo.

Distinct aspects of a complete logo:

  • Logotype/Wordmark/Lettermark: text or abbreviated text
  • Icon: symbol / brandmark
  • Slogan: description of the company

The uniqueness of a logo is often necessary to avoid confusion in the marketplace among clients, suppliers, users, affiliates, and the general public. To the extent that a logo achieves this objective, it may function as a trademark, and may be used to uniquely identify businesses, organizations, events, products or services. Once a logo is designed, one of the most effective means for protecting it is through registration as a trademark, so that no unauthorised third parties can use it, or interfere with the owner's use of it.

There are several elements of a good logo. An effective logo—

  • should be unique, and not subject to confusion with other logos among viewers
  • is functional and can be used in many different contexts while retaining its integrity
  • should remain effective whether reproduced small or large
  • can work in "full-color", but also in two color presentation (black and white), spot color, or halftone
  • should be able to maintain its integrity when printed on various fabrics or materials (where the shape of the product may distort the logo)
  • displays basic design principles (space, color, form, consistency, and clarity)
  • represents the brand/company appropriately

Logos today

Today there are many corporations, products, services, agencies and other entities using a sign or emblem as logo. As a result, only a few of the thousands of signs people are faced with are recognized without a name. It makes less sense to use a sign as a logo, even together with the name, if people will not duly identify it. Therefore, the trend in the recent years has been to use both images (icons) and the company name to emphasize the name instead of the supporting graphic portion, making it unique by its letters, color, and additional graphic elements.

Emblems (icons) may be more effective than a written name, especially for logos being translated into many alphabets; for instance, a name in the Arabic language would be of little help in most European markets. A sign or emblem would keep the general proprietary nature of the product in both markets. In non-profit areas, the Red Cross (which goes by Red Crescent in Muslim countries) is an example of an extremely well known emblem which does not need an accompanying name. Branding aims to facilitate cross-language marketing. The Coca-cola logo can be identified in any language because of the standards of color and the iconic ribbon wave.

Brand slogans

Sometimes a slogan is included in the logo. If the slogan appears always in the logo, and in the same graphic shape, it can be considered as part of the logo. In this case it is a brand slogan also called a claim, a tagline or an endline in the advertising industry. The main purpose is to support the identity of the brand together with the logo. The difference between a slogan and a brand slogan is that brand slogan remains the same for a long time to build up the brand's image, while different slogans link to each product or advertising campaign.


Color is important to the brand recognition, but should not be an integral component to the logo design, which would conflict with its functionality. Some colors are associated with certain emotions that the designer wants to convey. For instance, loud colors, such as red, that are meant to attract the attention of drivers on freeways are appropriate for companies that require such attention. In the United States red, white, and blue are often used in logos for companies that want to project patriotic feelings. Green is often associated with health foods, and light blue or silver is often used to reflect diet foods. For other brands, more subdued tones and lower saturation can communicate dependability, quality, relaxation, etc.

Color is also useful for linking certain types of products with a brand. Warm colors (red, orange, yellow) are linked to hot food and thus can be seen integrated into many fast food logos. Conversely, cool colors (blue, purple) are associated with lightness and weightlessness, thus many diet products have a light blue integrated into the logo.

Logo design

Logo design is commonly believed to be one of the most important areas in graphic design, thus making it the most difficult to perfect. The logo, or brand, is not just an image, it is the embodiment of an organization. Because logos are meant to represent companies and foster recognition by consumers it is counterproductive to redesign logos often.

When designing (or commissioning) a logo, practices to encourage are to

  • avoid being over-the-top in an attempt to be unique
  • use few colors, or try to limit colors to spot colors (a term used in the printing industry)
  • avoid gradients (smooth color transitions) as a distinguishing feature
  • produce alternatives for different contexts
  • design using vector graphics, so the logo can be resized without loss of fidelity
  • be aware of design or trademark infringements
  • include guidelines on the position on a page and white space around the logo for consistent application across a variety of media (a.k.a. brand standard manual)
  • not use a specific choice clip-art as a distinguishing feature
  • not use the face of a (living) person
  • avoid photography or complex imagery as it reduces the instant recognition a logo demands
  • avoid culturally sensitive imagery, such as religious icons or national flags, unless the brand is committed to being associated with any and all connotations such imagery may evoke


Other well-known examples are: Apple Computer, Inc.'s apple with a bite out of it started out as a rainbow of color, and has been reduced to a single color without any loss of recognition. Coca Cola's script is known the world over, but is best associated with the color red; its main competitor, Pepsi has taken the color blue, although they have abandoned their script logo. IBM, also known as "Big Blue" has simplified their logo over the years, and their name. What started as International Business Machines is now just "IBM" and the color blue has been a signature in their unifying campaign as they have moved to become an IT services company.

There are some other logos that must be mentioned when evaluating what the mark means to the consumer. Automotive brands can be summed up simply with their corporate logo- from the Chevrolet "Bow Tie" mark to the circle marks of VW, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, to the interlocking "RR" of Rolls-Royce each has stood for a brand and clearly differentiated the product line.

Other logos that are recognized globally: the Nike "Swoosh" and the Adidas "Three stripes" are two well-known brands that are defined by their corporate logo. When Phil Knight started Nike, he was hoping to find a mark as recognizable as the Adidas stripes, which also provided reinforcement to the shoe. He hired a young student (Caroline Davidson) to design his logo, paying her $35 for what has become one of the best known marks in the world (she was later compensated again by the company).

Corporate identities today are often developed by large firms who specialize in this type of work. However, Paul Rand is considered the father of corporate identity and his work has been seminal in launching this field. Some famous examples of his work were the UPS package with a string (updated in March 2003) IBM, Goodwill Industries and NeXT Computer.

An interesting case is the refinement of the FedEx logo, where the brand consultants convinced the company to shorten their corporate name and logo from "Federal Express" to the popular abbreviation "Fed Ex". Besides creating a shorter brand name, they reduced the amount of color used on vehicles (planes, trucks) and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in paint costs. Also, the right pointing arrow in the new logo is a subliminal hint of motion.

Logos can represent any organization or entity, not just corporations. Perhaps the most recognizable (and possibly the oldest) of these is the emblem of the Olympic Games: the Olympic Rings, five interlocking rings (blue, yellow, black, green, and red respectively) on a white field.

Logos in subvertising

The wide recognition received by the most famous logos provides the brand's critics with the possibility of meme-hacking, a process also known as subvertising, turning the marketing message carried by the logo (either in its pristine form, or subtly altered) into a vehicle for an alternative message, frequently highly critical to the brand in question. An example is the AdBusters' corporate flag, a U.S. flag with the stars replaced by major corporate logos.

Virtually all distinctive design elements related to brands or logos can become subjects to subvertising. The best-known organizations subverting established logos and brands are ®™ark and AdBusters.

See also Culture jamming, Guerrilla communication.

See also

External links

cs:Logo da:Logo de:Firmenlogo et:Logo es:Logotipo eo:Emblemo fr:Logotype id:Logo it:Logo (grafica) he:לוגו lt:Logotipas ms:Logo nl:Beeldmerk ja:ロゴタイプ no:Logo pl:Logo (znak graficzny) pt:Logotipo ru:Логотип simple:Logo sl:Logotip sr:Лого fi:Logo sv:Logotyp uk:Логотип zh:圖幟


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