Simple Isn’t Easy

Dave Burkle, July 16, 2013

We’re talking about logos, the most basic building block of identity and brand. At its core, a logo should be simple, unique and instantly recognizable. A logo doesn’t need to tell a story, communicate what a company sells or inform the viewer of the intentions of the corporation. That may happen from time to time but usually too much information weakens the objective of a logo which is simply to be a recognizable mark.

Using examples like Apple or Nike, if you had never heard of these companies before today, could you identify the product by looking at their logo? Instead they have used the simplicity of their logos to their advantage, they’ve told us what they stand for, through their products, their marketing, their brand. They’ve used their logo as a tool, not an instruction manual.

Even with a simple logo, a company can still muddle the effectiveness of their brand. Look at Microsoft. Can you instantly pick out their current logo?
Microsoft Logos
The answer is b, if you were confused about which one it was, it’s probably because two of the above logos (a,d) are Microsoft products; Office and Windows. They’ve saturated their brand with a constantly changing array of logos that blur the line between the product and the corporation.

(Full disclosure, as graphic designers we like to pick on Microsoft. Their product, both hard and software, like their identity, is nowhere nearly as well designed as anything Apple, just sayin’).

A truly strong logo communicates without color as well. Again using Nike and Apple as an example, can you name what color their logo is? The answer is, it doesn’t matter.

Below are some examples of companies who have strong brands built around strong logos. The ability to identify these logos using only black and white, and revealing less than 25% of these graphics, demonstrates just how powerful the brand/logo relationship is.

Strong Logos

What’s the point? Well designed logos are long lived and central to the brand. The acid test is to strip it down to its most basic form. And only then you discover how diffcult and yet powerful simple can be.