What Makes A Logo?

In order to better understand how a logo fits within its industry there a three basic styles that a logo can fall into. The first style is Wordmark- this is your basic script style logo such a FedEx or Coca-Cola. The second style is Pictorial- these are the logos that have a shape or symbol to represent them. Good examples are Starbucks and Apple. The third style is where things get a little more complicated- this is the logo system.

What Is A Logo System?

Historically a logo has been a static object that has been used across all branding and marketing in order to be recognizable among a target demographic. Thanks to rapidly changing technology the places a logo can appear and the way it can be used has drastically changed. A business card has evolved into an email signature, a billboard has evolved into a website, and a brochure has evolved into a social media channel. These online opportunities have led to designers and marketers innovating on what exactly a logo means and what it can accomplish.

A logo system is a graphical framework that can be changed and manipulated by designers dependent on where the logo will be appearing, what is important to the brand on that particular day, and what message they want to convey. This advanced system allows marketers the opportunity to extend the conversation past their brand and point to social issues, celebrations, relevant information, and basically anything else. Think of it as a “flexible logo” that can have different meaning portrayed through it.

Take for example the Google logo- one of the most iconic logos of our time.

Recognizable everywhere, Google is consistently imagining “Google Doodles” to celebrate a day in history, to commemorate a personality, or to raise awareness for an issue. They use their basic logo framework, but alter it to make something unique, exciting, and meaningful. The have done everything from celebrating “water found on Mars” to commemorating the 80th anniversary of the opening of the Moscow Metro. The possibilities are truly endless. Here they celebrate Mountain Day with a unique Doodle:

Google Doodle- 80th Anniversary of the Opening of the Moscow Metro

Google Doodle- Crossword

The folks at Google have also begun animating their logos making them move around on screen. On top of that they have even turned a few of them into fully interactive experiences such as games, videos, and toys. Examples include a fully playable crossword puzzle, animated videos, and an interactive Rubik’s Cube! You can check out a full archive of all the Google Doodles here.

Another excellent example of well thought out logo system is the Hilary Clinton Campaign. In a heated political battle Hilary’s logo was simple, straightforward, and effective as it was able to be manipulated and changed to evoke different emotional responses and bring to light several different hot button issues. This a strong example of an opportunity where using a logo system makes logical sense as a communication tool and as a marketing tool.

Check out this interesting video on our Think Visual blog that has the creator of the Hilary Clinton logo explaining logo systems and logos in general with greater detail. It’s an interesting video that encompasses what makes a logo successful – What makes a Truly Great Logo.

Although an ever changing logo is great in theory, is it really a sustainable way for effective storytelling and communication? The key to a strong logo system is being reactive to current events and having a team of designers on hand ready to implement changes. This is not a reality for most businesses therefore logo systems may be reserved for large organizations with massive budgets.

What is for certain though is that logo systems have opened up a unique and creative challenge for designers to tackle. The pace at which technology has changed has continued to create a vastly different landscape in regards to logo treatment and we can be sure that this trend will continue.