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What are the elements of a good logo?

The elements that make up a good logo.
The elements that make up a good logo.Graphics courtesy of Jen Wolfe Creative

A logo identifies a business’s commercial brand through the use of shape, fonts, color or images. Sadly, too often logos are far more complicated than they should be. Something happens when people begin creating, and they are seized by the need to add more colors, more words, more details, when, in fact, simple is better.

Here are two examples of perfect logos and everyone in the U.S. will recognize them. The golden arches of McDonald’s and the red and white logo of Target stores. They are simple, uncluttered by words, one or two colors at most and extremely memorable. They are easily reproduced in print, online and on clothing and accessories, plus they even look good in black and white.

Of course, McDonald’s and Target are billion dollar companies, but the same rules apply across the board, from monster corporations to small Mom and Pop shops. Here is neat example of a simple but effective logo for a real estate developer in Phoenix. When you take a look at the logo on the website of The Collections at Two Biltmore Estates, the web designer was able to have the logo change color as the slideshow plays. Nice twist.

Another local Phoenix company, Arizona Total Rewards (an organization for HR professionals), has a nice clean logo. Again, it is easily replicated in various media and the colors are simple and warm.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you are starting a business or are redesigning or refreshing your look (something every business should do at least every 10 years, possibly more often).

1. You should be able to describe the logo in one sentence — a big yellow M or golden arches for McDonalds, or a red bullseye image for Target.

2. A logo must be memorable — too complicated and people will get befuddled by all the detail and forget it. The yellow aches of McDonald’s certainly stick in everyone’s mind.

3. A logo must look good in color as well as in black and white. Even more important, potential customers must be able to recognize your brand with or without color.

4. And finally, the logo must be scaleable — that means it must be effective and recognizable when just an inch in size all the way up to giant billboard size.