7 Keys to Creating a Brand Logo That Works Absolutely Everywhere

Especially in the mobile-social era

A logo should instantly trigger a consumer's recognition of a brand and all it represents. But there are a lot of brands out there and, consequently, a lot of logos.

Just take a stroll down a busy urban street—or a scroll down your Facebook feed. It can bring on a case of logo overload.

So what is a brand just setting out and trying to make its mark—quite literally—to do? Surely, it needs to create a logo that not only succeeds in print like its full namesake, "logotype," suggests but also on digital platforms.

Here's what brands should take into account to succeed:

1. Be mobile-minded

Brands have mostly grasped the importance of mobile but not to the extent they need to with logos. Karl Isaac, head of brand strategy and innovation at Adobe, said too many designers forget that mobile is more than just a channel—it's now the primary customer experience.

"Brands need to consider what the experience is like on a small screen and across a range of screens, how they'll appear in the app store, what they can do to increase discoverability, and how the experience lends itself to social sharing at the very beginning of the product and brand definition," he explained. "In a world where the app is the ad, your mobile brand strategy needs to be defined from the beginning."

2. Agility is crucial in the digital era

Brands have more flexibility now than they did in the print-only age, and they need to take advantage of it.

"In digital, where new touch points arise daily and vary drastically in scale and experience, brands need to be open, flexible and iterative," said Isaac. "Facebook recently subtly changed its typeface, and Twitter evolved its logo quite a bit since its original crowdsourced mark. …These updates can happen more fluidly and with less expense than in the print-based era."

3. Socialize—with relevance

You want your logo to thrive on social media, and that means making it relevant with accompanying copy or offers. Dave Tupper, creative director at digital agency Huge, said that using a brand correctly on a social platform has less to do with the development of a logo and more to do with the content the brand is sharing on its channels.

"Nike doesn't simply plaster its swoosh all over its social channels but instead pairs it with relevant content through copy or imagery that tells a larger, more impactful story," he said.

4. Put brand essentials first

Don't start designing with aesthetics in mind. Think about the essentials of your brand, and let the qualities be your guidebook.

Isaac pointed to a quote from famed logo designer Paul Rand as a guiding light: "A logo is less important than the product it signifies; what it means is more important than what it looks like." 

Isaac said, "Start with a clear understanding of the business and product challenges and opportunities, the competitive landscape, and the key functional, emotional, and purpose-based brand differentiators. The starting point must be about business and product outcomes, not aesthetics, as these will serve as the criteria to evaluate the success of the designs." 

5. Don't get complicated

Marketers may find that they have so much to say to consumers that they risk complicating their logo, which should be quick and easy to visually digest.

"We often see that marketers ask a logo to say too much or do too much [and] overcomplicate [it]," said Stewart Devlin, CCO at Red Peak Branding. "The best logos communicate one thing and do it well."

Brands may want to also consider keeping the design physically lean, said Alessandro Sisto, senior visual designer at product discovery platform and reviews site, Influenster. "The leaner the design, the more it'll be able to translate across multiple platforms like the Web, print and mobile," Sisto said.

6. Tell a story

Some of the best logos tell a story at a glance—and have a bit of creative fun. For example, as Isaac from Adobe pointed out, "The smile in the Amazon logo extends from A to Z, or the arrow in the FedEx logo between the E and the X may not be something you see at first glance. Yet, its purpose is revealed over time."

7. Take a risk

Being simple certainly doesn't rule out being bold. Diane DePaolis, evp and creative director, branding at ad agency FCB, encourages brands to be brave if they want to make a truly lasting impact.

"Iconic logos challenge the status quo and push the boundaries of any industry, and the ability for the client to be somewhat outside of their comfort zone takes courage and conviction," DePaolis said.