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A Logo Design to Remember

You may have heard someone say, “That is a good logo”, or “That isn’t a very good logo.” What determines a logo’s quality exactly? Are the wheels going to fall off of a logo after 10,000 miles or will it physically wear out from overuse? In logo design, the mechanics of the design can make one logo effective, while causing another to be fairly impotent. Logos are intended to be memorable and create brand recognition within a nanosecond. The faster the path to cognition, the more successful your brand will be at becoming lodged into a person’s memory bank. Alina Wheeler notes in her book Designing Brand Identity, that the sequence of cognition has three steps that occur: Shape, Color, Content.

logo design sequence-shape+color+content


First the brain processes and remembers shape. Shapes can be recognized and remembered quicker than written words which need to be decoded. Think about a child learning to read. The first step in learning to read is shape recognition. Shapes are then identified as letters, letters as sounds, and groupings of these sounds become words. Have you ever traveled to a foreign country where you weren’t able to speak or read the language. If you have, then you might recall that this first step of cognition becomes much more prevalent in your navigation and survival in that foreign environment. Unable to read, you start to depend on shape recognition to find eateries, directions, la salle de bain, etc.

The second step in cognition is color. Color is emotional and evokes feelings and moods. Most airlines choose navy blue uniforms for pilots, stewards and stewardesses. Navy blue evokes a feeling of both professionalism and yet friendliness. A brand that I have often admired for color consistency is the brand with a large green square for a logo–H & R Block. Anyone who knows the H & R Block brand will see that green block anywhere in the world and think, “Is it tax time?”

Third, which takes the bronze medal in the speed of cognition, is content. The brain takes longer to process language. You might be wondering how a company can effectively use only a name as a logo. If the name of a company is going to do the heavy lifting and be the logo icon, then designing the name with unique shape and color is critical in creating logo recognition and brand success. A local, Ohio-based company with an international presence that comes to mind is Diebold. Diebold uses a stylized D and a hand crafted letter design to create a logo from its name. Eddie Bauer has a flying goose as a logo icon, but more recognizable than the goose is the script font where the shape alone is branded in people’s minds. You could take the script font and change the words themselves and people would still think Eddie Bauer.

Whether refreshing a logo or designing a brand mark for the first time, it is important to consider the simple mechanics and the sequence of cognition: Shape, Color, Content. All three play an important part in crafting the cornerstone of your brand and creating a branding success story.