Gearing up to design a logo? It’s the most visible face of your new brand and business. Whether you know it or not, you’ve got a secret partner that will make a big impact on your design process: Digital technology itself. The evolution of logos over the years – and the study of logos that seem to remain timeless – are especially important to consider here.
Digital technology is subtly influencing the nature of logo design. For entrepreneurs who aren’t professional graphic designers, that’s a big plus.
Online do-it-yourself (DIY) logo-building tools give you considerable creative freedom but also guardrails, preventing some huge blunders. When you’re taking the free-or-low-cost DIY route to logo design, these built-in constraints mean you are much more likely to get a professional-looking result with your new logo.
Digital capabilities are shaping design trends in another important way, too. These days your logo must look good on smaller mobile screens and across all the social media sites — so your new logo design will need to be simple and easily transformed into multiple sizes and formats.
One of the biggest challenges to branding in the era of 140 characters is that, on average, customers today have 9 second attention spans. That’s on par with the memory of a goldfish. (The main difference: Goldfish don’t have thumbs. They can’t tap and swipe the screen and likely don’t use PayPal.)
To gain a competitive advantage, you have to get to know the design qualities that make a timeless logo. For starters, we’ll take a quick tour of 5 timeless logo examples and show you what traits make logos both internet-friendly and timeless.
5 timeless logo examples
The evolution of logos that have managed to stick around through the years holds important lessons for logo-design decision makers. Take a look at five all-time standout brand marks: Bass Ale, Coca-Cola, Chanel, Shell, and Nike.
On January 1, 1876, the Bass & Co brewery received the very first legal trademark of a logo. This nearly century-old brewery was first to take advantage of a unique marketing opportunity. The 1875 Trade Marks Registration Act was the beginning of formal registration of trademarks at the UK Patent Office.
While the Bass Ale logo is the oldest trademarked logo, over its long life it has been revised and modernized. It’s amazing that today, you can still recognize it as a descendant of the original 1876 mark.
What makes the Bass Ale logo timeless?
• Simple abstract graphic: A single red triangle is clear and easy to interpret.
• Two-color design: Black with a red accent translates on any medium.
• Strong typography: Memorable, distinctive script recalls the brand’s trust-worthy history.
You can’t go down the memory lane of the evolution of logos without a close-up on Coca-Cola.
What you’ll notice about the Coca-Cola wordmark is how little it’s changed since its creation 125 years ago. At the same time, the brand has adapted to popular cultural trends, like the dynamic ribbon introduced in 1969.
More things it does right: Coca-Cola keeps to black and red for its color palette. It also provides a square version alongside its horizontal logo, giving the brand more flexibility to fit different layout requirements.
What makes the Coca-Cola logo timeless?
• Strong typography: Not many logos are as recognizable as the distinctive Coca-Cola script.
• Single-color design: The logo was designed for black and later rendered in red.
• Multiple layouts: Horizontal logos grant a perception of longevity to the brand, but when the occasion calls for a square or upright logo, Coca-Cola has an answer.
First used in 1904, the pictorial logo of Shell gasoline has evolved over the company’s history, becoming more digital-friendly over time. It shows us that the evolution of logos without changing the core qualities of the original mark is very much possible.
At first black and white and photo-realistic, the line drawing shed its excessive detail. It became simpler and took on a two-tone color over the years. As the logo matured, the brand name became more distanced from the logo image, allowing the graphic to stand alone in digital formats.
What makes the Shell logo timeless?
• Simple pictorial graphic: Today’s shell is perfectly symmetrical and designed with clean lines and curves.
• Two-color design: No more than 2 colors in a logo are recommended. Yellow + red is a classic color pairing.
• Independent icon: The brand name is positioned in the logo in such a way that it can be removed without changing the integrity of the icon.
Introduced in 1925, the styled-initial Chanel logo has remained unchanged ever since. It’s a classic combination mark — brand name with styled initial symbol.
What makes the Chanel logo timeless?
• Simple initial letter graphic: This logo demonstrates the memorable effect of a styled initial symbol.
• Single-color design: Design a logo in black and white for ultimate clarity. You can always add color later.
• Strong typography: The sans serif font is elegant, timeless, bold and balanced.
A logo born at the dawn the digital age, the now-familiar Nike “swoosh” conveys dynamic power and athletic movement. From its 1971 introduction to 1995, the logo combined the graphic swoosh and the brand name.
International branding campaigns pushed the distinctive graphic into the position of such a ubiquitous recognition that today the symbol can stand alone without the brand name.
What makes the Nike logo timeless?
• Simple abstract graphic: Abstract symbols are usually reserved for companies with big budgets for branding campaigns, but when you have a winner, well, just do it.
• Single-color design: Black and white design communicates on any medium from apparel to small screen.
• Independent icon: Most Fortune 500 companies have multiple logo versions in use. Every brand today needs a logo version with and without text.
Logos and brand staying power
Can a logo affect consumer perception of brand staying power? Science says, “Yes!” According to research, we connect brands with long or horizontal logos to extended periods of time. Whether this is good or bad depends on the product.
If it’s a product where a long time conveys a return — steady results or performance over time, like a bank — a long (vertical) logo is a good thing.
If it’s a product where a long time conveys a cost — labor or time required, like a laundry detergent — a vertical logo could be a poor choice.
Square logos and circular logos hold subconscious meaning for consumers as well. Circle shapes are considered more social. Circular logos can engender feelings of warmth and belonging. Angular or square shapes are considered to emphasize the individual. Square logos contribute to perceptions of uniqueness.
Creating internet-friendly logos
Personal computers, desktop publishing, the internet and our pocket computers have made us all designers in one way or another.
Entrepreneurs in today’s digital age get to activate their brain’s left hemisphere when designing a presentation or pitch — at least from time to time.
Rules of thumb for designing your internet-friendly logo:
• 1- or 2-color design. Most common: Black with a single accent color.
• Simple graphic. Too much detail gets lost in low resolutions.
• Shrink the file. Simpler graphic = smaller digital-file size = faster display online.
• Think social. Every social site has different image dimensions. Gain advantage: Design a closely related “family of marks” that accommodates horizontal, landscape and square layouts.
• Independent icon version. Make a scaled down, clean and text-light version of your logo design to look your best on small mobile screens and in social media formats.
• Strong typeface. Experts consider “sans serif” lettering the most readable on digital screens, while distinctive scripts and custom graphic treatments — from Pepsi to Pinterest — have memorable staying power.
How to design a timeless logo
It’s been 150 years since the first logo was trademarked. Today, we still depend on these symbols to communicate ownership, association, and identity while creating recognition (awareness) and brand loyalty. In order to design a timeless logo like Coca-Cola or Shell, it’s essential to remember what a logo’s real ‘job’ is.
Classic, timeless logos create and build:
• Identity and ownership
• Recognition and awareness
• Brand loyalty and association
Understanding the commonalities among the most enduring logos gives your business a competitive edge. You can adapt the qualities of logos that have successfully stood the test of time with minimal changes to the original design.
Help your logo stand the test of time by sticking to the proven qualities of timeless logos:
• One or two-color design – It’s proven that fewer colors resonate better with users
• Simplified graphics – Less complicated imagery = better visual understanding
• Adapt it to various formats – Like Coca-Cola, you should ensure you can adapt your logo to both horizontal and vertical formats without changing the integrity of the logo
• Standalone icon – Your symbol or icon should be able to stand alone and represent your brand equally as well as it does with text, like the Shell logo
• Strong typeface – A font your users will recognize and remember can almost become synonymous with your brand, aiding you in making your logo “timeless”
Take advantage of the psychology of color, shape, and the elements of internet-friendly design to develop a logo that makes a lasting impression in the digital age.