Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
The Makings of a Great Logo (pixelapse.com)
254 points by lominming on May 29, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 74 comments

I've got a feeling that a big part of our sentiment towards the logo comes after the company succeeds. That's when stories, associations and emotions reinforce our perception of the brand as a whole.

Just imagine Apple producing crappy, cheap devices. Would we still consider their logo awesome? I doubt it.

Absolutely. Logo branding is a near perfect locus for business cargo-culting: "clearly great companies that are iconic and recognizable have great logos, so we need a great logo to become iconic and recognizable too!". The problem --as with most intractable "design wisdom" nowadays-- is that there is very little empirical evidence to support either way ---cf the 1875 Bass Brewery logo[1], (arguably) precisely the kind of meaningless "business name slapped on a generic shape" being argued against in the article.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bass_Brewery

What I think is interesting is in a lot of cases the older logos have the more 'flat' style which now is back in fashion and so looks futuristic/better.

Wow, I'm totally impressed. I thought for the longest time that there must have been some kind of design renaissance back in the 70s and 80s that produced all the logos I found iconic. Turns out it was all one guy.

Well, it was also Paul Rand.

Or graffiti artist Chuy Ramirez

The Bell System Logo is actually still being used by Verizon on payphones and hard hats (depending on region), it was used by Bell South until 2006, and currently all of the former RBOC's have the rights to use the logo, meaning SBC, CenturyLink and Verizon. Even the Saul Bass AT&T 'Deathstar' logo evolved subtly over time.

I'd also love to see a mention of Paul Rand too, he did the IBM, UPS, Westinghouse, NeXT, and ABC logos for example.

His sketches and the back-and-forth with Kubrick on The Shining's poster are pretty fascinating: http://www.thefoxisblack.com/2012/12/11/saul-bass-poster-ske...

I love the Girl Scouts logo. Very unique and clever.

At a glance I thought the redesign was supposed to be a group of trees. It wasn't until I looked at the original I realized what it was supposed to be.

The Quaker logo sure took a beating in its "revision."

I had noticed neither that the arrow in Amazon's logo points from A to Z nor that the arrow resembles a smile. My guess is that the only competitive advantage resulting from such design flourishes is the free press you get from designers discussing your logo.

Have you ever noticed the arrow in the FedEx logo? I'm always surprised how few people have "seen" it.

Go look now: https://www.google.com/#q=fedex+logo if you don't know what I'm talking about

No matter how many times people show me that arrow, I just cannot see it. Maybe I'm a visual idiot.

Helps, but this arrow is really invisible, because you see the letters first, not the arrow - your brain is not wired to decode letters this way. The Amazon logo is more clever in that sense.

Personally, I prefer the taiwanese recycling symbol: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Recycle_symbol_Taiwan.svg

Can't believe I never caught that until now... and now I can't "unsee" it. Impressive.

Whoa, that is so well done that it is almost subliminal.

Wow. I wonder if there is any subliminal power to the FedEx and Amazon arrows. Shouldn't be too hard to AB test, which makes me think it was deliberate.

Here's a good write-up on the Fedex logo..


Very interesting. Thank you for sharing! They're a very early adopter of technology enabled supply chain integration, so it's interesting to see where else they are on the leading edge.

Because you didn't notice it, it must not have any effect? Isn't that like saying because you don't notice a site or city's layout, it has no effect? Or that because you didn't notice the addition of cumin to a dish, it had no effect?

That's a silly analogy. The effect of a logo is the impression on people. The layout of a city has concrete effects that people will notice regardless of whether they are aware of the layout itself or not. It's questionable whether an arrow in your logo that nobody notices will have any effect apart from designers talking about your logo.

A logo is nothing like a city layout.

Completely agree that the Amazon logo is a pretty questionable example of a "great logo" and the story doesn't really improve it. I'm increasingly often thinking that the Twitter logo is genius. That little bird is so recognizable – and endearing!

I didn't notice the arrow in Amazon's logo points from A to Z, but that's because it's pointing from A to O.

Shouldn't downvote someone for pointing out a fact - it does point to O. I've messed about with it in Photoshop to make it point more at the Z but it ended up looking visually unbalancedso I guess there's some designer's license at work here.

Alpha->Omega then

I guess the logo designer failed to solve this issue.

A to Z comes up quite a bit with Amazon. The claim is that "Amazon's selection goes from A to Z".

Amazon has a development center named A2Z. There's also Lab126... Lab 1-26... Lab 'A'-'Z'.

The e's in the Heineken logo are rotated a little to represent a 'smile'. Not a lot of people will see this but the logo gets a 'softer' feeling because of it so people will somehow notice it.

The problem with the Amazon logo is the swooshy arrow is a massive cliche, and whether or not they have clever reasons for the design, the result looks like yet another unimaginitive cookie cutter text+swoosh emblem.


It’s a lot like the difference between shitty code that is barely held together and happens to work, and really well written code that is beautiful from end to end.

It’s sometimes invisible to the user, but these details are indicative of a software (or company or brand) that is intrinsically well-designed.

(another example I’ve seen bandied about is shitty wood veneer vs well-crafted hardwood furniture)

While I never noticed it pointing A->Z, I did always recognize it as a smile. I guess it depends on your perspective.

Don't know how you'd quantify this, but I imagine people have a subliminal response to the smile whether they know they see it or not. Like pleasant chord construction in music. I've also heard it's the reason watches in magazines are always set to a time around 10:10 or 2:50 to make it seem like a smiling face.

I also never noticed the arrow in the Amazon logo went from A to Z, bu I wonder if it had a subconscious effect... (Same with the FedEx arrow before I noticed it)

The logos of Path and Pinterest are very similar.

Pinterest was actually designed by Mike Deal and fontographer Juan Carlos Pagan. The letter P looks like a needle & thread (i.e. a pin).


Path... is a font.


Yeah but you don't pin things to bulletin boards using needle and thread so while clever, it doesn't really match their concept like you suggest.

Pinterest is about the ideas and projects that are being pinned more than just about the act of pinning.

A needle and thread is a nice way to represent those ideas that are being shared.

You're right in the sense that comparing a logo to a font isn't like-to-like.

However, his point for me is wider than that - if the logo triggers a mental link to something else, even if it's a different concept, that's potentially very bad.

The author is referring in lay terms to the legal concept of trademark distinctiveness (ie, not-being-generic-ness) rather than the concept of conflict between two brands (a different legal principle, albeit one that is clearly important). I don't know whether or not this is deliberate, but either way it's done very well.

The articles doesn't give examples of why you need to test your logo in black and as small size. I think some logo designers only focus on digital so here some non digital examples:

Black logo examples:

  Logo on a Fax
  Logo on a photo copy
  Logo on a black-only laser printer
Small logo examples:

  Logo on a pen
  Logo on a USB drive

"All these logos are sized to fit in 16 x 16 pixels." - I was surprised how crisp these look for 16 pixels, then noticed the file was actually 32 x 32 and shows up as such on a retina display. It's a fair point that only the first four logos are recognizable when 16 pixels though.

Honestly, that seems very fair. Because of the way retina screens upsize images you actually get a clearer view of how it looks at 16 pixels in a standard screen by being served the 32px when using a retina one.

Can you explain what you mean with that? Surely an upscaled 16px image is more comparable to a crisp 16px image than a crisp 32px image is to a crisp 16px image, unless you want to argue that the 16px images are hand-crafted for crispness over form.

I really like Dockers logo, its cute and it works perfectly for a system that let you manage, and "ship containers".

There is blog-post here about how they got their logo: http://blog.docker.io/2013/06/announcing-new-docker-style/

One downside is that it reminds me of the "fail whale".

I want to like how it's clever, but I keep thinking it doesn't seem very comfortable for the whale, and if its back is naturally that flat or maybe it's because of the blocks that are there.

    it should be hand drawable 
    Keeping it Simple
    Do not use multi-color (meaning no color transitions and shading, but can have more colors )
    Should look good in B&W
    Pattern should be easily recognizable

The DHL logo [0], it's odd but why do leaning or italic bold letters give a sensation of movement? Oh, and a logo from a dnb label [1].

[0] http://www.dhl.co.uk/en.html [1] http://www.metalheadz.co.uk

That javascript one is fantastic.

edit: Apparently I'm Blasé.

>> Casual script fonts like Comic Sans are probably best left for fun and animated companies such as toy companies.

Except Comic Sans _itself_, which isn't appropriate for anything.

Actually, my mum uses it all the time. She's a primary school teacher, and it works great for children's worksheets, seeing as the 'a' is formed the way we learn to write it at school. Yes there's other fonts with 'a's like that, but not ones that are available on all computers by default.

This list should be in the reverse order.

I especially expected the part about the silhouette being recognizable to be at the top.

Dammit. I misread this as "The Makings of Great Lego"

Yet another disappointment. Sigh.

I'm ashamed that I read WWF as the wresting version rather than the wildlife version :(

It hasn't been WWF for more than a decade for this reason.

(I've never watched wrestling before, I swear)

Actually that is Windows Workflow Foundation.

The WWF (the wildlife people) have some amazing lawyers. Not only did they defeat Microsoft, but they also defeated Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H [1].

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Attitude_Era

Please, let's pretend that this thing doesn't exist.

Maybe we should ask Will.I.Am regarding this matter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gFA7DUM008

I wonder what possessed them to choose a domain name that most closely evokes a medical condition.

Can we talk about the line height and weight on the font of their blog? Hate to be a classic HN commenter, but it makes it almost impossible to read on mobile. Very little of my screen is actual black pixels, mostly just white space between lines and characters...


Design commentary in comments seems to be taboo here lately.

I would call it more "design complaining" and it honestly gets tiring because in every single thread there's someone complaining about how a header or slightly too thin font or or less-than-perfect margins or some other minor nitpick makes the site "impossible to read".

This isn't a comment about layout, it's a comment saying that the content can't be read because it's following that current trend of gray-on-white (that only Apple monitors seem to be able to present as intended). Sure, nitpicks about layout are annoying, but it's perfectly reasonable for someone to complain that they can't access the content.

I read this article on an android phone in chrome, and while the text is a bit gray, it was still very easy to read. Unless your settings are way off, I can't imagine the colors are impossible to read outside of absurd hyperbole.

Something doesn't have to be "impossible to read" to make it inaccessible. Something written in Russian is inaccessible to me, as I don't read Russian. But it's not "impossible to read" - I can learn Russian; I can ask a friend; or most easily, I can use a translation tool to convert it to English. None of these are absurd hyperbole, but the content would be inaccessible without putting effort into it. When it comes to design, you generally want to avoid barriers to the user experience - and given that this is an article on a design topic concerning approachability and accessibility, my opinion is that it's fair game. Also, not everyone has 'normal' vision, which is another point to remember - text that is 'a little off' can be much worse for someone who is already near the boundaries.

In any case, it looks like the author has gone back and darkened the text (or am I imagining things?)

You know, its good when says "On a side note, the website's font and layout are not optimized for the mobile. If the author's seeing this, please do something about it". It's even better to comment on the blog post, the author can see it!

But not when someone wants to start discussing about it. It's been a headache to many since months now. Responsive websites are not always perfect. And HN's not the right place to discuss about it.

The example of Pinterest and Path is for what? their logo is bad? I noticed that a lot of corp are using a single letter as their logo, such as Mashable, even hacker news. Recognizable is important, but hard. I upvote Pinterest logo over Path, and I like Twitter birds!

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact