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As designers, my team commonly gets requests to create a “simple” logo design. Unfortunately, the process of designing a simple logo is not simple at all.
Although there have been instances where the perfect solution to a branding challenge is arrived at with ease (Paula Scher’s Citi logo or Raymond Loewy’s Exxon Logo—purportedly having origins as a pencil sketch on a napkin), more often than not, creating a “simple” logo takes exhaustive hours of research, thought, multiple iterations and rounds of refinement to develop a design solution. Logo design is, simply put, hard.There are endless factors to take into consideration.
Despite the challenges, below are a few examples of simple and effective logos that undoubtedly took more time than anyone (other than a designer) could ever imagine.
Target’s red bull’s-eye logo has become iconic. The basic typography makes its absence almost unnoticed when the Target symbol appears alone, and the simplicity of the mark as a whole embodies the brand.
There’s deception in the ultra simplicity of the FedEx logotype. As most know, there is more to this logo than the words alone—the negative space formed between the E and x create a forward-pointing arrow. Genius! The design is bold and modern with a visual twist that has people taking notice of this thriving brand.
In 1950, the Department of Transportation, recognizing the need for a consistent set of symbols, hired AIGA to develop a clear, concise, and universally understood series of images to be used in airports and other transportation venues. These symbols are among the best examples of pared down yet powerful design. Developed over 60 years ago, these timeless and perfectly simple designs (which took multiple years to complete) are still universally used. With no words and minimalist shapes and lines, each of these icons speak volumes. All 50 symbols are available for free download at http://www.aiga.org/symbol-signs/
Obama ‘08 logo
Regardless of your political views, President Obama’s 2008 campaign logo was a winner. The centerpiece of the logo is a graphic element that evokes the letter “O” in the candidate’s name along with other elements reflective of the campaign’s themes of hope and change—a sun rising over a clear blue sky and a patriotic flag-draped landscape. Often, an effort to combine multiple elements in a design will fall short of its intent; this one does it simply and beautifully. This logo design was a critical component of the Obama brand that was masterfully created over the course of the presidential campaign.
What could be more elementary than a yellow outlined rectangle? Based on the original (and current) magazine design done in 1915, National Geographic’s logo captures the iconic and time-spanning visual element which has become synonymous with the brand. This logo is simple yet brilliant.
I love this logo as an example of a simple, straight forward design that is also smart and functional. Beyond the sleek image itself, the long-lasting success of this logo is due to the fact that its design reflects those qualities found in the products behind the brand. This logo still looks current, even though it has remained mostly unchanged since it was created in 1938.All of these logos, in fact, look simple. Most people could fairly easily recreate them. But there needs to be an understanding and appreciation for the fact that the process of getting to these solutions was complex. If you want a clean, uncomplicated, thoughtful logo, it’s ok to say so. But if you want to look smart, stay away from the word simple.
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