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June 27, 2023   |   Design

Should a logo tell what the company does?

I had a conversation with a client the other day about whether or not a logo should directly represent what the company does. I see it as a philosophical question with a lot to be said on either side of the argument. So, I asked our art director, Max, about his opinion.

Max Hodlevskyi:

A logo is a visual representation of a company’s brand, and its role can vary based on the organization’s goals and strategy. Common wisdom suggests that a good logo ought to be simple and easy to recognize, eliminating the need for explanation, but there’s no hard rule here. Infusing a logo with a subtler meaning or symbolism can actually enrich the design by adding layers of depth and significance.

A logo that clearly conveys what a company does can help with immediate brand recognition. When people see the logo, they can quickly grasp the nature of the business or industry it represents. This can be particularly useful for new or lesser-known companies striving to make their mark in the market.

On the other hand, relying solely on the logo to convey the company’s purpose can be challenging, especially for complex or multifaceted operations. Sometimes, a logo may not be able to capture the full extent of a company’s offerings. In scenarios like these, companies might lean towards a more abstract or emblematic logo that represents their core values instead of directly illustrating their products or services.

Here are a few famous logos that require some level of explanation to fully understand their meaning. They are simple and well-designed, and the added meaning makes them more memorable and effective:

  • Apple’s logo is a simple apple silhouette with a bite. There are multiple theories about where the idea came from – from the biblical Adam and Eve to Newton’s apple, but none of them are officially confirmed by the company. Based on what we know about Apple’s values, we can say that the symbol effectively reflects the company’s commitment to innovation, simplicity and user-friendly technology.
  • Evernote’s logo – an elephant head – is a symbolic representation of the saying “Elephants never forget.” It communicates the company’s core function and purpose: to help users remember and organize their notes, ideas, and tasks.
  • TripAdvisor’s logo showcases an owl with a globe, symbolizing wisdom and worldwide travel.
  • NBC’s logo is a spread-out peacock, representing the network’s historic commitment to colour broadcasting.
  • FedEx’s logo incorporates an arrow formed by the letters “Ex,” symbolizing speed and efficiency in delivery services.

These examples illustrate different approaches to logo design, where some convey the company’s business explicitly, while others focus on symbolism or brand recognition.

Ultimately, the key is to find a balance between clarity and simplicity. A well-designed logo should be memorable, versatile, and aesthetically pleasing while aligning with the company’s brand identity and resonating with its target audience. Whether it explicitly portrays the company’s offerings or embodies its values, it should leave a positive and lasting impression on viewers.

Here’re some of the logos we designed at Oddbee:

Logotype and identity for a crypto startup

Balance is a software startup that provides custody solutions to financial companies engaged in cryptocurrency trading. Their logo is designed to resemble a percent sign, reimagined in the form of a yin-yang, thereby echoing the company’s name. It stands as a symbol of stability and trustworthiness, indicative of the company’s involvement in the financial sector. The curve nested within the percentage symbol takes the shape of a mathematical integral, serving as a nod to the company’s foundation in the software industry.

Logotype and identity for a crypto event

Logotype created for Crypto Camp, a blockchain event in Toronto that follows a more casual ‘un-conference’ format. The logo captures the spirit of the campfire setting, radiating a welcoming and inclusive vibe. This contrasts with the more typical crypto events, which often have an air of exclusivity and elitism.

Logotype and identity for a growing unit

Mod Garden is a self-sustainable growing unit for the modern, urban customer who cares about eating healthy, protecting the environment, and living a socially responsible lifestyle. The logo shows a plant in a box that replicates the shape and function of the product itself.

Logotype and identity for financial tech startup

Paays is a tech startup that launched as a service providing Canadians with financing on airline tickets and travel packages. The double ‘aa’ in the company name was originally a compromise in order to secure a short domain name. It posed a potential challenge for brand recognition. So, we decided to make it into a feature – if it stands out, customers will more likely remember the correct spelling. We made the double ‘aa’ into a dynamic motif – an element of visual identity that changes depending on the context and gives extra meaning to the design. It became the ‘portal’ to new exciting destinations and opportunities.

Logotype and identity for a SAAS tool

Judo is a SAAS product that offers marketers and designers intuitive and flexible tools for building in-app content with no code. We were tasked with giving Judo a strong visual identity that would resonate with fellow designers. We did a lot of research to really understand the client’s brand image, the product, and the design expectations of the market and created a series of concepts that could work both as a logo and an app icon. Considering the name, It was critical that people didn’t mix the brand up with martial arts. In the end, we picked a multitool to symbolize the limitless potential of Judo for its customers—providing both design and development tools in one place.

Logotype and identity for a SAAS-enabled construction factory

In developing Promise Robotics’ brand, we aimed to paint a picture of a future where robots perform most manual and routine work. Our research steered us toward the concepts of modularity, prefab assembly, and automation.

The logo is a clever combo of three parts that come together to form the letter P – a nod to the company’s initial. Each part of the logo is a mini production line in a factory where robots are piecing together parts of future homes, such as walls, roofs, and floors.

This laid the foundation for the visual identity, which, along with fonts, colours, and graphic elements, captures the essence of cutting-edge, hi-tech residential construction.

Ultimately, a logo doesn’t necessarily have to explicitly show what a company does. While it can certainly help with quick recognition, a well-designed logo goes far beyond that. It should also reflect the company’s values, resonate with the target audience, and leave a lasting impression. As you can see from the examples we’ve shown, infusing symbolism and metaphors in logo design not only adds layers of depth to the design, but also aids in creating a positive response from the viewers.

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