A logo is a graphical element (ideogram, symbol, emblem, icon, sign) that, together with its logotype (a uniquely set and arranged typeface) form a trademark or commercial brand. Typically, a logo's design is for immediate recognition. The logo is one aspect of a company's commercial brand, or economic or academic entity, and its shapes, colors, fonts, and images usually are different from others in a similar market. Logos are also used to identify organizations and other non-commercial entities.
Logo design is an important area of graphic design, and one of the most difficult to perfect. The logo (ideogram), is the image embodying an organization. Because logos are meant to represent companies' brands or corporate identities and foster their immediate customer recognition, it is counterproductive to frequently redesign logos.
Today there are many corporations, products, services, agencies and other entities using an ideogram (sign, icon) or an emblem (symbol) or a combination of sign and emblem as a logo. As a result, only a few of the thousands of ideograms people see are recognized without a name. It is sensible to use an ideogram as a logo, even with the name, if people will not duly identify it. Currently, the usage of both images (ideograms) and the company name (logotype) to emphasize the name instead of the supporting graphic portion, making it unique by its letters, color, and additional graphic elements.
Ideograms (icons, signs, emblems) may be more effective than a written name (logotype), especially for logos being translated into many alphabets; for instance, a name in the Arabic language would be of little help in most European markets. An ideogram would keep the general proprietary nature of the product in both markets. In non-profit areas, the Red Cross (which goes by Red Crescent in Muslim countries) is an example of an extremely well known emblem which does not need an accompanying name. Branding aims to facilitate cross-language marketing. The Coca-cola logo can be identified in any language because of the standards of color and the iconic ribbon wave.
Some countries have logos, e.g. Spain, Italy, Turkey and The Islands of The Bahamas, that identify them in marketing their country. Such logos often are used by countries whose tourism sector makes up a large portion of their economy.
Due to the design, the color, the shape, and eventually additional elements of the logotype, each one can easily be differentiated from other logotypes. For example, a box of Kellogg's cereals will be easily recognized in a supermarket's shelf from a certain distance, due to its unique typography and distinctive red coloring. The same will be true when one is at the airport looking for the booth of the Hertz Rent-A-Car company. The logotype will be recognized from afar because of its shape and its yellow color.
Some well-known logos include Apple Inc.'s apple with a bite missing, which started out as a rainbow of color, and has been reduced to a single color without any loss of recognition. Coca Cola's script is known worldwide, but is best associated with the color red; its main competitor, Pepsi has taken the color blue, although they have abandoned their script logo. IBM, also known as "Big Blue" has simplified their logo over the years, and their name. What started as International Business Machines is now just "IBM" and the color blue has been a signature in their unifying campaign as they have moved to become an IT services company.
There are some other logos that must be mentioned when evaluating what the mark means to the consumer. Automotive brands can be summed up simply with their corporate logo- from the Chevrolet "Bow Tie" mark to the circle marks of Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, to the interlocking "RR" of Rolls-Royce each has stood for a brand, and clearly differentiated the product line.
Other logos that are recognized globally: the Nike "Swoosh" and the Adidas "Three stripes" are two well-known brands that are defined by their corporate logo. When Phil Knight started Nike, he was hoping to find a mark as recognizable as the Adidas stripes, which also provided reinforcement to the shoe. He hired a young student (Carolyn Davidson) to design his logo, paying her $35 for what has become one of the best known marks in the world (she was later compensated again by the company).
Another logo of global renown is that of Playboy Enterprises. Playboy magazine claims it once received a letter at its Chicago, Illinois offices with its distinctive "bunny" logo as the only identifying mark, appearing where the mailing address normally appears.
Corporate identities are often developed by large firms who specialize in this type of work. However, Paul Rand is considered the father of corporate identity and his work has been seminal in launching this field. Some famous examples of his work were the UPS package with a string (replaced in March 2003) IBM, and NeXT Computer.
An interesting case is the refinement of the FedEx logo, where the brand consultants convinced the company to shorten their corporate name and logo from "Federal Express" to the popular abbreviation "Fed Ex". Besides creating a shorter brand name, they reduced the amount of color used on vehicles (planes, trucks) and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in paint costs. Also, the right-pointing arrow in the new logo is a subliminal hint of motion.
A well known Australian logo is the Woolworths apple that is the shape of and w and is green. It represents freshness.
Color is important to brand recognition, but it should not be an integral component to the logo design, which could conflict with its functionality. Some colors are formed/associated with certain emotions that the designer wants to convey. For instance, loud colors, such as red, that are meant to attract the attention of drivers on highways are appropriate for companies that require such attention. In the United States red, white, and blue are often used in logos for companies that want to project patriotic feelings. Green is often associated with health foods, and light blue or silver is often used to reflect diet foods. For other brands, more subdued tones and lower saturation can communicate dependability, quality, relaxation, etc.
Color is also useful for linking certain types of products with a brand. Warm colors (red, orange, yellow) are linked to hot food and thus can be seen integrated into many fast food logos. Conversely, cool colors (blue, purple) are associated with lightness and weightlessness, thus many diet products have a light blue integrated into the logo.
In 1898, tire manufacturer, Michelin, introduced the Michelin Man, a cartoon figure who was presented in many different ways, such as eating, drinking, and playing sports. By the early 21st century, other large corporations such as MTV, Google, Morton Salt and Saks Fifth Avenue had also adopted dynamic logos, that change over time and from setting to setting.