The goal of an effective business logo is simple: To represent a brand in an easy-to-understand, instantly recognizable way.
Logo designers are constantly challenged to meet those standards while devising memorable and unique visual portrayals of a brand. When in search of inspiration for the perfect logo, how much attention should small business owners and logo designers give to trends?
To give context and consideration to the top logo trends shaping 2017, we caught up with Cono Fusco, the Creative Director for Deluxe Logo Design.
If anyone can claim to have mastered the art of logo design, it’s Cono. It was 25 years ago when he focused his creative agency solely on logos and quickly became the largest logo design company on the web. Today, he leads Deluxe’s team of talented in-house designers in working with small businesses that seek a high-quality, personalized experience that delivers logo concepts in five days.
We asked Cono to start off by sharing his perspective on the evolution of design trends.
Cono: The logo designer’s job is to tell a story using shapes, colors, fonts and style to attract a client’s target market and make those consumers feel something specific about the brand. To do this, and do it well, a designer must go on a journey throughout their career, constantly looking for new sources of inspiration and adapting to trends.
In the late 1990s, logos incorporated many colors and fonts. Frankly, the designs tried to do too much. At the same time, clip art was the foundation for many of the logos created during this time. Clients loved clip art!
In the early 2000s, logos utilized fewer artificial effects. The idea was to push designs to be as creative and different as possible. However, just a few years into the decade, we saw many companies revamp or redesign those logos, creating a new trend: one color, simple font, clean lines and easily transferable to social media.
Today, all logos are tested on how they will render on social media before determining whether the logo will work for other purposes and across other channels.
Looking forward, we can expect to see designers generate more custom fonts and color combinations that will truly stand out. I also think we’ll see a lot of well-known companies changing the look and feel of their logos, in an effort to survive and distinguish themselves from other brands.
In their attempts to hit the golden mean between relevant and creative each year, designers create trends that dominate the industry. Here are a few prognostications for 2017:
Industry analysts point to a shift toward get-to-the-point minimalism in both images and copy, which offers a practical side benefit of easier reproduction.
Cono: One of the reasons businesses have opted to create or redesign their logos to fit this “simple and minimalist” trend is social media. Profile images are tiny on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, which means that a logo needs to be legible when it’s small.
Years ago, clients only wanted their logos to look great. Now, clients want their logos to work great. A logo needs to work well across the board — not only in print, but also on promotional items, a website, mobile devices and social media. Our clients are promoting their brands on multiple channels on a daily basis. A simple, minimal design works best because it will display correctly everywhere it’s used.
2. Drawn by hand or custom illustrations
Whether used by itself or in combination with more digital art, designers say handcrafted typography and illustration add personality and character to a logo, often imparting a whimsical touch. Consider the authenticity and consideration lent to this “Heros Heating Cooling and Plumbing” emblem by its personally drawn effect.
3. Optimized negative space
This technique, used by both Pinterest and Instagram, can provide a memorable way of calling attention to a company’s attributes. Sometimes it’s utilized to incorporate slightly hidden meanings or symbolism. A recent Lifebuzz.com article discusses how the Toyota logo includes three ellipses that represent the heart of the customer, the heart of the product and the heart of the technology progress, while the latest Pepsi emblem featuring a white swoosh in the middle supposedly draws on FengShui, the Renaissance, the theory of relativity and other themes.
Google, Pixar and others have used this fun and eye-catching option to great advantage online, in movies and on TV. That’s not surprising, given the emergence of video as the fastest-growing display ad format.
Cono: This is an area of design that we are paying a lot of attention to. Video and animation will take over designs and layouts, since more and more people use their mobile devices.
This style aims to denote authenticity, nostalgia, personality and hopefully emotion, often by combining modern flat elements with old-school shapes and designs.
Cono: The vintage look usually centers around a script font. This works well for a few industries but does not transfer easily to social media, which is too bad because, for a designer, this is a fun style. Keep in mind, when you’re starting your business, avoid selecting a logo style based solely on what you like in other logos or brands. You’ll be much happier if you design for how you will be using it today and in two to four years from now.
6. Line art
Line-based designs can come across as modern and relaxed, and they are often popular with cutting-edge new companies. These clean, clear designs convey stability and elegance.
Cono: This type of logo is great, not only because it is simple, but also because it is inexpensive to print and can easily be used on any type of material, from stickers and stamps to signage and social media. It works well at any size and in any color. You see this style of design in the restaurant industry or for products that are packaged. This is definitely one of my favorite styles.
This old standard has aged well due to its ability to look good on multiple channels and in multiple sizes. Analysts believe the patterns, textures, shadows and gradients formerly used will turn into simpler lines and colors that look bold and vibrant on the page. Widely recognizable examples include Microsoft and Xbox.
Cono: When we design logos, we always like to include one version using this style even if the client doesn’t ask for it. I find it is important to see your logo in the simplest form and this is it. A flat design is clean, easy to reproduce, easy to remember and often one color. This is by far my favorite style at the moment.
8. Letter stacking
Designers are placing words with different fonts on top of each other, sometimes aiming for a visual challenge that grabs viewers’ attention. The vertical placement allows them to break down long sections of text so they’re easier to absorb, sometimes using different fonts to great effectiveness. Here’s an example from the American Library Association.
9. Use of circles and other geometric shapes
Geometry is an evolving trend. Whether it’s colored triangles or simple circles, presented alone or combined, these shapes form a strong and timeless theme. We expect to see these shapes simplify overly complicated designs.
10. Use of ombré
Ombré is a shading technique that gradually blends one color hue to another. Not only has this been a recent trend in hair and fashion, but it’s a colorful approach in logo design, too. Ombré is commonly used to symbolize change or movement, and technology has made this much easier to achieve than in the past.
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11. Use of recurring symbols
Symbols possess a universal quality. When used in logo design, viewers grasp the meaning immediately and are able to recall the image better after time. Popular symbols are often nature-based and paired with wordmarks. Above all else, a symbol — even a common one — must be relevant to the company using it.
Cono: In the late ’90s everyone wanted swooshes, so they could emulate Nike’s success. It was crazy. We had a hard time letting clients know that their logo should mean something to their customers and tell a story about their business. Sometimes that story is something nobody knows. For example, the three dots in the Domino’s Pizza logo represent the three stores they had when the logo was created. That’s a detail about the company that was represented symbolically in the logo.
12. Use of links
Links denote strength, unification and stability. In logo design, interlocking graphics often symbolize the joining of one idea or entity to another and may imply a synergistic relationship between two sides or faces of a company. Stylistically, links provide depth to a design by combining or overlapping elements.
13. Half and half
Half and half is the two-dimensional result of splitting a symmetrical image into two colors or tones. These divided designs offer a bit more depth and visual interest to a classic flat design, and may be used symbolically to hint at a company’s dual function or mission.
14. Shield shapes
One offshoot of the vintage trend is the use of shield shapes, traditionally seen in the classic coat of arms. Because the shield represents strength and security, this style is particularly attractive to educational institutions, sports teams, automotive businesses and companies that wish to communicate a sense of power. But this nostalgic imagery also evokes thoughts of tradition and longevity, and it would be the perfect choice for a company that wants to allude to its staying power or history.
15. Wide styling
The human eye is thought to read and recognize wide, horizontal information faster than tall and skinny imagery. Logos that are wider horizontally are said to expand the imagination. Because wide styling pushes boundaries outward, this type of design can benefit companies that are focused on innovation and want to communicate that forward-thinking attitude through their logo.
Slicing an image or letters in a logo to create a cross-sectional perspective can symbolize transparency, various layers or functions of a company, or just an interesting visual spin. Want to add some weight or volume to a minimalist design? Slices create three-dimensionality. This technique, which gives designs a modern, industrial feel, is especially fitting for companies in the tech industry or game manufacturers.
17. Spot pics
The circle is a memorable and recognizable form, which makes it great option for logos in general. In a spot pic design, icons or graphics fit inside circles in a number of different and exciting ways. Circles signify unity, community and timelessness, and with spot pics, those qualities become entwined with the graphics that are paired with the shape.
18. Line dashes and dots
In 2017, we can expect to see a new take on minimalist line art — line dashes. Line dashes can add depth or texture to a flat design. They also demonstrate motion. In monochromatic logos, dashes or dots add variation. Symbolically, dashed or dotted lines convey impermanence or that there is more to come.
19. Off-shifted elements
Add some energy to a typographic design by off-shifting the text. In this approach, letters are strategically placed in unexpected and unconventional ways. The result is often surprising, playfully chaotic and almost puzzle like, as viewers are forced to spend a little more time studying the letters and mentally piecing them together.
Want to grab and hold your viewers’ attention? This hypnotic trend is the way to go. Looping graphics add an interactive element to a logo, as viewers’ eyes inevitably end up following all of the intricate twists and turns. These never-ending loops, reminiscent of the infinity symbol, suggest movement, continuity or the perfection of a process. Because of the repetitive nature of the technique, designs with stimming are said to be comforting.
The best logos are both timeless and current, but designing a logo that is both can be tricky. In order to create a great logo — one that’s distinctive, memorable and capable of communicating brand values — it’s important to study design movements, like the ones listed here, and adapt them to fit your business’s unique image and voice. Even as we begin to see these trends take root, we can rest assured that creative designers and business owners will find ways to add new twists to each one. As they innovate, they push logo design, and branding in general, in fascinating directions.
Cono: Being a designer, it’s always exciting to look at other designers’ work and see how they take shapes, sizes, colors and layouts, and make them their own. I love when I see a simple yet clever design.
They say art is creating something that resonates with you and others by using the tools at your disposal. Musicians have their instruments, and painters have their paints and canvases. As designers, we have our computers, and there is no better feeling than creating the perfect logo for our clients!
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Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in November 2016 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and relevance.