New Logo Design

Some things that entrepreneurs should consider when choosing a new logo name and design.
For the entrepreneur, a new logo design and name is as significant an event as a parent naming their first child. There is no doubt that it is a highly emotive experience and usually marks the start of the entrepreneur’s dream becoming a reality. Add some creative influences to the already established desire of the entrepreneur to stand out and be different and many a new logo design and name gets caught in the moment and fails to properly address the commercial realities to the long-term detriment of their enterprise .

In many ways, entrepreneurs are their own worst enemy when it comes to choosing a name and logo design for their enterprise. They often become too emotionally attached to a name or design and fail to take in the objective advice of experienced professionals or understand that there are some common metrics to be also considered from the already established and successful logos and brands.

This article has been written for entrepreneurs, in the hope that it challenges them to re-evaluate, prior to engaging an experienced professional, some of their logo design and name ideas in the light of what the Top 50 successful brands are actually practicing.

“A logo should look just as good in 15-foot letters on top of company headquarters as it does one sixteenth of an inch tall on company stationery.” Steven Gilliatt


Background – New logo design

I am a great admirer of artistry but it is not always the most appropriate choice for the machinery of business. As an entrepreneur and business person I have sometimes found the need to curb creative flair in myself and others whenever I believe that it may impact negatively on the long term commercial consequences and outcomes of my new ventures.

This tension between creativity and sound business is never more evident  than in the name choice and design of a new logo. The entrepreneur’s natural creative leaning is towards uniqueness and artistry, while sound business instincts should be looking for a logo design and name that is;
(1) capable of being trademarked
(2) easy to reproduce accurately 100% of the time 
(3) that translates easily and authentically unto all mediums 
(4) that provides future flexibility for a dynamic and changing organization and 
(5) is visually unambiguous and yet distinguishable like the branding iron on cattle herds.

Getting the balance right between creative uniqueness and these stated objectives is not that easy and so the vast majority of entrepreneurs will turn to other professionals to help them out. But before you engage an experienced professional, you will need to re-evaluate your logo name and design ideas to ensure that they are in the best interests of your long term business goals and are not just reflections of your current personal indulgences and/or artistic flair. These experienced professionals will be of great assistance in the logo design but most will leave the name choice up to you.
Now what may begin as a brilliant logo name and design in your mind today, could well have severe repercussions for your business in the long haul and well after you have left the art studio. It is far too costly to be changing logo designs and names after you have already built up even a small amount of market share. Better to get it as close to right at the start as possible. So, talk to other entrepreneurs who have traded and marketed a business from start-up to establishment. They will understand first-hand the pitfalls and benefits inherent in both good and bad logo designs and names. Get recommendations from these entrepreneurs to those professionals that they think understand and can advise on the long term ramifications of the choices that you will be making at the start.
As I see it, the logo and the brand are synonymous with our personal name and character. The name we are given at birth has no relationship with the character that we will become. The logo then is the business name which we will make into a brand depending on the choices and decisions we make about what our enterprise will stand for. Regardless of how creative we might be in communicating our message through our logo, its the reputation that our customers give us and how well we meet the implied promise in our offer, that gives our logo any real value anyway. The logo is created at a moment in time, but the value of the brand is built up over many years and is dependent on the level of satisfaction our customers receive from the goods and services we sell them. In this article we will just look at some of the elements that you need to consider when choosing a logo name and design for your business.

For me, some of the key things to consider with logos, as it is with personal names, is:

(1) others can remember it easily,
(2) others associate the name and design with us and
(3) they can spell and pronounce it correctly at all times.

One of the many name issues to consider is the problem with ambiguity in phonetics. If possible you should try to avoid a name with letter combinations that can be pronounced two different ways. So look at the name you intend to make your logo and make sure that it can not be pronounced differently. There may be only 26 letters in the English alphabet but there are 44 sounds. Watch out for (“c” carol, cindy) (“oo” pool, look, food) (“a” bat, hall, day) (“e” met, peel) (“CH” chin, stitch) (“o” log, so) (“u” cup, usual) (“p” plan, phone) (“g” gym, grape). Before you can afford a radio or TV budget to explain to the market the proper pronunciation of your logo name, you will be relying on the common read of your logo text.

So, if you are intent on choosing a commercially sound logo, then why not be guided by the principals established by those brands that have already reached the top and are rated as the top 50 logo designs in the world. I have taken as my source the report by Business Week on ‘Top 100 Global Brands Scoreboard’ published on their website [1]

It is not usual for entrepreneurs to copy the strategies and tactics of global corporations, but on the topic of choosing a name and designing a logo, I think we should. Firstly, because we can, secondly because it costs no more to get it right at the start and finally it can remain the one constant for stakeholders and customers as the venture grows, morphs and changes on its journey to hopefully become one of the world’s Top 50 brands and logos.
Anyway, by aligning your trademark with the top brands, at least gives your fledgling enterprise a perception of much greater size than you are, particularly on the level playing field that is the internet – you get the chance to punch way above your weight, so why wouldn’t you? – New Logo Design

One of the key goals of a good new logo design is to get early traction in the marketplace (i.e. recognition & association). Our creative side will push for this to be done by designing a unique, eye-catching and vastly different logo while I believe it is better achieved by just being ever the same … time after time after time.

For me logos are more about consistency than they are creativity. It is my belief that we will brand our mark on the market’s consciousness quickest, by reproducing it faithfully 100% of the time. However, the choices we make with our logo name and design can make this task an easy or near impossible proposition. Two broad areas of logo design deal with (1) the choice of name and (2) how that name is represented. So, let’s look at what the top 50 brands are doing in this regard.


Top 50 Brands & Logo Design

According to Business Week’s ‘Top 100 Global Brands Scoreboard’ report, the top 50 brands & logo designs in ranking order were:

Coca-Cola, Microsoft, IBM, GE, Intel, Nokia, Walt Disney, McDonald’s, Toyota, Marlboro, Mercedes-Benz, Citi, Hewlett-Packard, American Express, Gillette, BMW, Cisco , Louis Vuitton, Honda, Samsung, Dell , Ford, Pepsi, Nescafé, Merrill Lynch, Budweiser, Oracle, Sony, HSBC, Nike, Pfizer, UPS, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan , Canon, SAP, Goldman Sachs, Google, Kellogg’s, Gap, Apple, Ikea, Novartis, UBS, Siemens, Harley-Davidson, Heinz, MTV, Gucci and Nintendo. 

One thing that all these logos have 100% in common is that they are registered trademarks. Getting a registered trademark for your logo is essential to securing your long term intellectual property value. So you will need to choose a name that is capable of being registered. Some names are not registrable, for example:
      1. Geographic place names
      2. Prohibited words (i.e. each country has a list of words that no one can register)
      3. Common surnames – in Australia, if a surname has more than 1,000 listings in the phone book it cannot be registered
      4. Common trade names – These are ones that are commonly used in the your trade to describe goods or services. (i.e. Strawberry for drinks, Global for freight, Sandwich for take ways …….)
Now, you would think that an analysis of this the Top 50 list would give some good pointers to a good commercial new logo design and name choice. Here are some name and design elements that have some commonality with the Top 50 logos. (the (%) identifies the percentage of these Top 50 brands that hold to this view). Having personally established 13 new ventures including two chains and five trademarks, I have added my thoughts about these findings gleaned from my experience. Some of these elements could be considered when choosing the name and design of your own logo:

Element % My personal experience

The name does not describe the product sold
 If your name describes your industry’s product then you will have great difficulty getting a registered trademark. Also, you should leave yourself with some flexibility because over 50% of new ventures don’t end up trading with the same products they are launched with anyway. For me this is a given and relates closely with the made-up-name later in the table.

The by-line tag is not included inside the logo
 Including a by-line in the logo design just limits your ability to exploit different opportunities in the future. It also limits your ability to change your marketing emphasis to meet the changing needs of your customers. Most companies place their current by-line under the logo but not in it.

The font style is clean and clear
 Long term, it probably does not matter significantly which font you use because logos tend to eventually become holistic images in the customer’s mind. But in the short term, when you are trying to gain market traction, it makes sense that customers can read your name easily. Since the Top 50 overwhelmingly support clear fonts it may be good practice to follow them.

The logo design uses one colour only (white & black not counted as a color)
 You will eventually put your logo on everything but you will find that getting the right color match for all mediums is near impossible. So why complicate this problem even more with additional colors? Also you will soon discover that every additional color you include, adds a significantly greater cost no matter where and how you reproduce it. (One color means you combine it with the non-colors of white or black)

The logo design uses letters only without a separate logo symbol
 Apart from international companies that trade in foreign language markets, I have never understood why you would have two logos for a new business (a symbol and a name). Why not just do what Ford and others have done by making the name the symbol? If your name is short enough you can make this idea work. Why double the costs and contribute to market confusion in the early days with both a symbol and a name? If you do develop a symbol, the top brands say to keep it separate.

The logo design is a made-up name or an ACRONYM
 Made-up-names are essential for getting a registered trademark and a registered trademark is essential to protect the long term Intellectual Property value of your brand. Resist the urge to make the logo your own personal name. You will spend a fortune and many years getting your personal name accepted as a registered trademark … if at all. This element ties in with the earlier, don’t make the logo describe the product.

The logo visual is rectangular in shape
 Many of the mediums that you will place your logo on are rectangular in shape so why not make the logo compliment this fact. Also there is a belief that there is a perfect shape in nature, mathematics and one that is most pleasing to the eye. It’s know as the ‘Golden Ratio’ and it is proportioned 1.6 wide and 1.0 deep. Not sure about this but I also prefer rectangular shapes for logos, as do the top 50.
The logo name in one word only  62%  You can start with as many words as you like in your name but your customers will soon discover the shortest way to describe your business. This will eventually put pressure on you to change your name or add another logo to reflect the market’s description. So why not just start with a one word name that customers can’t shorten? 
The name is 6 letters or less  52%  This is a flow on from using one word. But keeping the name short in letters also contributes to limiting your customers ability to call your business by a name that is different from your logo. Remember even COCA-COLA became Coke and McDonald’s has became Maccas but Ford is still Ford. One word logo of less that 6 letters seems like a good long term call.
The name uses upper & lower case (excluding ACRONYMS)  44%  Decades old companies with long names have been forced to reflect the market and are now known by the acronyms that their customers call them. This issue has created a whole group of capitalized logos that we see today. Still, very few new businesses these days launch with capitalized letters. A significant number of them are actually going with all lower case. Lower case is far more readable but the problems for lower case comes with the ‘dangle bits’ from the ‘y’ ‘p’ ‘q’ and j’. They create havoc with your sign writing.
The background is filled and solid color  52%  The Top 50 are split pretty evenly on this. Most new logos dreamed up by entrepreneurs are created on a white backgrounds. I don’t think that the white background translates well onto all mediums (like back-lit signs). You should ask to see both options and compare the different approaches taken in your local area or industry. I have always found that a solid background stands out visually and it is easier to reproduce authentically on all mediums.
The pronunciation included three sounds/syllables   44%  This is the only metric from the list that I don’t quite understand. It may be a carry over of the old brand names that are still included in the top rated mix.  Still, applying the ‘keeping it simple’ approach, I would think that a one or two syllable word would do the job well.

The predominant color base is blue

 With so many color groups to choose from it is surprising how many of the top 50 logos gravitate to the blues and the reds. It may have something to do with the ease of reproducing these colors faithfully across all mediums because they belong to the primary colors group. Others may have different reasons, but the fact that a significant number of the top brands use them must be a point for consideration.

This list is not meant to be a prescriptive recipe in logo names or design, but simply some aspects to consider when making your decisions. Just as a tip, if you want to guarantee consistency, at least in color reproduction, then either (Coke) red or (Ford) blue are good options because every medium and supplier has these two colours always in their range and always in their stock. Anyway over 70% of the top brands use either red or blue or a combination of both, so it is worth checking it out. 

Red Blue Skyline – Image source: by mugley –
Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic 
 Furthermore, if you want some evidence that consistency beats creativity, in long term commercial logo making, then just go look at your city skyline at night and figure out the percentage of illuminated top-of-building signs that are not either red or blue in color. My guess – it will be less than 15%.

While you are there also figure out the % that you would describe as creative art Vs a standard name … another less than 15% result I would suspect.
…. and finally, to experience the sheer mind-numbing choices in new logo design where creativity rules and where sound commercial judgment may not – check out the YouTube Video “Open logo design competition”.
It was a competition where 147 students and staff were asked to create a new logo design for the University of applied sciences Kufstein, located  in Tyrol Austria.
Perhaps they could have done it so much easier by just following the lead of the top 50 brands detailed below.

Analysis of top 50 brands to consider in new logo designs

Below is my full analysis of the top 50 logo designs that act as your reference point when choosing your own name and logo design:

Name and design elements Name and design element
 Colors Used (excluding black & white) 

  • One color only (i.e. SAP) 74%, 
  • Two colors (i.e. IKEA) 20%, 
  • More than two colors (i.e. Google) 6%.

 Color Choice

  • Predominantly blue (i.e. GE) 40%, 
  • Predominantly red (i.e. Coca Cola) 24%, 
  • Predominantly black (MTV) 12%, 
  • Other (UPS) 24%.


  • White (i.e. Intel) 48%, 
  • Solid (i.e. Coca-cola) 52%.

 By-line included – 

  • Yes (i.e. Nokia) 10%, 
  • No (i.e. Dell) 90%


  • Upper & Lower case (i.e. Marlboro) 44%, 
  • Acronym (i.e. IBM) 18%, 
  • All upper case (i.e. TOYOTA) 28%, 
  • All lower case (intel) (i.e. 10%)

 Name Choice

  • Made up/Acronym (i.e. Nike) 72%, 
  • Dictionary/Person’s name (i.e. McDonalds) 28%.


  • Rectangle (i.e. Cisco Systems) 66%, 
  • Square (i.e. LV) 16%, 
  • Circle/oval (i.e. Ford), 
  • Other (i.e. Harley Davidson) 10%

 Logo symbol

  • Included (i.e. Honda) 26%, 
  • Only letters (i.e. Gillette) 74%.

 ™ or ® included

  • Yes (i.e. Oracle) 54%, 
  • No (i.e. Gap) 46% 

 Trademark symbol placement 

  • placed Top right (i.e. Dell) 48%, 
  • as a full stop (i.e. IBM) 41%, 
  • other (i.e. American Express) 11%.

 Font style

  • Clean, clear or standard (i.e. Sony) 84%, 
  • Script or fancy (i.e. GE) 16%


  • One word (i.e. Microsoft) 62%, 
  • Two Words (i.e. Merrill Lynch) 22%, 
  • ACRONYM (i.e. BMW) 16%


  • One (i.e. Dell) 8%, 
  • Two (i.e. intel) 32%, 
  • Three (i.e. IBM) 44%, 
  • four or more (i.e. Coca Cola) 16%.

 Name meaning

  • Describes the product (i.e. Nescafe) 6% 
  • No relation to the product (i.e. Canon) (94%)

 Letters used

  • 6 or less (i.e. citi) 52%, 
  • 7 to 10 (i.e. Gillette) 28%, 
  • Greater than 10 (i.e. Goldman Sachs) 16%.


Again, this is not a prescriptive list that must be followed to create the perfect logo, but I believe that entrepreneurs should challenge themselves and then establish sound reasons whenever they are selecting an option that is least supported by the Top 50 brands.



For more information

see these books that cover the topic of logos and branding in far greater detail and supplied by Oliver Sykes

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About the author

These days Peter Baskerville likes to call himself a New Venture Architect. This is because he is keen to impart the knowledge and insights he has gained from establishing over 13 new ventures (involving over 30 outlets) to help budding entrepreneurs of today design and build successful new ventures.
As a teacher, mentor and coach to hundreds of ‘real world’ new venture intenders, Peter now wishes to share his expertise with the millions of intenders scattered across the globe who have been brought together via the medium of the internet. He has contributed many works on entrepreneurship here on Knol and on other content publishing platforms. He fully intends to continue expanding this body of work as well as provide value-added resources via his website, designed to help people start and succeed in their own business.



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