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Logos: What Makes Them Work (Part 2 of 2)

by Jared McCarthy  |  
March 1, 2005

Developing a great logo is a strange mix of art, science, psychology and (in most cases) a good amount of luck.

Last week, in part one of this two-part series, we discussed some fundamentals of logo development and design.

Now, in part two, we'll look at…

  • The pitfalls of literal translation
  • How size matters
  • How to choose the right logo
  • Ways to protect your rights

1. Don't look for a literal translation

If you saw a logo with a hamburger in it, you'd think the place sells hamburgers.

When you see the Golden Arches, you think of McDonalds, not Burger King. When you see a logo with a drawing of a car, you think of a car dealership or service center. When you see the three-point star inside a circle (for hippies, the peace symbol) you think Mercedes, not Buick. A logo with a tennis shoe would lead you to think about shoe stores. The "Swoosh" takes you straight to Nike, not Converse.

Certainly, these logos are among the most effective ever produced. But none have any literal connection with what their companies sell.

This doesn't mean that an apple orchard should not use an apple in its logo. It just means that the orchard doesn't necessarily have to. Actually, logos that are literal translations of the business line may be less effective at building a unique brand identity.

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Jared McCarthy is the proprietor of McCarthy Creative. For more information, visit

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  • by Jennifer Fri Feb 15, 2008 via web

    Jared, Thanks for this great article on logo design. Excellent tips for the client and reminders for the designer. Now, the next step is communicating to the client that all of the points you mention are important enough so that they should understand they will be paying thousands of dollars for a logo design, rather than $300 from somebody on Craig's List!

  • by Wayne Sun Aug 24, 2008 via web

    Jared -

    Fantastic article. I'm in the middle of a logo project as we speak and this will be a great added-value resource for the client.

    Thank you!

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