Can famous logos be poorly designed?
You might think a logo is successful because it is famous, so how can there be poorly designed famous logos? To fully answer this question we must first define a logo. Dictionary.com defines it as “a graphic representation or symbol of a company name, trademark, abbreviation, etc., often uniquely designed for ready recognition”. Simply put, a logo is a mark that represents a brand.
Michael Beirut, a graphic designer, explained here that there are three main logo structures, wordmark, pictorial, and abstract iconography.
Wordmark logos are arranged by using text with no accompanying symbol. The logotype is usually customized to bring a new look to the companies brand.
Pictorial logos are symbols that reflect the name of the company, a good example of this would be the apple logo.
Abstract iconography is the most popular, which consist of an abstract shape like the Nike swoosh.
Now that we have defined what a logo is, let’s analyze multiple famous logos and see if they hit the mark.
The Fedex logo designed by Lindon Leader is one of the most recognizable wordmarks. Well known for its clever design, the logo incorporates a forward moving arrow within its letterforms, allowing it to visually represent the company as a whole.
Another famous logo that stands out for positive reasons is the Citibank logo designed by Paula Scher. She mentions how it took her “a few seconds to draw it, but it took 34 years to learn how to draw it in a few seconds”.
This wordmark/abstract iconography is a clean and simple design that is easily recognizable. The logo visually portrays the merging of two companies with a single shape making it easy to replicate.
On the other hand, there’s Mobil’s wordmark designed by Tom Geismar, which some designers consider to be poorly designed. Although easy to remember, the logo lacks uniqueness — it only uses a red color to help differentiate the letter “o” from the name. The overall look is too simple with no real design element implemented. Taking a look at another famous logo designed by the great Salvador Dali, the Chupa Chups pictorial logo is a perfect example of an outdated mark. Although very successful in its initial release, the color scheme and letterforms don’t hold up over time. The logo falls short of representing the brand’s longevity.
Why do poorly designed logos succeed?
When looking at logos from a visual perspective, it’s easy to let personal preference get in the way. That’s why some logos might not appeal to us (whether it’s the color, shape, or style) but can still be successful. Like Michael Beirut said, “It’s important to understand that logos are nothing more than empty vessels that you pour meaning into”.
So yes, some famous logos are poorly designed but are still auspicious. It’s important to keep in mind that if successful companies can have poorly designed logos, imagine the success a company can experience with a strong visual identity.