Most humans think visually. Memories appear in our minds as still photos or as what can be likened to video clips. Shapes become concepts. “He’s a square” means someone’s personality is a staid box that keeps new ideas out. “A well-rounded diet” invokes images of a dinner plate that includes all the key food groups.

Colors have meanings, too. Ever wonder why many restaurant chains use red and yellow in their logos? They’re both happy colors, for starters, but they also represent meat and either fat or butter. Brown is solid, dependable, durable…it delivers. Hence, UPS and their signature logo, truck and uniform color. Hidden shapes play a role, too. If you’ve never noticed in the FedEx logo, there’s a right-facing arrow formed by the letter shapes, implying forward motion (i.e., delivery). And come on, the Target logo – an actual target, which says this is the spot where you can hit the bullseye on the product and price you want? That’s an easy one.

Some logo forms are more subtle. Look at the Chevrolet logo. It looks sort of like a bowtie, right? That’s because it is. When the Chevrolet car brand debuted in the early 20th century, they were competing then, as now, primarily against Ford. The Ford brand was then dominated by the affordable but very utilitarian Model T. Chevrolet cars were positioned as similarly affordable, but with a little more panache. So, why the bowtie? A Ford Model T could get you where you were going, but a Chevrolet offered a still-thrifty choice that would make special outings like Sunday family motoring a treat, perhaps after church with Father wearing a nice bowtie.

Logo design is a tricky thing, but it starts with the brand itself – the essence, the soul of what a company is trying to offer customers compared to the competition. The Nike “swoop” for example, which everyone recognizes, is a depiction of the physical motion created by a foot in a running position (running shoes being the initial main products when the company was founded). The thicker, forward, down-directed portion of the marque evokes the ball of the foot in a running motion, and the sharper rearward portion of the shape conveys the carry-through of the stride.

While Target, Chevy and Nike are great examples of how a shape alone can communicate a brand’s unique selling position, strong brands don’t typically launch with shape-only logos. Combination logos, which incorporate both a marque and the company name, have better introductory strength, and then they can evolve into stand-alone shapes over time. NBC and its affiliate brands most often include the name with the familiar peacock, but when you see the peacock alone, you still know it’s NBC. (The peacock, by the way, came about with the advent of color TV, combined with the idea that NBC’s programming was so varied, like a rainbow of choices.)

By the same token, some iconic brands need never adopt a shape, but can rely on name and typography alone. Consumers around the world know Coca-Cola, but the company’s icon is basically just its name and typeface. Coca-Cola was the first soft drink brand on Earth, introduced in the late 1800s. That’s why the typeface is so old-fashioned, and has remained virtually unchanged over generations. The name itself is also important, because in many global languages, the word “Coca-Cola” doesn’t mean much of anything, but it’s still recognizable and culturally adaptable in spite of language differences. For example, dialect-wide in Chinese, “Coca-Cola” verbally sounds very much like a phrase that roughly translates to “happy mouth sensation.”

Red Thinking’s love of logo design shows in our work for many clients, and perhaps most notably for a very unique startup, Lost Boy Cider. The company’s founder left a stodgy financial industry career to pursue a dream to brew craft-made hard cider. It was more than a business venture…it was an adventure. The logo immediately conjures the image of Peter Pan, and while the company name doesn’t get that literal, the “lost boy” theme and the image are obviously linked. And the main brand colors? Green and yellow, which relate to the most prevalently used varieties of apples used in hard cider production. Green also speaks to sustainability and environmental consciousness, tenets of the company’s ethos.

The great thing about logo design, whether you are launching a new company or refreshing the image, is that it can be fun. But it all starts with your brand’s premise. We can help you bring that all together. So just do it. We’ll help you hit your target.