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What makes a logo design memorable – Color or Symbol?

Categories: Logo Design Tips
Written By: Nora Reed
Recently I received a comment from a reader on the FIFA World Cup 2014 logo that it does not accurately represent the Brazilian art. The reader goes on to say that despite the Green and Yellow color, the hands logo symbol did not correctly symbolize the country. This led me to a very intriguing question. What makes a memorable logo… is it the color or the symbol?

What made famous logos – Color or symbol?

In order to analyze this, let us take examples of some of the famous logos of the corporate world. Let us start with an examination of McDonald’s logo shall we? Although the logo contains nothing more than a mere “M”, it is still memorable than any other brand in the world. From psychological perspective, the color “yellow”, used in McDonalds’ logo, stimulates the human appetite. No wonder a majority of restaurants and cafés use the color yellow in their logo design. Another feature of the yellow color is that it is an attention getter. This strengthens the McDonald’s logo cause even more, as customers are attracted by the color. Hence the McDonald’s logo success depends greatly on its color rather than its symbol.


Why do you suppose the Google logo is easily recalled for? Just like McDonald’s, it has no catchy symbol in its design, but the color scheme is what captivates its users the most. The colorful and vivid way in which Google is written is responsible for the memorable logo we all remember. Come to think of it, how would you feel if Google was in black and white? Pretty strange, I presume?


Let us pick another famous brand, the FedEx logo, and analyze the influence of its attributes. This acclaimed corporate identity was designed by Lindon Leader of Landor Associates. The epicenter of FedEx brand identity was its meticulously created symbol. The words contained an arrow between the “E” and “X”, providing one of the most memorable logos in the world. Hence “symbol” became the dominating factor for memorization.

Coming to the all-famous Nike logo, the simple and effective swoosh symbol is the force behind the success of the brand identity. Although the black color has no apparent effect on people, the simple and minimalist design is what the customers easily remember and recall.


The significance of color in logo design:

Color is the most ubiquitous part of a logo design. But what does it stand for anyway? The color has myriad psychological effects on humans. The colors in the red region of the color spectrum are called warm colors and comprise of red, orange and yellow. They induce emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility. Colors on the blue side of the spectrum are called cool colors and comprise of blue, purple and green. These colors are often described as calm, but can also invoke feelings of grief or apathy. Following are the color effects on humans.
  • Black: authority and power, stability and strength.
  • White: purity, cleanliness, neutrality and peace.
  • Red: attention, energy, movement and excitement.
  • Blue: calming, steadfastness, dependability, wisdom and loyalty
  • Green: growth, nature, money, good luck, generosity and fertility
  • Yellow: laughter, happiness, optimism, speed up metabolism
  • Orange: fun, happiness, energetic and ambition
  • Purple: royalty, wealth, prosperity and sophistication

The significance of symbol in logo design:

The old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” is aptly applicable in logo designing. The symbolic effect of a logo is also as effective as the color. The use of apposite symbols to denote the company meaning through a logo design is vital in creating memorable logos. However, inappropriate use of symbols in the design can tarnish the corporate identity of any business. Following are some symbols used in logo design and their effects:

  • Text logos: the logo created out of textual pattern shows strength and elegance. Additionally, the ambigram trick gives way for memorable logos to be created.
  • Imagery logos: Images are easily comprehended and effortlessly memorized by the human mind. Moreover, the use of negative space is something that is an added advantage in imagery logos.
  • Combination logos: A combination of both text and imagery gives more detail and influence to the logo design.
What do you think decides the success of a logo…its color or its symbol? Or do you believe another factor is responsible for the success of famous logos?


26 Responses to “What makes a logo design memorable – Color or Symbol?”

  1. What makes a logo design memorable – Color or Symbol? | Logo … | Design Blog Says:

    [...] the original post: What makes a logo design memorable – Color or Symbol? | Logo … No [...]

  2. CAVLENT Brands Consultant Says:

    Really interested in FEDEX. The logo is absolutely simple (too simple I guess) but it has a strong message on it. Nice article. Thx to share =)


  3. Mark Says:

    For me, it’s the symbol; the shape design. The color is irrelevant (unless it’s operating on some subconscious level).

  4. Denim Vest Says:

    Great article. Although I think that the Mcdonald’s “M” has the lasting impression based on colour and the logo. That “M” would be recognized no matter what. Also FedEx is probably one of my favourite corporate logo’s. Simple and super effective.

  5. Smith Says:

    Wow, I feel stupid. I never realized the FedEx symbol had an arrow in it until now… and I think colour operates on a ubconcious level, like with Google. When we think of symbols, we think of design, but I think its the simple-ness of colour and design, nothing too fancy, too hard to remember, is what makes a logo really work.

  6. theLULAdesigns Says:

    Whether the logo is a symbol, straight typography, or a lock-up, all of the elements including color must come together to form something powerful and timeless.

    If done well, the elements can stand alone as well as together. For example, Target’s signature red is just as memorable as the logo itself.

    The success of a logo is dependent upon it’s relevance to the business that it’s representing and it’s visual impact.

  7. Mike Novak Says:

    Sometimes is just plain good luck when a name just happens to transformed into a iconic image.

    There would be no “golden arches” if McDonalds was called Bernard’s!

    What would the logo be if “Shell Oil” was called Klystominous Oil?

    As a designer, sometime you thank the Gods that there is a great idea to go with a corporate name, but most times, its a hideous mess.

  8. German Says:

    As Matisse said:
    Seek the strongest color effect possible…
    the content is of no importance.

    Henri Matisse

  9. kre8ivelogos Says:

    Well, symbol is something which strikes the mind first and remains for a long time. One of the great examples is NIKE logo.

  10. designi1 Says:

    Is not the symbol, is not the logo and not the color.

    Some logos are well known as Nike because the all brand and the company himself grow up so badly that in spain happends what all companies would wish for: they just call “Nikes” when they want to buy a par of sneakers. that is the best free promotion that all company wish for.

    The importance of the company will took the logo memorable :D

  11. Daniel R. Says:

    Completely agree with designi1! Specially in Google logo. It looks like a text designed using WordArt effect from MicrosoftOffice, it used to be even worse (in the beginning there was no shadow, no effect at all). The cool thing about the logo is what the company does in special dates, but the logo itself has nothing to impress, the Google logo is easily recalled because of the company’s importance!

  12. Jess Says:

    Logo design is very important to every company the unique logo design event it is simple but unique it will be nice rather than to copy another logo brand..

  13. Chelsea Says:

    I like the Price logo as well as the Bugluv, although all are pretty clever and unique. Generally, I use this color wheel at Sessions College, as it is a nice tool.

  14. Giovanni Says:

    A great example of the balance between color and symbol as it is applied to “brand stickiness” is the famous Coca-Cola red logo. Internationally known, gentle yet cool and never gets old.
    If there is an article to be written about branding success, Coca-cola is the perfect candidate.

  15. Prashant Says:

    Nice article, I like the significance of color in logo design. thanks for this article

  16. Digital Photo Retouching Says:

    Great logo design is definitely a combination of symbol and color. They are intertwined in the overall design.

  17. jessica Says:

    For me, the most important thing is the overall design, neither the color or symbol, because I prefer most logos in black and white. So the logo would have to photocopy very well and be just as strong as it would in its original design.

  18. Martha Says:

    I don’t think individually any one is important than other. Actually one is incomplete without other one. So both of them are equally important. Both of them can make a logo very attractive.

  19. Pantone Matching System – Color Consistency | Marsid M&M Group Blog Says:

    [...] some cases, differences between a logo’s use of color or symbols (including type) as it applies to their memorability do exist and can lead to a hefty discussion. In my opinion and in this case, Coca-cola has made [...]

  20. Manchester Logo Design Says:

    Excellent article. Colour is certainly important and can be integral to the image a logo projects however our design process always starts with form before colour because one often finds that the strongest logos still work well even when they’re just black. Try making any of the famous logos at the top of this article solid black and you’ll see. Other ‘classic’ logos worth a look : IBM, Adidas, DHL, ABC (American broadcasting corporation) and don’t forget Coca Cola.

  21. Color Consistency – Pantone Matching System for Branding | Marsid M&M Group Blog Says:

    [...] of the mark” as written in their trademark with the USPTO. In some cases, differences between a logo’s use of color or symbols (including type) as it applies to their memorability do exist and can lead to a hefty discussion. In my opinion and in this case, Coca-cola has made [...]

  22. Mary Robenson Says:

    Combination. Thats the most important think i guess. Though some designers can make a master logo with any one of them. But that logo is perfect which have the perfect combination of both.

  23. Henrypeter Says:

    Color and symbols are very important in logos… because some logo look normaly but to give color it look very nice example googe color also very important in logos…but some log colorless is suitable example nike

  24. Chandler Camp Says:

    The color is important for sure…but even though nike’s logo is black, I would recognize that anywhere. I think both are importnat.

  25. violet Says:

    Color in a logo is like makeup. A well-designed logo looks good without it, better with it.

    A poorly made logo might be look decent in it, but a nightmare when the makeup comes off.

  26. Volker Beckmann Says:

    Logo MUST be recognizable in B/W first. For faxes and newspaper ads.

    Is McDonald’s really a great design, or has it just be imprinted in all of us so much that the cumulative exposure has done its job?

    Does it matter if you see the arrow in Fed Ex or not? Nope. It matters that the logo is recognizable, distinquishable, and memorable. Secondary meanings are only important to the designer to make the sales pitch!

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