Things to Consider When Designing Your Startup's Logo

How should you think about designing your startup’s logo? The mark symbolizes your business. It’s destined to be ubiquitous. Business cards, ads, hoodies, mobile apps, water bottles, even custom sneakers may bear the logo.

In the most recent episode of 99% Invisible, Tom Geismar relates the creation story of the Chase logo. The Chase logo was one of the first abstract corporate marks, one without text. Since then, Geismar has created many iconic marks including Xerox, PBS, Mobil.

Geismar offers three basic criteria for evaluating a logo:
1. Appropriate - must fit your startup’s culture and its ecosystem
2. Distinctive - must be unique enough to be distinguished from the competition
3. Flexible - must be easily scaled to smaller sizes and different media

In the interview, Geismar shares a few other important points. Not every business should use an abstract mark. The blue striated octagon works because of Chase’s reach.

Chase, now called JPMorgan Chase & Co., advertises daily. Thousands of branches dot the map in the US and abroad. Persistent exposure to the mark cements the brand association of the blue octagon in the minds of passersby.

Businesses without the ambition or intention to scale brand spend should stick to logos with words. The same is true businesses who rely on correct spelling of difficult words to do business. Google’s name is a bastardized mathematician’s term for 10 with one hundred zeros. By choosing a colorful text logo, Google cemented their spelling of the concept as the dominant one. Billions now type google without a second thought for spelling or the etymology.

As for picking amongst a collection of alternatives, Geismar says, “It’s never love at first sight.” You must imagine the mark on sweatshirts and favicons and mobile phones and newspapers. Will it work there? Where won’t it work?

And in today’s design centric environment, the mark will inevitably suffer critique. The best way to change your mark is just to do it.

Published 2018-02-15 in

I am a partner at Redpoint. I write daily, data-driven blog posts about key questions facing startups. I co-authored the book, Winning with Data. Join more than 20,000 others receiving these blog posts by email.

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