Iconic logos generally feature highly simplified graphics or symbols that reflect an aspect of the company and/or product portrayed. These graphics can be abstract in concept or feature a reasonably accurate depiction of same. Truth to tell, it’s the treatment of the image, as well as the subject matter, that defines an iconic logo.

Iconic logos

Iconic logos are perhaps the most common and is probably the type of design that comes to mind if you were asked to describe “what is a logo?” Despite their relative simplicity, these logos are often difficult to design – it’s certainly not easy to take complex ideas or concepts and break them down into a few abstract shapes. Doing so requires the services of an experienced designer who is able to understand both the conceptual and technical limitations of developing such a design.

What is an Iconic logo?

nexusLet’s take a look at the Nexus Funding Corporation logo – a design created by our studio a few years back. This extremely simple logo represents two hands locked together – symbolizing co-operation and teamwork. Not an easy concept to illustrate with one simple shape. The Impact Basketball logo is more illustrative in approach, but remains well within the iconic category. There’s also more to this logo than meets the eye – the star graphic represents the ‘stars’ of the Impact basketball team, as well as an almost ‘comic book’ treatment of an actual basketball ‘impact.’ Because of the somewhat abstract ideas contained within these kinds of designs, iconic logos run the risk of being described as clip art logos by the viewer, who may not have the understanding of what’s actually being illustrated (orwhat clip art actually is.) Accordingly, the development of these logos should impact-basketballbe left in the hands of seasoned designers whose ability to create simplistic graphics has become more developed over time. Unlike illustrative logos, we try to avoid adding blends, gradients and other nifty special FX lest the design become cluttered. More often than not, iconic logos feature solid geometric shapes, arranged in a way that very quickly describes the idea portrayed. Utilizing an icon has certain technical advantages over their illustrative counterparts, the most important one being this; these logos are more adaptable when your design is to be featured at a small size, or in low-resolution reproduction such as newspapers, faxes, etc. Iconic logos are generally developed with a text portion – though secondary to the overall design – which can be dropped at a later date, once your logo has been well exposed through marketing and advertising. That’s not to say that iconic company logos aren’t the result of a full-blown design process – they are. That goes something like this : 1) our designers sketch out rough concepts and ideas using various elements of the company. 2) Once we’ve settled on some design direction, we render the rough doodles into vector artwork using Adobe Illustrator. This gives the client a better idea of what we have in mind and allows them to select an icon to work with. 3) Once we’ve agreed on a particular icon, we can add text, color and turn the icon into a full-blown logo. Due to their relative simplicity, iconic designs are the best choice for certain applications – embroidery for one example, animation for another – and these are the kinds of logos that have the fastest retention factor for your viewing audience.


✓ Faster to visually ‘absorb’ than illustrative logos but more exciting than text versions.
✓ More likely to be recognized later after limited initial exposure.
✓ Can utilize spot color reproduction effectively.
✓ Can be reproduced on most media without any modifications.
✓ Can be reproduced on low resolution media (FAXs, cheques) while remaining recognizable.
✓ Easier to trademark the logo (with unique icon.)
✓ Favored by hi-tech and start up companies. Easier to appear ‘cutting edge.’
✓ Can usually be reproduced in a variety of color combinations (easily edited.)
✓ Easily converted to black and white linear versions.
✓ An iconic logo usually lends itself to Flash animation.
✓ Is more likely to be recognized when reproduced at small sizes, or from distances.
✓ Generally simple to embroider and requires smaller stitch count per impression.
✓ Icon can be ‘separated’ and used individually either as main logo presentation or graphic accent.


❌ Difficult to create ‘unique’ icon.
❌ Requires fairly experienced graphic/logo designer.
❌ Runs risk of looking like ‘clip art’ if not designed effectively.
❌ May end up as ‘fad’ logo i.e.: globes & swooshes from 90?s.
❌ Generally not appropriate for mascot or cartoon logos (though not impossible.)
❌ Generally requires a text portion, unless the subject of massive exposure (i.e. Nike) which can lead to visual ‘clutter.’