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  • Writer's pictureLindsay Chelf

What makes a logo effective?

Think of the last time you wanted to make a good first impression on someone, such as prospective employer, a new client or a potential business partner. You likely wore something nice, made sure you smiled, shook their hand firmly – all with the goal of piquing their interest in you or your company, as well as ensuring they left the interaction with a positive opinion of you. You have one chance to get it right: an unsightly stain on your shirt, an unfriendly frown or an aggressive handshake may give a poor first impression, which ultimately leads to less business success.

Just like the first time you meet someone, a logo provides the same opportunity for your audience to “meet” your company. It’s the company’s first impression, it provides the foundation for your brand identity and it separates you from the competition, so it’s crucial to get it right. The thought of making a new logo—or redesigning an existing one—can be daunting, especially if you feel you aren’t particularly creative, but there is actually a science behind designing effective logos. Professor William Lidwell, an author and designer with a background in psychology, created the ARMM Model to provide evidence-based guidance for designing logos.

A: Attention

The first thing your logo must do is grab attention. Every company has a logo now, but how do you make yours stand out? There are three tips to make an eye-catching design:

  • Your logo should be new, unfamiliar and entirely unique, unlike any other logo in its category.

  • Incorporate design elements that cause a viewer to pause and study it, such as faces or contrasting colors.

  • Hide part of the logo – it may seem counterintuitive, but it forces the viewer’s brain to reflexively fill in the missing data.

R: Response

Once our brains notice a stimulus, they then evaluate it and form an emotional response almost instantaneously. The goal of good logo design is to trigger the correct emotional response that aligns with the tone of your brand. When it comes to design, elements can be broken down into three categories: aggressive, friendly and neutral.

  • Aggressive: Angular shapes, vertical lines and asymmetry signal dominance, authority, credibility and action.

  • Friendly: Curvy shapes, horizontal lines and symmetry convey gentleness, collaboration, honesty and stability.

  • Neutral: Squares and rectangles don’t elicit much of an emotional response, so it’s best to avoid them unless the other elements (letters, colors, imagery, etc.) can set the emotional tone.

M: Meaning

Logos must express appropriate messages that align with the brand and encourage observers to think hard about the deeper meaning behind the elements. Unlike Attention and Response, Meaning is processed at a conscious level, which means that the more a person consciously thinks about the meanings expressed by your logo, the more connections they’ll make in their memory and the more likely they are to recognize, recall and like it. Ask yourself the following:

  • When you think of your brand, what descriptors come to mind?

  • If you had to hand-draw a picture of your brand values, what would that look like?

  • When someone looks at your logo, what do you want them to think about?

M: Memory

By applying Attention, Response and Meaning to your logo, you’ve already done a lot of the work in making it memorable. Like Meaning, Memory is processed at a conscious level. There are several ways to strengthen the memorability of your logo:

  • A logo that stands out from others in terms of color, size or other basic visual characteristic is easier to remember.

  • Use letters or images as part of your design that help your audience remember something (for example, the LG logo has a face made out of the letters “L” and “G”).

  • Images that are concrete are processed and recalled more quickly and accurately than abstract images. Try describing your logo’s design – the more words you use, the less concrete it is, which makes it less memorable.

Creating or redesigning a logo doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. By applying the ARMM model, you can rely on science to help guide you to an excellent design. If you need a hand, AOE is more than happy to assist.



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