Your business’s logo is the centrepiece of your brand — it’s a single image that has to tie together your name, your product or service, and your ethos. In this article we discuss The Best Examples Of Subtle Logo Design.
When a single thing has to convey so much, it can be easy to overthink it and come up with an intricate, bold logo, but some of the best logos are so subtle you pay little attention to them but they’re immediately recognisable and quickly become associated with a brand.
What is a subtle logo?
There are many different ways to design a logo. Big, extravagant logos will work for some brands, and simple designs will work better for others. Essentially a logo should be adaptable as well as distinctive. Successful, subtle logos are associated with the brand, bringing together their purpose and identity without being overly complicated. So what makes a good, subtle logo design?
It doesn’t need the brand name
To start with, a subtle logo doesn’t always need a company name alongside it or incorporated into the design to be instantly recognisable. It needs to be clearly associated with a brand in people’s minds, but it should be possible to use it anywhere without the company name. A subtle logo is easily identifiable without being too obvious — it should epitomise a brand without spelling it out.
A logo is used everywhere: on websites, products, packaging, social media, and marketing materials. A subtle logo easily translates across different platforms with different size and resolution requirements. The subtle logo is clear, simple and scalable; wherever it is it will still identify the brand.
A subtle logo can be timeless. All logos will need to be updated from time to time but a subtle logo won’t follow the latest design trend and needs a complete overhaul every six months. The idea of a subtle logo is that it’s simple and classic – it can be tweaked as necessary but the overall look of it will last for decades.
Careful use of colour
Using a single, brand colour, in a logo ensures it’s easily associated with that brand. Keeping to one colour means it can be easily tied in with the brand’s products, website and marketing materials – and it can also be adapted for different formats and colours. Alternatively, a monochrome logo can be just as effective.
Best examples of subtle logo design
Below are a few examples of companies that are nailing it when it comes to conveying everything they need to about their business in a simple, subtle logo:
The online platform to rent out properties and spare rooms, Airbnb, started out in 2008. While their early logo was simple and straight to the point – the company name in blue font – in 2014 they completely rebranded, introducing a much more subtle, yet iconic, logo.
As part of their new brand identity, Belong Together, the current logo is a symbol which draws together four icons: a head to represent people, a location icon, a heart, and the A of Airbnb. They also moved from blue to pink, in line with their brand new colours.
While rebranding might have been quite a dramatic move, the Airbnb logo is now instantly recognisable, and brings together the brand name and ethos. It’s also simple enough that it could be replicated by anyone, and it works in all sizes and formats – making it much more versatile.
One of the most well-known music streaming platforms, Spotify has over 270 million users worldwide, and is a great example of a well-executed, subtle logo.
The symbol of soundwaves inside a circle in the distinctive lime green brand colour, alongside their name, clearly represents Spotify. The whole logo is straightforward and conveys the brand image and their audio services, while the bold colour ties it in with the platform itself. The soundwave symbol is also neat and simple enough to be easily recognisable when it’s used on its own without the name.
Chilly’s Water Bottles
Founded in 2010, Chilly’s reusable water bottles aim to provide people with the ability to always have cold water on-the-go, without buying single-use plastic water bottles. Their bottles are designed to be stylish and convenient but also practical and eco-friendly.
They needed a logo design that symbolises the Chilly’s brand, but is subtle enough to be used anywhere — more specifically, a logo that looks great on a water bottle.
The initial Chilly’s logo design was a pencil style drawing outline of a chilli with the brand name written inside. Recently, the logo has been redesigned into a more simplified, smoother outline of a chilli. It captures the brand’s clean shaped bottles and their ideals, and it’s still clearly recognisable. The subtle logo design allows it to be used clearly on their products without distracting from the aesthetic of the bottle, but also it can be easily used in different sizes, places, and colours.
Shopify is a popular ecommerce platform that first started in 2004 as an online store selling snowboards. The founders built their own ecommerce system with enough flexibility and control to suit their needs — now there are over 1,000,000 businesses using Shopify globally.
The Shopify logo is a good example of subtle logo design because it’s a clear, simple representation of the brand and its purpose. The green coloured shopping bag ties in with the brand colours that appear on their website and within the platform. While the ‘S’ in the brand’s font instantly ties it in with the company name — the logo identifies Shopify wherever it’s used.
The logo is modern, simple and straightforward, which matches the company’s ideals and clearly links it to the retail industry.
Beats by Dr. Dre is an American audio brand founded in 2006 by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. They are known for premium headphones and speakers — but most recognisable are the original, over-the-head headphones.
The Beats logo is a classic example of subtle, clever logo design. Using the brand’s first letter of the brand in the familiar red brand colour, the ‘b’ also represents the iconic headphones that the brand is best known for sitting on a head (the circle).
It’s unique, fresh and it captures all the important elements of the brand and ties in directly with their audio products. The clean, smooth design of the logo matches the simple, minimal but iconic design of the headphones.
Big sports brands will often have distinctive, well-known logos, but the Saucony logo also demonstrates how these logos can also be subtle and representative of the brand’s history.
Founded in 1898 in Pennsylvania, USA, the company takes its name from the Saucony Creek that ran next to their first factory. Their mission was to make shoes that changed the way people run, which has led to some of their distinctive, classic trainer designs.
The Saucony logo was designed to represent the constant flow of the Saucony creek where the company was founded, and the circles are the boulders that line the creek’s bed.
The simple, clean design is distinctive and incorporates a long history of shoemaking and their dedication to designing the best running shoes possible. It’s also subtle and versatile enough to be used along the side of the trainers, and across their brand in different sizes and colours to identify the Saucony brand without the name.
One of the most recognisable examples of subtle logo design is the Amazon logo. The online retailer’s logo has gone through several redesigns over the years, but the current logo successfully incorporates the brand’s identity and purpose in a very simple design.
The full logo uses Amazon’s name with a yellow ‘smile’ arrow that starts at the ‘a’ and ends at the ‘z’. This emphasises that the company sells everything from A to Z, but also uses the brand’s yellow colour and a smile to seem positive and friendly. The smile arrow is so simple, but it’s become iconic enough that Amazon can use it on its own, or just underneath the ‘a’ so that it can be repurposed.
These are just a few of the best examples of subtle, logo design – and they go to show that a logo doesn’t need to be bold, multi-coloured and intricately designed. A successful subtle logo can be simple, easy to replicate and repurpose, but still instantly recognisable.
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Stevie Nicks is Digital Editor at Just Another Magazine – a website that covers the topics you care about. You’ll find articles about lifestyle, travel, fashion, trends and relationships on our site – each of which is written in our unique style.