Michael Draper & Wade Nelson

What Makes a Modern Logo in 2021?

7 min read


You suspect your logo isn’t getting the job done. Maybe it feels dated. Or you know in your gut it’s getting passed over by stronger branding from your competitors. Or maybe you’re a forward-thinking planner type. You don’t have a logo for your business yet, and you want to make sure you get it right the first time. You don’t want to pay for rebranding a year from now and have to start all over.

Either way, we commend you for being proactive. We’ve created many logos and brand identities, and we’re going to share with you tried and true principles to craft a standout logo in 2021.

What we see with new businesses is they rush out and slap a logo together. And why not? Logos are exciting! A logo makes your business feel established. But logos are deceptively complicated. Great logos that stand the test of time walk a tightrope of design principles. When a logo is put together haphazardly, you run the risk of it looking amateurish. And if you don’t look professional, you don’t look reliable. And you’d be kidding yourself if you don’t think customers aren’t going to pass you over for your competitors. You need an effective modern logo to be competitive in 2021.

Rogue Pack logo grid. Modern Logo Design

The two main elements of a Modern Logo.

Many principles go into great logo design, and we’ll cover those in more detail later, but the two main things we see and implement when creating logos are to make them Responsive and Minimalist. 

What does that mean? Glad you asked.

What makes a Responsive Logo?

In the digital age, branding needs to be responsive. Meaning, it needs to adapt to whatever environment it's being experienced in. A cell phone screen. A desktop browser. The side of a bus. You've got to be strategic in how you adapt your logo to its surroundings. It needs to continue to tell the brand story with clarity. 

Initially, responsive design was thought of as a trend but has turned into more of a practical necessity. With more places than ever to advertise and place your logo, the need to adapt to these opportunities has turned this trend into an industry standard. 

In 2021 it's estimated that the average person encounters between 6,000 to 10,000 ads every single day. Responsive logo design can scale your primary logo to fit any and every environment available to promote or advertise your business.

Digital mediums forced the issue. This means that your logo should easily fit on a billboard, the side of a company vehicle, your iPhone screen, a pen or business card, a button, a Facebook feed, the side of a building, the icon on a web browser (favicon); you get the idea. 

If you start looking, you will see examples all around you. One of the most famous is the Nike swoosh. Their logo has been responsive since its inception. Sometimes it is just a swoosh. Other times it's a swoosh and NIKE together. Sometimes it's only NIKE. Depending on the medium and environment, they have a version of the logo that is appropriate. 

Responsive Logo Design

The idea isn't to have a completely different logo every time but to have a different version of the same logo depending on what best fits the situation. 

The most common of these variations are the Wordmark, Brandmark, and Lettermark.

What is a Wordmark?

A Wordmark logo is the company, institution, or sometimes product name alone in its familiar font. Usually, custom typography. Wordmark logos need to look simple and readable. Some famous examples of Wordmark logos are Coca-Cola, Visa, and Google. Wordmarks are great for new businesses with shorter names. You can introduce an aesthetic style and your name at the same time.

Wordmark Logos for Google, Visa and Coca-Cola

We designed this Wordmark for Renu.

Modern Wordmark Logo

What is a Lettermark?

A Lettermark logo is a company's name abbreviated. Imagine seeing the American Broadcasting Company every time they needed to stamp their name. You can't fit that in the corner of your TV screen. ABC is a much more practical and efficient way to put their name in the world. 

This is fantastic for companies whose names are a mouthful, consisting of names or generic sounding phrases. Great examples of this are GE (General Electric), HP(Hewlett Packard), NASA(National Aeronautics and Space Administration), etc. 

Classic Lettermark Logos for Hewlett Packard, NASA and General Electric

What is a Brandmark?

A Brandmark is what comes to people's minds when they hear the word logo. They'll think of the Brandmarks for Apple, Target, Twitter, Instagram, Nike, etc. It's a single image without the title of the company. An apple for Apple. That cute little bird for Twitter. A target for...Target. 

Modern Brandmarks

Of note. Not every brandmark visually represents the product or service being sold. For every Brandmark that is an obvious representation like a target brandmark for Target or a camera brandmark for Instagram, there are just as many strong Brandmarks that have nothing to do with the name, service, or product the company sells.

See a shoe in the Nike logo? A computer in the Apple logo? Coffee in the Starbucks logo?

Brandmark logos are a vital part of the brand identity because they take on a life of their own once customers start interacting with the brand. All other facets of a brand strategy, mission, voice, and messaging align to give the brandmark context. 

We created these Brandmarks for a direct to consumer wine distributor, an award-winning tattoo parlor and a non-profit.

Modern Brandmark Logos

Now that we have that out of the way let’s talk about one of our favorite subjects. Minimalism.

Need help creating a modern logo? Let's chat.

What makes a Minimalist Logo?

Minimalism is about avoiding the unnecessary. It's about simplicity and utility. In a nutshell, less is more.

We’re drawn to minimalist logos because they’re so easy to process. Instead of expending mental energy trying to understand elaborate imagery, minimalism makes it easy to understand what your logo is trying to convey.

A minimalist logo only uses the most essential elements, basic shapes, and limited color palettes to create simple compositions without embellishment.

Close your eyes and think about McDonald’s. I’d be willing to bet you could grab a piece of paper right now and draw those minimalistic golden arches.

Avoid too much illustration. Tiny details that don’t scale down properly. This goes for fonts as well. If they’re also flourished or too many fonts at once, they become distracting and challenging to make responsive. Minimalism isn’t a style. It’s a principle.

And because it’s a principle, minimalism has found its way into many different facets of our lives. You can find it in visual art, music, philosophy, simplified lifestyle choices, and even computing.

There is even a strong movement toward minimalism in web design. And as you may have guessed, we love it. But that is a subject for another day.

We created these minimalist logos for a jewelry company, a construction firm and an interior design firm.

Minimalist Logo Design. Modern Logo Design.

Do I have a professional logo now?

Not so fast! It doesn’t end there. Responsiveness and Minimalism are essential, but there are a few more things to consider when creating a professional logo for your business.

Let’s cover a few tried and true logo design principles and a few traps to avoid. We use the SMART method to stay on track.

Need help creating a modern logo? Let's chat.

How to make your professional logo stand out using the SMART method.

Much like the KISS Principle (keep it simple stupid), loved by leaders and planners the world over, the SMART Principle will help you stay on track and keep you from making critical errors.

  • Simple. Your logo needs to be easily identifiable at a glance. (This is where the minimalistic logo really shines)
  • Memorable. Catchy logos are easy to remember. When consumers need the product or service you offer, you want your brand to be the first to mind. (There is a reason Blackbeard is still remembered to this day. The dude had an eye for branding.)
  • Appropriate. The aesthetic should fit the business. A construction company shouldn't evoke the same feeling as an ice cream shop.
  • Responsive. Your logo needs to be adaptable and scalable to every opportunity. (You know all about this now, smarty pants!)
  • Timeless. Don't follow trends. It's essential to think long term here, so your logo doesn't look outdated in 5 years. Coca-Cola is a great example; it's barely changed in over 130 years.

If your logo can check these boxes, you're ahead of the game.

We’re in the home stretch. But on your journey to a SMART logo, you need to know what to avoid.

What makes a bad logo?

To know what works, you really have to know what doesn't. We see bad logos all the time, and they make us sad. Now, there can be many reasons a logo may fall short.

  • It was designed by someone who has no idea what they are doing. You tried to do it yourself, your son-in-law owed you a favor, or god-forbid you went to and got what you paid for.
  • Relies on a current trend. You're playing it safe, and in 3 years, you'll look foolish.
  • Contains stock art. The gal you hired on Fiverr downloaded clipart, changed the color, and sold it to you—the nerve. (We’ve seen this many times, and it pisses us off.)
  • The designer made it for themselves and not you. That dude on Upwork had a monster ego and made themselves a portfolio piece and not something your customers connect to.
  • Too complex. It won't scale when shrunk to a thumbnail, IG profile pic, app icon because of all the swirly lines and itty bitty details. Complex illustrations are always troublesome.
  • Relies too heavily on color. When it's in black and white or grayscale, all identity is lost.
  • Inappropriate font. It needs to balance with the icon and not pull focus or detract. For the love-of-all-that-is-holy, no Comic Sans.
  • Too many fonts. What the hell am I looking at? My eyes hurt.

These are all disastrous outcomes. It's a terrible first impression.

If your logo looks amateur, then so does your business.

Now you know what makes a Modern Logo in 2021.

That’s a lot of factors to consider, right?! It can be overwhelming, but with this guide, you have a leg up on your competitors.

If your logo looks amateurish, then your business looks amateur. You need to look like a professional business, and the first thing people see is your logo.

Make your logo responsive, minimalistic and adhere to the SMART method, and you’ll be in great shape.

Need help with your logo? Let’s chat.