According to new research, the best company logos are ‘descriptive’

New research seems to prove that not all logos are created equal.


September 13, 2019

Hendrik Osula/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Since corporate logos are more of an art than a science, they don’t actually matter that much… right?

Not quite: According to new analysis from the Harvard Business Review, “descriptive logos” are more effective than non-descriptive logos.

So, what’s the difference?

Descriptive logos incorporate what the company actually sells into their logo design — like Burger King’s logo, which sandwiches the words “Burger King” between 2 burger buns.

Non-descriptive logos, on the other hand, feature design elements that are unrelated to a company’s product — like the McDonald’s golden arches.

According to the research, descriptive logos are more highly associated with consumers’ willingness to buy.

Well then why aren’t all logos descriptive?

Descriptive logos work best for unfamiliar, smaller companies because they establish their brands as reliable — even to consumers who have never heard of them.

But for large, well-known companies, the value of descriptive logos diminishes: People either trust big brands or they don’t, and logos are unlikely to tip the scales (the world’s most recognizable brands — Coca-Cola, Google, GE — don’t have descriptive logos).

Of course, there are always exceptions: As HBR notes, small companies that make products associated with “unpleasant” things won’t benefit from descriptive logos.

So, if you’re planning on starting a pest control company, maybe don’t incorporate dead rats into your logo. Otherwise, descriptive logos are tight.

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