Rob Marsh
Filed under Logo Design 101, Logos.

Forget Telling a Story! Your Logo Design Needs to Appeal to Everyone.

Last week we argued that your logo should tell a story. And while that can be a good thing (depending on the kind of business you run), it may be a better idea to forget telling a story all together. Forget having your logo communicate anything at all. Let it just be a logo.

In fact, if we hadn’t written that previous post, we’d be tempted to say that having a logo that tells a story is bad advice.

Here’s why:

Brands are complex creatures. Most of them have a meaning or story to us that can be captured in a logo. But your relationship with a brand is different from my relationship with the same brand. So which story goes in the logo?

Let’s take car rental brands for example.

Pretend for a moment that you really like the Avis car rental company.

Avis Logo Design

You like Avis because their location at your airport is easy to get to (and is closer than Budget) and there’s rarely a wait for a car. In addition, you travel often enough that the people at your local office remember you when you stop by to get a car, and great you with a friendly smile.

Now, how should Avis tell that story in a logo design?

Do you add a map to the type showing the location is close to the airport? Do you add a smiley face to the logo to show customers that the people there are always friendly? (And if you do, what happens when an employee has a bad day and forgets to be friendly?)


Probably not.

This idea is even worse when you remember that not everyone likes Avis because of the friendly service.

Some customers like the kinds of cars Avis offers. Others like the price they charge. While still others like the Preferred Club membership benefits, or the cleanliness of the cars. And some potential customer like Avis’ competitors.

No logo can tell all of these stories.

At least, not without becoming a meaningless mess.

Imagine an Avis logo that contains the company name, a smiling face, a map, two or three cars, and a club icon. That logo tells a lot of stories.

And it’s a mess.

To show you what that looks like in a real example, check out this logo concept for the Casper Volleyball Tournament (it was just a concept and never got to the final stages):

Crawded Casper Volleyball Logo


We imagine the designer thinking something like this: “First, it’s a volleyball tournament so it needs to say that and show a volleyball. And since we’re in Casper, I should probably show some stuff that relates to the area, like the mountains and an oil drill. And since we’ve got that big Elk arch here in the city, I better put in some antlers—maybe a good four or five point rack. And we need a sponsor’s logo included in it somewhere, so I’ll tuck it into the bottom of the volleyball.”

Rightly the client said, the logo had too much going on.

Smart client.

A logo design that doesn’t tell a specific story allows the customer bring their own story to the logo. Take this logo for Quantum, designed by Luke Baker, one of’s Portfolio members.

Quantum Logo Design


If you like Quantum because their product matches your expectation, this logo design works. And if you like their friendly customer service, this logo works. If they solve your problem, this logo works. In fact, no matter what your experience with this company, its logo can represent that interaction and help you remember them.

Some of the best logos don’t try to tell you what to think.

Need another example? How about a two more…


Coca-Cola Logo Design


Coca-cola’s logo has become its own icon that represents the positive feelings you have associated with the drink. There’s no picture of a glass of soda, or family gatherings, or guys playing football, or any of the millions of things you could do while enjoying a Coke. The logo is simple enough to represent any experience you have with the brand.

Disney Logo Design

Disney’s logo design is similarly diverse. Whether in a theme park, in a movie, on a video, or on packaging for their toys and books, this logo is plain enough to tell hundreds of stories related to the Disney entertainment empire. Do you have a favorite Disney story or experience? You probably think of it just about every time you see this logo.

So should your logo tell a story? 

Not if it needs to represent a variety of different customer experiences. In that case, you’re better off with a logo that is simple enough to represent everyone’s experience with your brand.

What do you think? Should a logo be plain or say something?