Effective logo design for b2b brands

Effective B2B logos blend uniqueness with timelessness, focusing on embodying a brand's essence and foreseeing its future direction. Successful designs navigate beyond basic principles, achieving a resonance that remains adaptable and relevant.

Author
Updated on
April 24, 2024
Creating effective b2b logos by EverythingDesign

What is the function of a logo?

A compilation of logos of famous brands

Every brand on the planet has a logo. Why? It is an effort to communicate identity visually. Far too often, b2b brands try to communicate their story through their identity, and end up packing too much information into the logo. It gets messy. The distinction between the two is very important since it determines whether the logo will sink or swim.

The difference between identity and story in the context of logo design

When interacting with people, our minds visually register their facial features, body structures, voice tonalities, skin colours and names. This information is later recalled to recognise an individual as who they are.

Wanting your logo to communicate your brand story or what your brand does, is like wanting to piece together the personality of an individual just by their looks.

A man shrouded in darkness, with a white halo behind him like the sun
To put it simply, your logo is the face of your brand. Your brand story is a part of your brands personality.

But isn’t it good for a new business to indicate what it does in the logo?

No, it’s not. Your logo is not going to appear anywhere without some kind of context that helps people understand what’s going on. Moreover, your logo shouldn’t try to communicate at all. That's what marketing and advertising are for.

When a company attempts to communicate what it does through logo design, it will end up looking like all of its competitors who are trying to do the same thing.

The logo needs to convey a sense of professionalism rather than trying to encapsulate the company’s function or industry. This approach reassures stakeholders of the company’s legitimacy and positions it as a credible entity in its sector. The logo's design quality can influence perceptions of the company's overall quality and reliability.

What makes a logo good?

It should be appropriate

Determining what is appropriate is a challenge. A logo or mark should match the concepts and actions it stands for. When the core idea behind the logo is appropriate, the result will resonate really well with audiences.

I can hear you thinking “bUt WhAt AbOuT aPpLe?”

The company was named that way because jobs went to an apple orchard and then suggested the name to Wozniak. Then, they literally represented the name of the company. The success of the logo is purely because of the success of the company.

Your company makes your logo successful. Not the other way around.

While not tied to the company's offerings, the logo should still resonate with the target audience on a cultural and emotional level. Understanding the values, preferences, and aesthetics of the intended demographic can guide the design process, ensuring the logo appeals to those it seeks to engage.

Hubspot and OpenAI are two really good examples of logos that had the right core thoughts behind them. They seem appropriate.

It should be legible

What a new design would look like in real-life situations needs to be known. Just looking at the logo alone, without any context, can be misleading.

It's helpful to see the logo used in different ways: both big and small sizes, in colour and in black and white, and across different platforms, from tiny website icons (favicons) to smooth animations. This approach gives a better understanding of how the design works in various settings.

No matter how good you think your design is, if it doesn’t work at small sizes, it’s not good. Take it back to the drawing board.

It should be consistent

Consistency in branding is ensured by setting clear rules for using key elements like colours, fonts, symbols, and pictures.

Before a logo can stand on its own, it must be introduced and reinforced through consistent branding efforts. This process involves integrating the logo across all company materials, marketing campaigns, and digital platforms. Repetition is key; as customers become more familiar with the logo, its association with the brand strengthens.

However, instead of sticking to strict patterns for everything, adaptable design systems can be used. These flexible systems are especially good for things like ads and websites, where changing things up is part of the creative process.

It should be distinctive and memorable

For a logo to work well, its shape should be easy to recognise but also unique enough to stick in your mind. The design needs to be straightforward, so you can understand it quickly, but it should also have enough interesting details or meaning to catch your attention.

Take Cisco for example. The idea behind the logo was to capture the two towers of the golden gate bridge to represent the company’s roots in the San Francisco Bay area. The name was also derived from the latter half of the word San Francisco.

The use of lines with varied heights to capture that essence is what makes the logo memorable.

The balance lies in how distinctive you can make it while maintaining simplicity and how simple it can be kept without looking generic.

A logo that is simple and clear can be more easily recognised and remembered than one that is overly complex. Simplicity ensures that the logo is versatile, scalable, and effective across various media and platforms. It can also convey professionalism and sophistication, reassuring customers of the company's credibility.

It should endure

When designing a logo, it is necessary to take a timeless approach. It should be modern enough to represent its era but not so trendy that it looks outdated before ten years have passed. Even though the latest logo trends might look attractive now, following fashion too closely doesn't work well for logo design. Logos should be designed to last, not just to fit the current style.

It should be flexible

For an identity to be relevant over time, it should be adaptable and ready to evolve. BCGs new identity was inspired by the old one. They were able to alter it and make it relevant to a modern market.

How to avoid making generic logos?

There are a few things you can do to make sure your logo designs don't look generic:

  • Don't use very common symbols.
  • Don't Incorporate a globe into the design. This is trend that died a decade ago.
  • Don't use over the top gradients.
  • Don't literally translate the name visually.
  • Use a ton of small elements in the logo
  • Absolutely forget white space
  • Use very light and muted colours
  • Use the first letter of your company’s name as the symbol
  • Use multiple shades and tints of the same colour
  • Include your company tagline in a small point size right below the logo

Challenges and opportunities in designing for B2B brands

You’l hear a lot of brand gurus talking about how logos should clearly tie back to the brand’s core values and services. It’s a load of bollocks. How do the logos of SAMSUNG, Apple, Nike, Amazon, Coca-Cola, Google or Chase Bank tie back to their core values? Only those within the designers bubble (most often just themselves) will be able to explain.

Sometimes, there isn’t an explanation at all. The late Tom Gesimar designed the Chase logo and was also responsible for the designs of Mobil, PBS and many more iconic names. When asked what the Chase logo meant, he said it doesn’t really mean much; just that he was inspired by antique Chinese coins.

How do the below brands communicate anything they do in the logo? They don’t.

While all of this holds true for b2b companies as well, you might come across some unique challenges and opportunities while designing for them.

Challenges

It’s going to be treated as a checklist item

A lot of founders, C-Suite folk, and managers treat the logo as a checklist item; as they should in the early stages of the company. No logo is going to be an instant hit. Only after you’ve introduced your logo and then show it 50 or 100 more times over a long period of time, people will recognise it as the face of your brand.

It should be professional. People should look at the logo and feel that your company is legitimate.

Rushing the process

When the entire thing is treated as a checklist item, founders or managers won’t want to sit through long conversations to discuss the specifics. It’s a bore. They don’t care. They just want a unique symbol. But every logo originates with a core thought. An insight. This insight is gained by talking to the people who started the company.

Expent.ai
recently had their identity designed by us. It’s a Vendor Lifecycle Management platform that manages everything from sourcing to renewal of vendors in one platform. We must have had 6 rounds of iterations before they selected an option. We would have had to do a 7th round if it weren’t for our boss saying enough is enough.

It was a challenge to deal with founders who didn’t know what they wanted, but were very opinionated when it came to what was presented. Towards the end, I realised that they, for the first time, resonated with the last iteration’s core thought more than they did with anything else because it was more aggressive than the rest. If we figured this out early on through conversations with them, maybe they would’ve finalised an option faster.

As a creative professional, it’s up to you to put your foot down and dictate the process of creation. Arrange for conversations with the client. Ask meaningful questions. Pitch rough creative narratives. Size up the clients expectations, likes and dislikes. This will give you a good base to start.

Multiple contradictory inputs / expectations from org hierarchy

If you’re directly dealing with founders, you won’t have this problem. If you’re dealing with a manager who has to get the sign off from their higher-ups, you’re going to deal with multiple opinions. The initial presentation with the manager might go well and everyone will leave the meeting happy. The next day’s email, though, will have 5 inputs from 5 other people higher in the chain of command.

This one is largely out of your control, but try to get all the stakeholders who have a say in the matter on one call when you’re presenting work, so that you can pitch directly.

Opportunities

Strategic differentiation

Study competitors’ logos, brand colours, typography, and overall visual identity. Note common themes, patterns, and elements. Identify areas where competitors’ logos and branding strategies converge. Look for oversaturated trends or similarities that your logo can diverge from.

Studying the competition and what they’re doing can give you a clear idea of what to avoid. Knowing what not to do is more important than knowing what to do.

Leveraging / breaking away from industry standards

While knowing industry standards is useful, branding has no set rules. Some brands successfully defy conventions and still lead. If you’re going to rebel against the norm, know why you’re doing it. Don’t do it for the sake of it. Sometimes, conforming can work.

Breaking away from the typical choice of blue might bode well for a tech company if it is looking to visually differentiate itself from the crowd.

Conforming to the standard might help when designing for 5-star properties that want to look premium by using a lot of gold and historic symbols.

B2B companies that got their logo right and why

Let’s take a look at some b2b logos that have hit the mark and analyse the X-Factor in them.

HubSpot

  1. It is appropriate since it is invoking the feeling of a hub by connecting circles and lines to the letter O. In the word-mark, there’s a hub in a specific spot 😬. This is unique.
  2. Using the orange colour sparingly to highlight the symbol specifically in the word-mark attracts attention and makes it memorable.

Calendly

  1. The size contrast between the symbol and type catches the eye.
  2. The juxtaposition of the outline and the fill at the centre makes it memorable. The use of a different colour at the intersection captures attention. Hence the overall treatment of the C is unique.

Clickup

  1. The simplicity of the symbol that invokes the feeling of a computer mouse pointed upwards is appropriate as it abstractly denotes the idea of clicking up.
  2. The use of colour in the form of a warm and a cool gradient on only the symbol, captures attention, making it memorable.

Signaturely

  1. The core thought of representing a signature has worked beautifully. The use of the blue block as the paper, and the white signature having a tail to almost look like an ink trail makes this symbol unique.
  2. It’s not telling you anything about what the company does, yet when you look at the combination of the symbol AND the name, it becomes highly apparent that it’s something to do with signatures. So it’s highly appropriate.
  3. If you’re thinking that its trying to communicate a story, it isn’t. Cover the word ‘signaturely’ with your right hand, cover your left eye and look at the symbol. What does it look like? Did you think of a bouncing ball? The combination is what makes it work.

Test Gorilla

  1. The way they’ve combined a happy gorilla with a pencil makes the logo unique and appropriate.
  2. The simplicity of the form is brilliant, hence the logo is distinctive and memorable.

B2B companies that got their logo wrong and why

Lets take a look at some b2b logos that haven’t hit the mark and why.

Tableau

  1. There are too many elements and colours used in the logo which causes clutter. This makes it look complicated and unmemorable. It could have been restricted to maybe 4 plus signs and one prominent colour, it could have worked better.
  2. The usage of the plus symbol as the T is not required as the symbol uses it so heavily. The letter spacing in the word is a lot while the spacing between the elements in the symbol is very tight. This contrast doesn’t do the logo any favours.
  3. The only thing going for this logo is the ‘from Salesforce’.

Freshworks

  1. The sheer number of colours in this logo is bonkers. The form is complicated with a lot of details. This makes it generic and unmemorable.
  2. This is an example where just the wordmark would have been a better option.

Apptio

  1. The symbol features way too many intricate details that will never be recalled accurately. It affects legibility as well in small sizes. The core idea is there, but the execution kills it.
  2. The only thing going for this logo, like tableau, is ‘an IBM Company’.

PandaDoc

  1. Why is the p & d lower case in the symbol, and upper case in the word? It seems like it was intentionally done to achieve the infinity sign. The visual treatment is very generic. Sure it is simple, but is it unique and memorable? I don’t think so.

lemlist

  1. Is the name of the company Elemlist, or lemlist? The symbol meant to represent a list is causing an issue with the name of the company. There shouldn’t be any scope of misreading the name of the company on the logo. That’s a HUGE miss if you ask me.

The creative process of making logos

So far we’ve taken a look at what the function of logos is, what is considered good and bad and the challenges and opportunities while designing b2b logos. Now let’s dive into my favourite part - designing.

The creative brief

A creative design brief is a foundational document that outlines the essential details of a design project, serving as a critical guide for both the client and the design team.

At Everything.Design, every project has a project document. It contains the following that help designers throughout the project:

  1. What will make this project successful?
  2. Client Name.
  3. About client/business.
  4. Target audience.
  5. Purpose/goal.
  6. Problem statement.
  7. Scope of work.
  8. Deliverables.
  9. What’s out of scope.
  10. Project owner.
  11. Project team.
  12. Project timeline.
  13. Resources from client.
  14. Questionnaire answered by the client.

When all the above points are answered, you’l have a good creative brief.

Logotype vs symbol. Which one is right for the project?

Wordmark

A wordmark or logotype is a font-based logo that focuses on a business’ name alone.

Use it if:

  1. You have a very catch / unique and succinct name.
  2. You’re striving for clarity and simplicity. it’s a direct approach that makes it easier for customers to remember and recognise your brand.
  3. You’re new to the market and you need to get your name out there. Again, the simplicity helps to build recognition faster.
  4. You’re a startup looking to validate your product, so you don’t have a lot of long term goals yet.
  5. You’re planning to sell your startup.
  6. You don’t want a lot of legal mumbo jumbo. It’s easier to trademark a unique word-mark than a unique symbol.

It’s not mandatory to have all these reasons.

To make it work you need to focus heavily on picking the right font, or creating your own font that is appropriate. If you’re a SaaS tech startup using elegant fonts, it just won’t sit well.

Symbol

Logo symbols are icons or graphic-based logos.

Use it if:

  1. Your company is new - Initially pairing the logo with the company name is a practical strategy for building brand recognition. Over time, as the brand becomes more established and recognisable, the company can experiment with using the logo on its own. This evolutionary approach to branding allows the logo to gradually assume a more central role in the company’s visual identity.
  2. You have a good reason for needing it. If the log has the potential to appear on mass media, multiple print collaterals and other places, consider a symbol which can be easier to build association with than a word-mark.
  3. You’re in it for the long game. It can transcend language and culture over time to stand for something bigger than your current purpose if it is evocative.
  4. You want to create an emotional connection. Visual imagery can evoke emotions better than wordmarks. You can use this to your advantage by creatively designing something intentionally to evoke a certain feeling.

To make it work you need to be creative with it. The more places your logo is going to appear, the more creative you need to be with it, while ensuring simplicity.

Understanding the client

As a designer embarking on a logo design project, this is one of the most crucial steps in the process. It’s really important to understand your client, because at the end of the day, they’re who you are selling to. To excel at selling to them you need to understand them in terms of:

  • Their likes and dislikes of visuals - show them different kinds of logos and photographs with visual treatment to see what they like and don’t like. This will give you an idea of what they’re looking for.
  • The kinds of narrative they identity / don’t identity with - Pitch a few creative ideas from different angles. The typical nice yes man. The aggressive player who disrupts the market. The brainiac who only wants innovation and progress. If nothing else, you’ll at least identify what they don’t gel with so you can avoid it.
The third concept note resonated most with the client. With this kind of clarity in the beginning of the project, you will have more success in creating something successful.
  • Their audience - For most b2b companies, the audience is other companies. Decision makers are usually managers and C-Suite folk. It’s really important to drill down to who your client’s audience is, because ultimately, the logo you design will be what they interact with. It has to resonate and make sense.
  • The vision for the future of their business - Are they planning on maintaining the same trajectory? Are they planning on changing? This will have to be taken into consideration when you’re designing a logo as it will determine whether or not the logo will remain relevant and appropriate.
  • Their competitors - Knowing who your clients competitors are is crucial to understand the current landscape and what the industry standard is. Are you ahead, or are you falling back?
  • A single idea that can be distilled into the new logo - This has to do with personality. Does the client like modernity or traditionalism? Are they adventurous or cautious? These things can be distilled into the logo to represent them better.
  • Their colour preference - Colour is very subjective. Everyone has different associations to colours. You don’t have to follow what the client says, but they might have some preferences that make sense. So make sure to ask them.

Once you have the answers to all these questions, you’re going to have to go through them all and see which answers make sense and which don’t.

Influences and references

Influences

A designer should be careful of their influences because they’re very subjective. They can be influenced by

  • Historical design movements such as The Bauhaus, Postmodernism, Constructivism, Futurism, Cubism, Minimalism etc.
  • Cultural elements such as patterns, motifs and colour palettes derived from the designers personal background.
  • Philosophical or conceptual ideas like sustainability or modularity that would influence things like materials used and how flexible or adaptable the designs are.

The more experience the designer has, the better understanding they will have of what can work where and what can’t.

References

References and benchmarks on the other hand are more specific to the requirement. They should be examples of how to execute a particular aspect of the design like:

  1. Colour scheme
  2. Typography
  3. Layout and composition
  4. imagery
  5. Iconography
  6. Animation and motion design
  7. Texture and patterns
  8. Visual identity
  9. Verbal identity
  10. Content
  11. Tone of voice

To compile a good list of references, ask the client who their benchmarks are. Then find your own references and then ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What does the competition look like?
  2. Who looks distinct out of the competition, if any? Why do they look distinct?
  3. What is the industry standard?
  4. Does the client want to break away / stick to the industry standard? Why?

When designing b2b logos, I like taking a look at a lot of competitor logos at once, to get an understanding of the general approach/trend. For example, when designing for the Fintech industry I’ll take a look at a lot of companies in the same domain.

The basic idea that blue, green and black are trending colours in this space, a majority of players use pictorial marks, and answers to the previous questions, are going to help us decide on the approach we want to take for the logo.

Concept development

The core thought

The concept is your core thought. The core thought for every project will be different. To illustrate with an example, I’ll use one of the projects I worked on - Phronetic. They’re Specialists in sports based digital projects, located in the United Kingdom.

The word phronetic is derived from the word phronesis. It is a type of wisdom or intelligence relevant to practical action. It implies both good judgement and excellence of character and habits, and was a common topic of discussion in ancient Greek philosophy.

We went ahead with this thought and gave it some depth.

The client wanted to exude a wise demeanour through the logo and represent the fact that they have been in the industry for a very long time, hence they know the ins and outs. Their personality was that of a wiseman.

Our core concept was ready.

Sketching ideas

When you set out to create logos, the number one habit that will make you successful is sketching. Lots of it.

The idea in this stage is to put out as many variations and ideas you can think of. Eventually you will hit upon that symbol form that captures the essence of your idea.

Keep it rough. Do not aim for neatness. The more you try to make it neat, the more time you will waste.

It turned out, we needed two very simple elements to convey our core concept. A circle and a line. This formed the Phi symbol. There is something very powerful with basic geometry. It can create iconic and lasting forms.

Refinement

Do not get onto the system until you have a clear idea of what you’re executing. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time. Digital tools provide a ton of tools to work with. It’s easy to get lost.

Once on the system, we experimented with the proportions a little and then constructed the final form.

When constructing logos, use a set X height. This will make everything proportional.

Typography

The name of the company is completely out of the designers control, but it is up to us to make sure to pick something that compliments out final form and also appropriately represents the personality of the company.

We had a choice to make between two major groups of typefaces. Serifs and Sans Serifs.

The Serif looks a bit old and traditional while the Sans Serif typeface looks more modern.

The keywords provided by the client guided us in selecting the right font for the form. The words were professional and modern, so it seemed that the Sans Serif typeface was the way to go. We also decided that a complete lower case would suit the brand better.

We selected a readily available typeface called Soleil.

Colour

The main colour we decided to use is a neon green which is futuristic and modern.

This paired with turquoise and blue hues creates wonderful gradients which perfectly represent the concept of transition. This created  the visual style of the brand.

The X factor

The logo still lacked the spark to make it unique and stand out. We had to think of something that would make the logo distinct and pop. This is where the X factor comes into play.

In Phronetics case, it was the colour treatment.

The faded gradient treatment of the circular form perfectly highlighted the monolithic form in the middle, while also appropriately representing transition.

This was the final step that brought everything together.

Think of the X factor as something that can make a generic idea unique. It could be anything. The colour treatment, or the placement of the form, or the form itself.

Here’s another example of the X factor. When designing the US Tennis Open logo, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv were presented with a unique problem. They had to redesign the tennis logo, but there were already so many of them out there.

When taking a look at the existing tennis ball logo designs, they noticed that the white curvatures were always represented as, well, white curves. So they decided to go the other way, and integrated them as streaks - hence adding some movement to the form. This became their X factor.

Applications

This is the most important part of the presentation. Your logo will never be seen in isolation. It’s always seen in the context of different applications. So we need to show clients how it will look when it is used across different media and platforms - both digital and physical.

For this part, you need to be skilled at Photoshop, or you can use free mockups online.

Digital applications

  • Website: Used in the header, footer, favicon, and sometimes as part of the content within the site.
  • Social Media: Profile pictures, cover photos, and as part of posts or advertisements.
  • Email Signatures: Included at the bottom of every official email sent.

Physical applications

  • Business Cards: Featured prominently to aid in networking.
  • Letterheads: For internal and external communication.
  • Tshirts and other promotional items

Good looking free mockups

If you can’t afford to buy high quality mockups, or don’t have time to mockup your designs on photoshop yourself, you can use these websites to find some really cool looking mockup freebies.

  1. Psd covers - https://www.psdcovers.com/
  2. pixeden - https://www.pixeden.com/free-graphics
  3. Graphic Burger - https://graphicburger.com/mock-ups/
  4. MockupWorld - https://www.mockupworld.co/all-mockups/
  5. Mr Mockup - https://mrmockup.com/free-mockups/
  6. Mockup Cloud - https://www.mockupcloud.com/
  7. Ls Graphics - https://www.ls.graphics/free-mockups
  8. Mockup-Designs - https://mockups-design.com/download-in-progress/?dlm-dp-dl=17132
  9. Original Mockups - https://originalmockups.com/mockups/free-mockups
  10. Graphic Pear - https://www.graphicpear.com/mockups/page/2/

The way Everything.Design presents logo designs

At Everything.Design we have a certain format of presenting. We don’t necessarily stick to this format all the time. It’s very flexible and depends on the project. The format is:

  1. Concept note - To explain the core concept or key idea.
  2. Keywords - To set the direction.
  3. Logo in all its glory - To show the logo without any distractions.
  4. Colour palette - To showcase all the colours used.
  5. Logo in black and white - To show basic variations.
  6. Logo as an icon - To show versatility.
  7. Digital Applications - To showcase how it looks on digital media.
  8. Physical applications - To showcase how it looks on print media.

Take a look at an example of this format below.

Concept note - To explain the core concept or key idea.
Keywords - To set the direction.
Logo in all its glory - To show the logo without any distractions.
Visual explanation of the idea -
Colour palette - To showcase all the colours used.
Logo in black and white - To show basic variations.
Logo as an icon - To show versatility.
Digital Applications - To showcase how it looks on digital media.
Physical applications - To showcase how it looks on print media.

Conclusion

Effective B2B logos blend uniqueness with timelessness, focusing on embodying a brand's essence and foreseeing its future direction. Successful designs navigate beyond basic principles, achieving a resonance that remains adaptable and relevant, capturing a brand's legacy and forward vision in a succinct, memorable emblem.

Want to build the perfect logo for your b2b brand?

Reach out to us at Everything Design if you want to construct a logo and visual identity that will help you stand out from the crowd and carry your brand to its full potential. We are a branding and design agency, and we’d love to have a conversation to understand your brand’s needs and provide professional advice.

References

  1. https://www.vistaprint.com/hub/the-history-of-logos#:~:text=Early versions of logos developed,1900s%2C evolving alongside mass printing
  2. https://www.bopdesign.com/bop-blog/2015/03/anatomy-of-b2b-logo-design/
  3. https://alvalyn.com/create-better-design-abstraction/
  4. https://www.kalungi.com/blog/5-criteria-used-by-best-b2b-saas-logo-designers
  5. https://www.datamation.com/cloud/saas-companies/
  6. https://www.socialectric.com/post/logo-size-for-website-social-media-print-and-other-purposes
  7. https://graphicsprings.com/blog/view/ideal-logo-size/
  8. https://www.thebrandingjournal.com/2014/06/b2b-branding-new-brand-story-visual-identity-global-rd-company/

Books for further study

  1. Logo modernism by R. Roger Remington
  2. Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler
  3. Logo Design Love by David Airey
  4. Logo by Michael Evamy
  5. Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton
  6. The Graphic Design Idea Book: Inspiration from 50 Masters by Steven Heller and Gail Anderson


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