Google seems like a fun brand, don’t they? Just look at their logo doodles! But HSBC does not. What makes a brand seem more playful or happy than others? There’s a lot of careful branding choices that go into cultivating the right personality, and a fun brand is no exception.
Like people, brands have their own personalities, and—again like people—those personalities either attract or repel other personality types, depending on the situation. If you’re trying to have a good time at a party, you’ll want to hang around someone lively and funny. But if you’re planning for your retirement, chances are you won’t ask advice from the party animal.
Taking advantage of fun logos is more than just slapping a cartoon animal on your product—there’s a whole science behind it. Perhaps the best way to illustrate what we’re talking about is to show you dozens of examples of fun logos done right.
The easiest way to show happiness is with a smiling or laughing character in your logo. You know when you see another person smile and it makes you a bit happier? You can apply the same principle to fun logos.
One thing you might notice about these cute characters is that most—but not all—are animals. Perhaps it’s that animals remind us of our childhood, or maybe it’s that they are more innocent than humans, but either way, animals tend to make more fun logos.
Booky Wooky, the one brand here that doesn’t use animals, still designs its characters with a cute, simplistic style that has the same playful effect. You’ll also notice that all their characters have smiles, as do most of the logos in this category, which echoes our point above. The characters here that don’t have smiles— gobble.io’s turkey and BizOctopus’s octopus—appeal to another of our guidelines for fun logos: being weird.
Cute characters work best for brands that…
- work in recreational or less serious industries. No one is going to trust a cartoon turkey to manage their stock portfolio
- directly target children or people who are young at heart
- companies in competitive markets that need to stand out any way they can
To nail it down in one word: curves. Visual artists have known for millennia that curves make an image more fun because the eye “dances” to follow the lines. Fun logos almost always use curves, circles and rounded edges and stay away from blocky and square shapes (which are more the domain of formal industries like banking).
All the logos above have prominent curves, whether full on circles like Denton or the less ostentatious half-moon shapes for JobMatch Talent.
Curves are inherently playful, and you can apply them in varying degrees. The most fun logos have curves everywhere, such as Joylla using both a cloud shape and a cursive typography. However, even more serious brands can temper their formal side by adding a few curves, such as Storage Squirrel centering their logo around a dominant S shape.
Silly shapes work best for brands that…
- want to soften their image, either a little or a lot. If a brand wants to be excessively playful, they can add overlapping curves, spirals and circles to their heart’s content. But even more serious brands can seem just a tad friendlier by enclosing their logo in a simple circle.
If you don’t want to go full throttle Seussian, playful typography is a moderate path for making a serious brand just a little more approachable.
Cursive writing, as in the logo for Birth, Etc., is always a safe choice for fun logos. Again, curves come into play, as cursive writing is inherently more playful than blocky fonts. However, cursive can sometimes come across as ritzy or dainty, so it’s not for every brand.
You can choose a retro typography like Stella Times, but be sure to choose the best time period for your brand. Another creative option is to add artistic flourishes to your words, like the horns on the W in the Wicked Cilantro logo or the fox tail for Tail Spin Slots.
When all else fails, you can invent your own font, which can also be a strategic choice in communicating what your brand does. Real Party Kids uses party supplies for their lettering to double-down on the kids’ party theme.
Whimsical wordmarks work best for brands that…
- have a suggestive meaning or innuendo in their name, like Tail Spin Slots
- want to emphasize their own name, particularly if the logo centers around it
- could benefit from using visuals to communicate what they do or what industry they’re in.
If rainbows are good enough for Google, they’re good enough for your brand. The rule of thumb is that colorful = fun, so the most obvious way to use colors for fun logos is to use as much of the spectrum as you can. Warm colors (red, orange and yellow) are favorites of playful brands, but using pastel shades of any color works just as well.
However, singular colors can be powerful tools in branding, so you may not want lose the benefits of a particular color just to use a rainbow. Play It Loud, for example, chooses the cool end of the spectrum (blue and purple) for its brand identity, but still manages to use a diverse selection of shades to appear more playful.
Certain colors are also better for fun logos than others. Eye Candy’s prominent pink automatically makes it seem more youthful and fun, if not a little girly.
Creative colors work best for brands that…
- prefer the more upbeat end of the color spectrum
- don’t mind appearing bubbly or sweet
- have the freedom to choose colors outside of a pre-established brand color scheme
Like fine art, some logos make you stop for a moment to reflect on what you see. Going all-out creative for those “wait, what?” moments is how you create memorable and fun logos. For lack of a better word, we call them “weird,” but really they’re just images that defy conventions and show us something new.
There’s no way to define what makes a logo weird, let alone prescribe a formula for it. A pig with pointy ears strapped to a rocket is weird, but it’s also unique and can’t be replicated. Furthermore, that flying pig logo is effective only for the Flying Pig Garden Supply company; it wouldn’t work on any other brand.
Weird doesn’t necessarily mean inaccessible or obscure. Take, for example, Change Lab’s logo. By all classic definitions, this is a good logo and would fit in perfectly with any other mainstream logos. However, on second glance, you notice just how strange it is. A test tube inside a beaker made of ribbon? But it still works, and more importantly, it strategically utilizes scientific themes for its brand goals. Change Lab’s logo is a prime example of how you can use a weird logo without itself seeming all that weird.
Another strategy is to make logos funny, like Flint Hills Moving. Visual puns, particularly around a company name, or even just outlandish images both use humor to make the brand seem fun and easy-going. Funny logos also work great for brand recognition: people always remember something that made them laugh.
If you’re going for a weird logo, your best bet is to find a designer whose style you like. This is the most creative category of fun logos, so rather than force it, hire someone who can do it naturally.
Whimsically weird works best for brands that…
- want to stand out
- prioritize humor or quirkiness as their main brand traits
- want to show that they’re creative, artistic or stylish
- are adamant they want their logo to be a chef riding on a disproportionately sized blimp
Images that remind us of our childhood tend to revive some of that childhood wonder, sometimes even subconsciously.
Many of the previous traits fall into this category, like animal mascots or plenty of colors, but you can also take the less obvious route, like the Backyard Shoppe above. Or, if all else fails, you can have an actual child in your logo like Confetti Creative.
The most useful aspect of childhood themes in fun logos is that they’re a perfect compromise between serious and fun. Some brands need to retain some formality in their approach, so they can’t go all out with the playful logos above. When done right, however, childhood themes can give you the best of both worlds: a sophisticated logo that still delivers that youthful delight.
Childhood themes work best for brands that…
- want to present themselves as professional and serious, but still benefit from being playful.
- formal brands that want a lighter reputation.
Get serious about fun logos
Don’t let their appearance fool you—these logos aren’t as easy to make as they may seem. A lot of blood, sweat and tears go into designing the perfect smile for your wide-eyed mascot. So if you’re looking to inject some cheer into your own brand, take your time, consider the approaches above, and remember that if a design is getting you to crack a smile, the same will probably go for your audience.