If you’re wondering whether a modern logo is right for your business (or even what a modern logo is), you’ve come to the right place! Modernism has a functional aesthetic that matches perfectly with countless companies around the world, and it might work for yours too! To learn how modernism relates to business, let’s start with some history.

The history of modern logo design

Given that the word “modern” refers to present times, it’s common to think that the term describes design happening today. In the context of design history, however, the word “modern” actually regards a specific era dating from the 1900s to 1970s.

So what does modern design look like? The modern era carried an ethos which sought to put function before form, or in other words to focus on how a design communicates information effectively (rather than focusing on how cool it looks).

In practice, this meant the development of sans serif typefaces, implementation of grid systems, use of photographs instead of illustration, use of primary colors and the practice of minimalism. Additionally, the modern movement felt that the designer’s subjectivity should be suppressed to make the “content” of a work apparent. In logo design, modernism further sought to create simple and recognizable symbols that transcend cultural context.

If you are curious about the full spectrum of modernist history, feel free to research the following sub-movements:

While modernism is often seen as a trend from back then, its ideas are still alive today and can easily be identified in our everyday lives. The following examples display current logos which carry the spirit of the modernist era!

Famous modern logos

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Google logo (via Wikimedia Commons)
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eBay logo (via Wikimedia Commons)
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Airbnb logo (via Wikimedia Commons)
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Fedex logo (via Wikimedia Commons)
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ABC logo (via Wikimedia Commons)
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IBM logo (via Wikimedia Commons)

You wouldn’t guess it, but some of the most famous logos today were inspired by the modernist era. Take the eBay and Google logos for example: their similarity alone evokes the modernist ideal of non-subjective functionality, or the notion of shared ideas for functionality and aesthetic. Furthermore, eBay’s logo is made up of the font Univers, a hallmark typeface of the modernist era. The Fedex, ABC and IBM logos also capture the spirit of modernism through their use of minimal forms and direct visual communication.

Minimalist logotypes for ultimate simplicity

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CAO logo by Buro
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Parabola logo by goopanic for parabola labs
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ICAP logo by goopanic
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Handpicked logo by minimalexa
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BASE STUDIOS logo by camells
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Memphis Workshop logo by maksgraur
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Simply Invest logo by Milos Zdrale

One common characteristic among designers of the modernist era was their desire to refine work to a state of minimalism, using as little visual information as possible to communicate the brand message. The results are powerful, striking and above all functional.

In the examples above, we see a similar approach to logotype design: Letterforms are simplified to geometric shapes, primary colors are used sparingly and in some examples letters are laid out on an invisible grid. If your business has a refined aesthetic, a minimal and modernist logotype might be the right look for you!

Modern logos with symbols that are recognizable and universal

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Square Up logo by Buro
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Academia de Artes Lalu logo by goopanic
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Ten11 logo by goopanic for KAK
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To the Tenth logo by minimalexa
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Wonderspaces logo by minimalexa
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Catalyst Design Studio logo by DonnDesign
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BoCO Tea logo by JanaKah for Forest_roy
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Camden Gray Interiors logo by Kelly Norman for Darran o
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SchraubenHaus logo by Kunyah
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Nutrill logo by duskbitz for jill.gehring123
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Vertex Vodka logo by Kelly Norman

In many ways, modernism was a global movement, and logos from that era sought universal recognition of their designs and the content within. This was largely accomplished through the use of visual elements rather than the reliance on words.

The Square Up logo, for example, visually articulates a square and the concept of “up” with an arrow. In more abstract examples, such as with the Academia de Artes Lalu and Vertex logos, universal recognition is created with concise and simple design work that creates the presence of brand recognition using as little design work as possible. If your business is international or needs to be quickly and easily recognized, use these examples as a starting point!

Modern logos using photographic sampling for classic modernist aesthetic

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Plop logo by Francisco Andriani
The Body’s Rights logo by Buro
Jasper Sawyer logo by Buro

One of the signature looks of modernism was the layering of cut-and-paste photographic elements within a design. Despite the fact that this technique is less commonly used in logo design today (perhaps due to the technological shift towards vector format), it still has the power to attribute branding materials to the modernist era, helpful if you are going for a vintage or classic feel. Photographic sampling in a business presentation or an ad featuring your logo helps your business achieve a modernist look!

Beyond creating a classic-looking design, photographic sampling is also functional, as within the Plop. logo which uses photographs of different chairs to let you know that Plop. deals with industrial design (among other things).

If the use of photographs can help communicate your brand, or you are simply a fan of the original look of the modernist era and would like to reference that aesthetic, consider these examples as inspiration!

Want a modernist logo for your organization? Launch a logo design contest today and get dozens of great ideas!