What makes a bank logo memorable

Photo by Scyther5/iStock

A well-designed logo can help a community bank tell a brand story, represent its values and draw in new customers. But what makes a logo memorable and effective? We asked design experts and community bankers.

By Amy Geist

Nike’s swoosh, McDonald’s golden arches, Apple’s partially eaten apple. They’re some of the most recognizable logos not just in the U.S. but in the world. Few brands can attain that no-words-needed level of recognition, but it’s what every business strives for—community banks included.

In the brand-saturated financial services industry, a well-designed logo captures potential customers’ attention and encourages them to learn more about the community bank behind it.

But creating a logo that commands attention isn’t easy. Jana Jurukovska, ICBA vice president of marketing and creative director, describes it as “a balancing act between looking secure and respectable—but also approachable and different.”

By adhering to best practices, embracing key design trends and partnering with a skilled vendor, community banks can achieve that balance with a logo that resonates.

Logo design best practices

“A logo is not just something that looks pretty. It is something that captures the brand,” Jurukovska says. “Designing a new one is a massive undertaking.” Banks thinking about overhauling their logos must consider the competitive landscape and consumers’ preferences, not to mention all the technical aspects.

Community banks should consider these best practices while designing their logo:

  • Versatility: Does it resonate across different demographics?
  • Utility: Does it perform well at different scales and mediums—pens, mailers, signage, digital billboards, a mobile app?
  • Longevity: Will it endure for many years to come?
  • Identity: Does it reflect the qualities and characteristics of the bank?
  • Compliance: Does it adhere to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) digital accessibility guidelines?
  • Simplicity: Are font and color choices concise, bold and memorable?

Trends in logo design

As trends come and go, some community banks are realizing that their logo no longer reflects who they are or resonates with their target demographic. To address this, they’re shedding complicated, stuffy, non-digital-friendly logos and embracing the bold look of powerful retail brands.

Sarah Bacehowski, president of Mills Marketing in Des Moines, Iowa, recalls when banks’ logos had to reflect their name. “If the name had ‘river’ in it, if the name had ‘valley’ in it, we had to represent that somehow graphically,” she says. “It was very literal.”

That’s no longer the trend. “As long as we can find a relevant and easily identifiable way to shorten the bank name,” Bacehowski says, “we’re concerned with what will look good, what will pop on the mobile app.”

She notes a few characteristics of modern logos. First, they feel crisp and clean and often use sans serif fonts and a limited color palette. Second, they’re stripped-down so they will be legible in both digital formats (think: a small phone screen) and traditional channels. Finally, they’re brighter, using vibrant colors instead of more traditional dark greens, blues and reds.

Partnering with a vendor

Unless a community bank has a design whiz on staff, it should engage a professional design firm. “Some community banks have in-house design expertise or marketing teams, but very few have the experience that a vendor can provide,” says Paul Tonelli, VP, creative director at Pannos Marketing in Manchester, N.H.

He notes that the design process begins with discovery. “An agency gathers insight from all levels of the organization to understand the brand story and the image the client wants to portray to the marketplace,” he says. The agency will also draw on its experience with other clients and its knowledge of the competitive landscape to determine how to represent the client’s brand best.

With that knowledge in place, the agency will produce a variety of options for approval by the community bank leaders. And once one has been selected, the agency will create new marketing materials and establish logo guidelines for use in the future.

Finally, an agency can help promote the new logo with an internal and external messaging strategy. After all, now that you have a shiny new look, you’ll want to show it off.

Notable logos

American Bank & Trust
$475 million-asset bank, Davenport, Iowa

American Bank & Trust logo

“We knew we needed to create a logo that not only reflected our bank and culture, but one that would be attractive and resonate with customers, prospects and our team. The [new logo] has been a positive and empowering message for us—we use it in nearly everything we do. We definitely believe this was a change for the better.”
—Jeff Rose, CEO

$3.5 billion-asset bank, Henderson, Texas

“The typography presents the bank as friendly and modern while remaining established, trusted and capable … We believe our tagline ‘Genuine Banking’ is a constant and universal reminder of our commitment to facts, accuracy and seeking the best interest of our customers.”
—Robin Gibson, marketing manager

Avidia Bank
$2.3 billion-asset bank, Hudson, Mass.

“We want people to associate our brand, as well as banking in general, with a positive feeling. We feel our bright colors of orange and indigo help us with that.”
—Jessica Bonetti, AVP, creative manager

Amy Geist is a writer in Colorado.