Circles are considered a safe and an ultra-recognizable shape, one that signifies unity, stability, and wholeness. As the shape of the earth and sun, they’re also a symbol we associate with the planet and nature.
Circles can be used as symbols or monograms in a logo, or as the shape where the entire logo lives. When we recently looked at what logo design choices Looka users make, we found that circle is the most popular container choice — and also one of the most-used symbol choices.
To explore what makes a good circle logo design — and help you decide if you should choose one for your business — let’s take a look at a few famous circle logos.
Starbucks is such a recognizable brand, it dropped the wordmark from its logo in 2011. The famous siren mermaid figure — now with an ever-so-slightly asymmetrical face — remains contained in a green circle. The badge design pops on coffee cups, bags, signage, and more.
Why it works: When you’re first starting your business, it’s hard to achieve brand identity without text in your logo. But since Starbucks has been around for many years, its brandmark can stand on its own.
Having just the mark enhances the strength of the logo for scaling purposes, legibility, and functionality. Starbucks doesn’t have to worry about having a different logo across platforms or applications, and it isn’t afraid to use off-center placement on its packaging.
Nivea released a new logo in 2013: a white wordmark set in a dark blue circle reminiscent of the brand’s classic tins of body lotion. While the previous rectangular logo left a ho-hum impression on packaging, the circle logo design is immediately recognizable and has vintage (yet modern) appeal.
Why it works: Most of Nivea’s products have circle target areas, whether that’s the lid of a bottle or screw-top of a tin. When the company decided to rebrand with a round logo design, it matched its products perfectly.
When you look at the updated products, it looks like the package and logo were designed together to keep brand identity — and when you see the dark blue circle, you think of Nivea.
When Pinterest updated its wordmark to a sans-serif font in 2017, its “P” badge remained the same. (It’s also the red circle logo seen by most of its users via the app.) The scripted “P” looks inviting and slightly imperfect, with the bottom of the letter breaking through the bottom of the circle.
Why it works: Pinterest launched with a script wordmark and a “P” circle monogram in the same typeface. This logo design meant that when you saw each element on its own, you could easily tie them back to one another.
However, because Pinterest developed a strong brand identity over the years — and the monogram “P” is now recognizable on its own — the company was able to rebrand and use a more modern, sans-serif typeface for its wordmark while still keeping its famous red badge.
BMW has one of the most iconic logos in the world, and the design has seen only a few tweaks since 1917. The blue-and-white design was inspired by the Bavarian flag, and is a good example of a monogram mark curving into a circular shape.
Why it works: BMW has kept its logo consistent for 100+ years because it follows basic design principles: contrast, hierarchy, legibility, and scalability. You can clearly tell each of the logo elements from one another.
The monogram is a bold, sans-serif typeface, making it the most dominant element of the logo (as the company name should be). And when scaling down, the text remains legible — a very important thing to think about when creating a logo!
Circle logo design tips
Circle logos come in many variations — some include the company name within the shape (like Nivea and BMW), and some fall outside of it (like Pinterest).
Here are a few questions to ask if you’re thinking of designing a circle logo.
- Why do you want a circle logo design? Go beyond “it looks interesting” or “my wordmark looks boring” and think about how the shape could strengthen your brand and business, as seen in the above examples.
- Does your company name fit into a circle container and will it be legible when scaled down? If not, are you willing to use an initial or monogram in a circle with your company name beside it or curve the text to better fit the space?
- Do you prefer a solid, filled circle logo like Nivea’s or a circle outline?
- Do you want the circle to include a wordmark/monogram only, or a symbol as well (like BMW)?
Once you know what kind of logo you want — and why you want it! — check out these design tips and examples.
Tip #1: Keep it short
Using horizontal text in a circle logo? Your company name should be 1-5 characters, max — otherwise, use an acronym or initials in the circle and place the wordmark beside it, as seen in the above example.
This wordmark has three words, and the monogram contains the first letter of each word, using the circular space wisely. Make sure your typeface fits within the circle shape, and adjust your spacing to use the most space you can while still having padding along the edges.
The goal is to not have a lot of negative space — and to keep your logo legible when it’s scaled down. Think about what your logo would look like as a favicon, a profile image on social media, or on business cards — you want a design that looks clear and legible across all channels.
Tip #2: Aim for brand consistency
If you decide to include wordmark in your logo alongside a circle monogram, keep the typeface the same in both the wordmark and the monogram to reinforce brand recognition.
Choosing the right typeface also has major impact on your monogram. In the above example, we used a bold sans-serif typeface to stay legible at all sizes, and there’s a unique triangle shape on each character to make it more recognizable.
Using a distinct typeface in a monogram makes it much easier for someone to relate it back to your primary logo. If you choose a thinner typeface in a circle that isn’t clear when scaled down, your logo won’t be functional — and you’ll be back at square one.
Tip #3: Create visual hierarchy
When designing a circle logo, think about what elements are going to be part of the logo. People often add random elements to fill space, but that’s poor and lazy design. You want to use the space wisely to create visual hierarchy.
The above logo example contains six different elements: company name, slogan, monogram, year, symbol, and a container.
Since there are many elements to work with, curving the text in the company name and slogan provides plenty of space for other elements. The monogram is right in the middle to attract attention to the name of the company.
Again, choose a typeface that’s legible and has contrast when scaled down to a small size; bold, sans-serif typefaces work best.
Want to create a circle logo that perfectly rounds out your business and unifies your brand? Remember to use a short name or monogram if your text is running horizontally, and choose a strong typeface to ensure both scalability and the best use of negative space.
If you want more of a badge-like look, think carefully about the elements you want to include and how you want your company name to look as curved text.
To test-drive circle logo designs, get started with our logo maker and go to the Container section on the left nav when you’re ready to edit a mockup you like.