Animals and brands go together like Puma and…pumas. From the velds of Africa to the jungles of our unconscious, animals hold a vital place in our experience as human beings.
Why else would nearly a third of the major league teams in North America get their names from animals? Because animals mean something to us.
So, to help you find the right animal symbol to add to your logo, we’ve corralled a quick how-to guide. Strap in, whip out your binoculars, and get ready for some animal logo-spotting!
Why use animal symbolism in your logo?
Our nervous systems have evolved to detect and respond to predatory cats, poisonous snakes, and your mother-in-law. In simple terms, we pay attention to animals.
In a world where your customers’ attention is a precious commodity, it’s vital to get your brand across instantly. And adding an animal symbol to your logo is a great way to do just that. Every animal has its own instinctive set of associations that we recognize in the blink of an eye.
Famous brands using animal symbolism
There’s an art to capturing your brand through the symbolism of an animal. So let’s break down some well-known brands that use animals to understand how they work, and how you can apply these insights when designing your own logo.
Owls have been singularly associated with wisdom for hundreds of years. Something about their massive eyes, 360-degree vision, and generally inquisitive vibe have made these fluffy birds of prey a perfect symbol for the acquisition of knowledge. And that’s exactly why Duolingo wanted an owl! Duo – the brand’s mascot – encapsulates the friendliness, warmth, and wisdom you’d hope for when learning a new language.
Drunk Elephant is one of the most popular and unique skincare brands out there. According to their website, the name comes from a myth about elephants eating rotten fruit and getting smashed (a myth that has repeated itself in everything from Disney films to beer companies).
The reason the logo works is that it’s so unusual; elephants aren’t exactly synonymous with skincare, after all. But when you dig a bit deeper, the juxtaposition works. Coupled with a spare design style, the drunk elephant logo creates a sense of fun, individuality, and body-positivity – qualities you want to convey if you’re selling skincare products!
It’s 2019: rubber clogs are a thing, and existence is weird. Whatever ambivalent feelings about life Crocs bring up for you, this logo is genius. Okay, so it’s not an ‘official’ logo, but Stephen Kelleher’s concept logo design is a masterclass in animal character logos. Look at the grounded simplicity of it! The comforting silliness! We love it.
According to Jagermeister, the logo represents the story of St Hubertus, the patron saint of hunters. For most of us, however, the gothic deer symbol and traditional germanic typeface actually represent loud music and bad decisions.
The logo ultimately works because of its striking design, fall-inspired color palette and is almost occult texture.
Tips for picking an animal symbol for your industry
As the examples above showed, picking an animal symbol for your logo involves one of two things. Either, you select an animal that shares obvious qualities with the work you do, or, you choose one that’s a little unusual. In this case, it’s the uniqueness of the animal that brings your brand to life.
But, be careful if you go with the second option. Animal logos with no connection to their brand can be confusing for potential clients.
For example, is a HUGE, ANGRY GORILLA really the best choice for your new daycare? And do you really want your new MMA gym to be remembered as ‘the little fuzzy caterpillars’?
We didn’t think so!
To pick your animal symbol, start off by considering the qualities you want to convey as a brand.
- How you want customers to feel?
- What characteristics does your industry value, specifically?
Then, think of a few animals and their unique traits.
- How do they move?
- How do they look?
- Do they build things?
- Are they exotic?
- What is their symbolic history?
The aim here is to build up a cluster of overlapping traits between your brand and the animal you want to symbolize it with. If you need a little help, here are a few examples of industries, qualities, and the animals you could use to embody them with:
Animal symbols: horses, bulls, cobras, big cats
Symbolic meaning: power, speed, precision, grace.
Educational / Consulting
Animal symbols: owls, falcons, whales.
Symbolic meaning: wisdom, insight, depth.
Animal symbols: lions, bulls (not bears), peacocks, herons.
Symbolic meaning: royalty, reliability, uniqueness.
Animal symbols: think earthy, tough animals: rhinos, elephants, turtles.
Symbolic meaning: strength, solidity, reliability.
Animal symbols: peacocks, foxes, pheasants, ostriches.
Symbolic meaning: reliability, luxury, a dash of character.
Animal symbols: you’re spoilt for choice when looking for athletic, tough animals. Any large cat, gazelles, horses, even dogs!
Symbolic meaning: speed, control, grace, power, aggression.
Animal symbols: you can get pretty creative here. Zebras, tropical frogs, chameleons…you get the picture!
Symbolic meaning: quality, tenderness, individuality.
Animal symbolism logo styles
Now that you’ve picked your perfect animal, it’s time to think about your design style. Simply picking an animal doesn’t cut it, as this satirical logo shows:
Matching your design style to the animal itself is an important part of the coherence that makes your brand qualities shine through. Here are a few common approaches:
A lot of logos with animal symbols use flat design. Think Twitter, Duolingo, Evernote. Because of the immediacy of the animal portrayed, flat design allows your logo to be usable and recognizable in nearly any context.
Like flat animal logos, monochrome logos can be a useful constraint that forces you to communicate your brand effectively. Often, designers will do a first-round version of any logo as a monochrome, to ensure the silhouette can be recognized in the blink of an eye.
Minimalism is all about the economy of line. That means conveying the sense of an animal with as little visual processing possible. Think about the movement of your animal symbol here, like a fox tail, or the outspread wings of a bird.
Abstract logos often force you to think outside the box but do so in a way that’s still immediately communicable. Think of the Toronto Raptors logo, for example, or Monster Energy. While both use the power of animal symbolism, they choose to emphasize traits, rather than the animals themselves. Here, you have a lot of freedom to get creative, but make sure you don’t obscure the animal in overly-complicated design!
A powerful, edgy design style that complements the wildness of the animal depicted. Graphic style logos are often used for sports teams, extreme sports, tattoo shops, and band merchandise.
We share 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees, and 60% with chickens (and bananas, but ignore that). Basically, we have a ton in common with the animal kingdom, and that’s why animal symbolism is so powerful!
When you start designing your logo, think carefully about the unique tendencies and qualities you’d like to portray. Try a few different designs in our AI-driven logo generator until you find a pairing that fits.
Play around, try out different styles, and you’ll have created a perfect logo in no time. Good luck!