In fashion, image is everything. So it’s no surprise that if you want to study the masters of the perfect brand logo that there’s no better case study to look at than the big fashion brands of our time.

These companies have huge design and marketing budgets. Every tweak and every decision made with relation to their logo and their brand is agonised over in excruciating detail.

Thank goodness, because it provides an excellent example for small businesses to learn from.

Cartier, Gucci, Armani, Burberry and Prada – we thank you for showing us a rollercoaster of brand & design tips. Whether or not you are thinking of designing a fashion logo or putting together a new brand, there is something quite special you can learn from a deep analysis here.

Fashion brand & logo tips from Cartier

At 166 years old, Cartier is probably one of the oldest established brands in the world. Their logo, while incredibly simple, speaks of this through its beautiful handwriting script – traditional, elegant and timeless.

1. Heritage

Heritage is very important to the Cartier brand. A big onus is put on the longstanding traditions and the longevity of the company. The script font of the Cartier logo resonates with this, creating a traditional feel.

2. Timeless

Cartier designs live on; they are timeless pieces which even if they are 100 years old are still stylish today. How do they manage this? It’s all about simplicity, and the Cartier logo really is that. The simple typography says it all.

3. Priceless

Cartier gifts are meant to be priceless and utterly personal. The handwriting font on the Cartier logo really gets across this personal feel.

4. Treasures

Detail is everything. Cartier treasures are exquisitely put together, and the detailed execution of the Cartier typography exudes luxury. The tips of the ‘r’s for instance are like tiny bejewelled embellishments.

Fashion logo analysis of Gucci

Gucci is a brand that literally worked its way up by setting its sights on aspiration. Guccio Gucci first made a living in the 1920s by working in affluent hotels and he was inspired by the elevated lifestyle he witnessed. Since then, aspiration has been a huge part of the Gucci brand, and this is reflected in the logo – bold and luxurious.

5. Innovation

One of the most distinctive things about the Gucci logo is the unusually large spacing. This instantly sets it out from the crowd.

6. Inspiration

Aspiration is also about inspiration. The innovativeness and boldness of the Gucci logo is very distinctive and confident in its outlook. Something that is

7. Strength

The Gucci story is all about the power and strength of style through adversity. The interlocking Gucci symbol is a really structurally strong shape.

8. Luxury

The golden sheen on the Gucci logo exudes luxury.

Armani is a modern brand, created in 1975 that prides itself on its distinctive look, brought about with flair and detailed execution.

9. Simplicity

The Armani logo, in all its forms, always focuses on the simplicity of its beautiful font.

10. Unique Style

The typography in the Armani logo has its own uniquely elegant style. For me, what makes it is the delicate curve of the ‘R’ against the sharp lines of all the other letters. It quite accurately mirrors the same small detail in a piece of Armani clothing that makes it definitively Armani in style.

11. Perfection

The sharp lines of the letters are precisely drawn. It’s clear that attention to detail here (like in the fashion lines) is paramount to achieve the distinct blend of Armani perfection.

12. Elegant Confidence

The combination of thin and thick lines in the Armani logo letters creates an impression of elegance as well as strength – a small distinction that makes a big difference.

Burberry and its rather different take on what a fashion brand and logo should be

Burberry is a well-established British fashion brand. Founded in 1856, it prides itself on its long history as a quality British brand for over 150 years. In its early history in particular, Burberry was a huge name in practical lines of clothing for extreme outdoor excursion – they provided the clothing for early explorers and aviators.

13. Hardwearing & practical

The block capitals of the Burberry logo illustrate the hardwearing and practical nature of the brand. Easily embossed, no fuss, simple.

14. British

Burberry makes being British a real feature of their brand. From the emphasis on practicality with the bold font, to the use of a gallant knight as their icon the logo design gives an instant impression of patriotic, unashamed Britishness.

15. Daring

Despite its traditional history, Burberry has always been daring and willing to leap into the future. The leaping equestrian knight graphically brings this element of the Burberry brand to life within the logo.

16. Sensible stability

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The Burberry logo has barely changed in 150 years (other than the addition of the Prorsum Knight icon in the first half of the 20th century). And a lot of the staple parts of the brand have had no need to change – the Burberry trench coat is as stylish and practical today as it was when it débuted in 1912.

Would the devil design a fashion logo like Prada’s? Probably.

For some Prada is the epitome of the fashion industry (it wasn’t for nothing that the film is The Devil Wears Prada). Prada prides itself on its understated exclusivity which has become a huge part of the brand since the latter part of the 20th century.

17. Ahead of the times

The sudden sharp lines of the Prada logo (particularly in the bottom half of the ‘r’ and the top of the ‘a’) really give the logo a subtly edgy feel.

18. Attention to detail

The smallest serif flick makes the biggest difference in a subtle logo. The Prada logo is as particular about execution as their clothing designs.

19. Self-assurance

The Prada logo is frequently displayed very plainly with a lot of whitespace around it. This is a real statement of self-assured brand impact – nothing else is necessary. And the context of how a logo design is displayed cannot be underestimated. It creates as strong an impression as the logo itself.

20. Understated

The simplicity of the Prada logo makes it very understated, and additionally (unlike its main competitors) they tend not to place their logo very prominently on their items, in keeping with the understated, yet exclusive feel they go for.

21. Knowing your limits

The great success of Prada as a fashion brand is that they have always known when to stop, and this is an important lesson. The strongest brands are probably not only distinguished by what they are, but also what they are emphatically not. Despite enormous demands for their products Prada always limited supply. This ensured that they always kept their elite and aspirational status – a key part of their brand, and a decision that helped Prada to come away from the flock of other fashion brands.

The Summary (reverse engineering and how to apply)

The success of these big brand logos comes primarily from how well they know themselves. They pool this information, condense it and use it to apply rigorous details to their designs and make sure that they are always used in the right context. All of these logos are very simple, focusing on just typography – but look how much they each do with them and what different nuances of emotion they can evoke from a subtle twist.

So how do you reverse engineer this to improve the quality of your own designs?

The first step is to really think carefully about your brand. Know who you are (or who you want to be) with absolute conviction. Communicate this to your designer and brainstorm ideas to help them figure out how to illustrate your brand in those initial designs. Then you need to be rigorous with your revisions and make sure you look at things in detail – look at how different the ‘r’ of Cartier, Armani, Burberry and Prada is – it’s small details like that which make a good logo great.

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Read more: Prada’s Artful Exclusivity