Building a brand identity is a complex process. Start by understanding your brand's purpose and then develop branding elements that support this purpose. One important element of brand identity is logo design. When done right, a logo is memorable and impactful. When done wrong, it could be offensive--or worse, forgotten.

The best logos quickly convey your brand's unique look, feel, and mission. But sometimes, a company has its brand so flawlessly nailed down, only the specific target audience even understands it.

Take Tesla, for example.

Elon Musk recently shed some light on Tesla's logo design. Though it's easy to assume the T-shaped logo stands for Tesla, there's an added layer of hidden creativity (and brilliance) to the design. The real inspiration? The "T is like a cross section of an electric motor," Musk explained in a tweet last month.

What's unusual about this? The use of shapes and icons in logo design is nothing new. What better way to get people to remember your brand than by associating it with a unique shape? Typically, these shapes are easily recognized--say, a fork for a business in the restaurant industry, or a house for a venture in the hospitality industry.

But when I think of Tesla, I think "innovation." And the company appropriately takes a different approach to logo design. Instead of choosing a widely recognizable shape, it goes inside the product (cars) to a lesser-known icon (electric motor).

Tesla's brand and editorial guidelines back that up, stating that Tesla "believes in the future of transportation, as made possible by Tesla's innovation." And that while it aims to be accessible, "it is intelligent and does not speak to everyone."

How Tesla's logo represents its brand

Tesla's logo is a perfect embodiment of this brand. A car's motor is what pushes a vehicle forward. In symbolic terms, an electric motor is the catalyst of movement--or innovation. Yet this icon is a very specific reference--one that many people wouldn't inherently recognize or understand.

Innovative and intelligent: That's Tesla's logo. And it's exactly what the Tesla brand aims to be.

As an entrepreneur, how can you apply this thinking to your own brand and logo design? There are many creative ways you can represent your brand. But it all goes back to your brand's purpose.

Think outside the box. And make your logo uniquely yours.