Good cattle branding iron designs are simple and meaningful, such as a design made out of the initials of the person designing the brand. They also usually have to be unique and follow the laws of the state where they are registered.
Sometimes the same brand design can be registered by two or more different people, but it has to be applied to a certain part of the animal's body. This can allow brand designers to incorporate common initials, numbers or other symbols into their designs. Brands are often legally required to have at least two symbols in them, but three symbols are also common.
A good brand design can also be creative. For example, the letters "U" and "C" can be laid on their sides to look like double horseshoes, creating a brand that is aesthetically pleasing as well as simple and interesting. Although custom branding irons can be made to spell out names or feature pictures, real cattle brands generally follow certain conventions. These are fairly standard across the American West, although some states may have individual restrictions.
For more humorous ranchers, a good brand design may feature a joke, pun or other reference. A famous example is the "Seven Up" brand, which features the number seven connected to the letter P with a curved line. This brand is a clever reference to the famous beverage. These puns work because each standard element of a brand is pronounced in a specific way, allowing people to plan subtle jokes or other references.