Amid the excitement of founding a new company, the importance of its logo can often be overlooked. Compared to profit forecasts or brand names, logos are frequently relegated to afterthought status. Indeed, web designers commonly throw a logo together in the final stages of website development, even though it’s not really part of their job.
Entrepreneurs and business owners ignore logos at their peril. The best emblems become instantly recognizable, delivering free advertising at every turn. From the golden arches of McDonalds to Nike’s patented tick, even a glimpse of a symbol can call to mind all sorts of connotations.
There is a complex psychology at play behind many company logos, with a variety of attributes carried in subtle (and even subliminal) ways. Here, we consider key ways to influence the impact a brand can make, and which elements to consider when creating a new business…
Perhaps the first decision to make involves color choice. In today’s advertising-saturated culture, it’s easy to overlook how much a simple background tone can say about a business. Colors can influence our moods, our perceptions and even our desires without us even realizing. And while the human eye can identify ten million colors, companies often select a particular Pantone shade to ensure accurate reproduction in print materials.
Consider what attributes you associate with a red dress or a green field, and it soon becomes clear how much color can influence us. Primary colors have deep-rooted associations that may speak volumes about a company. For instance, black is favored by long-established brands seeking to build trust. Banks and brand leaders tend to specify a black font or black background, while Apple adopted it in 1998 before switching between black’s maturity and white’s purity. The latter is ideal for hygiene or medical brands, and it’s very on-trend.
Environmental firms incorporate green because it’s the color of the natural world, as well as being linguistic shorthand for being ecologically aware. Orange is associated with warmth, comfort and youthfulness. And it won’t take anyone long to think of dynamic or assertive brands that have adopted red in their logo.
Specific tones can be equally instructive about a firm’s intentions or nature. Lighter shades of yellow and pink are more youthful and vibrant, while darker colors like purple and royal blue impart a calm authority and intelligence. The juxtaposition of dark text on a light background is more readable than the opposite approach, although Skype and Facebook are among the tech brands bucking the trend with white lettering against a darker background.
It’s an inescapable fact that most company logos are roughly or exactly square in dimensions, if not in shape. Even circular or triangular symbols generally reproduce well in a square space, making them ideal for inclusion on business cards and billboards alike. Since a logo offers free advertising and invaluable brand awareness, it should be used absolutely everywhere – including email signatures and online listings.
Geometric shapes convey differing messages, which may have relevance to particular industries:
- Squares and rectangles might not occur much in nature, but their conformity and stability provides reassurance. Most company logos have adopted one of these forms.
- Since a square with sharp edges might suggest inflexibility, brands like Instagram have literally taken the edges off to create a squircle.
- A circular sign suggests completeness and permanence, while the durability of its endless loop is also connoted by the infinity symbol.
- With its point facing upwards, a triangle infers stability and energy. A downward point adds a sense of unpredictability that’s ideal for edgier brands.
- Two intersecting lines create a cross, though it’s important to dispel any religious or negative connotations. Swatch and the Red Cross demonstrate well how to achieve this.
- Curves suggest a dynamic brand in motion, and they can be customized far more than conventional shapes – consider Nike’s swoosh or Amazon’s tick.
There are also considerations around whether to box a logo in. The two uppercase characters in Volkswagen’s seminal logo wouldn’t be nearly as eye-catching without a blue circular backdrop, while a dark blue rectangle frames IKEA’s yellow oval badge.
- Letters and fonts
Some companies feel a logo can effectively be replaced by a character. However, the confusion between Twitter and Tumblr reflects the western alphabet’s limited opportunities for using a letter or symbol to identify a brand. Symbols are especially troublesome, since ampersands and asterisks can cause issues with website domain names. It’s also tough to distinguish between the likes of ‘plus’ and ‘+’ when dictating a company name over the phone.
Representing a brand’s name in a proprietary font is a more common approach, though even here there are distinctions to be made. Serif fonts (with small lines on the end of certain letters) look traditional and imply permanence. Sans serif fonts are more contemporary, resulting in greater adoption among technology firms or new brands. The literal depth implied by text with shadows adds dynamism, although simplicity remains crucial. Porsche’s compact lettering and heraldic badge is much harder to distinguish at a glance than Aston Martin’s winged badge, for example.
Simplicity should be the watchword for any form of brand representation. A logo ought to be obvious at a glance, which helps to make it more memorable and recognizable. Overcomplicating things will probably lead to revisions in a few years’ time, as happened with Apple’s hard-to-print rainbow graphic or 2010’s aborted Gap rebrand.
Gap was forced to reintroduce its original logo within weeks, under a barrage of negative publicity. And this reflects the critical importance of asking a sample audience for their opinions on whether a shortlisted concept is clear and unambiguous. Everyone attaches different interpretations to a particular icon or color palette, and public feedback can be invaluable at the beta testing stages. Along with a website address and slogan, a company logo provides enduring free advertising that becomes more recognizable over time. There’s a reason brands like Coca-Cola and Sony stuck with their original emblems while society (and wider trends) have evolved beyond all recognition…