Logo design is an incredibly important topic, and one we’ve covered a lot with regards to inspirational roundups of clever and eye-catching logos, whether from small niche brands to Fortune 500 companies. However, we haven’t talked much about the psychology of logo design, so in this post, we’ll look at the psychology of logo design by breaking down the various components, and then how to bring it all together.
Whether you are starting a new business or re-doing an existing logo if you aren’t thinking about how to get inside people’s heads, then you may be missing the point. Having a logo just for the sake of having one is like hanging curtains on a wall without a window. It serves no purpose, it’s purely decorative. But if you dig deeper into understanding how major elements of a logo interact with the human psyche you can create an emblem which is powerful on several different levels.
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Color has a powerful effect on the human mind. The primitive instincts some colors can trigger might not even be evident to us on a conscious level. But marketers can use those reactions to help support a brand message and to increase the effectiveness of advertisements and logos. The psychology of color is complex and nuanced and no one color means the same thing to everyone. Our personal experiences influence our reactions to every color, but there are few social conventions which can be used to help strengthen the impact of your logo.
Bright colors are great for grabbing attention, red in particular works well for this purpose as the eye tends to be drawn first to red tones on a page. Red is the color of blood, and danger making it particularly provocative, it creates a sense of urgency and can even stimulate circulation.
Some cooler colors like blues and greens have the opposite effect. They tend to be a calming and comforting presence. Blue and green are among the most commonly occurring colors in nature which makes them particularly poignant to human beings. They work very well in conjunction with medical and financial industries because they inspire a sense of dependability. Too much blue though can be counterproductive, creating a cold and almost depressing image.
Other colors like yellow and orange work well as accents but can be difficult to see against white backgrounds. While purple is a color which represents luxury, spirituality and wealth, it can also be too youthful for businesses that want to generate significant gravitas.
Black and white are extremely useful colors to drive home important points and illuminate other features within a logo, such as the text.
Like colors, our minds are pre-disposed to react on some level to certain shapes. It may not seem like it but the way a line curves or remains straight can trigger certain sub-conscious connotations. Even in its incredible simplicity, the Nike logo uses shape to convey movement, and athleticism. By using shapes and lines thoughtfully any logo can create the desired tone.
Rounded shapes like circles can speak to emotions. Rings are the symbolic shape relating to love, marriage and relationships and can carry those connotations in any composition. They also symbolize friendship, care and support which makes circles useful in designs related to community.
Angular shapes like triangles and squares can represent balance and stability. Their straight lines and angles can indicate structure and reliability, making them a useful shape to convey professionalism, organization and efficiency. But on their own they can be a little dull. However they can tilted or combined with other shapes to add visual interest.
Lines can be used in a number of ways in logo design. The direction of the lines and whether they are rounded or jagged can also have a significant impact on how they are perceived. Horizontal and curved lines have a more feminine connotation. They can be used to indicate flow and tranquility; however horizontal lines can also give an impression of peace and stillness. Curvy lines on the other hand can show motion and happiness. Vertical lines are much more aggressive in nature and have a far more masculine energy, as do straight lines and angles. Vertical lines are bold and powerful and jagged lines can create a sense of action and vitality.
The fonts we choose need to be easy to read of course, but beyond that there are other choices we can make which will strengthen or weaken our marketing. There are a number of different types of fonts available; among the most common are serif, sans serif, handwritten and novelty fonts. Each one carries a different value and can contribute to the over all meaning of a logo.
The most commonly seen fonts are Serifs and Sans-Serifs. They are very popular for smaller type and bodies of text. However the Sans-serif fonts which are smoother and cleaner are often used in headlines and bold. Because these are highly recognizable and commonly used they can be used to indicate professionalism and tradition, however they lack individuality and sensationalism.
The more unique fonts and specially designed typefaces can be exciting and attention grabbing. They also show more personality and mood than most standard font types. These are especially useful for businesses that lean toward the creative or artistic. However, in some cases overly embellished fonts can be difficult to read, or run the risk of appearing juvenile.
Handwritten style fonts offer a personalized feel but like other decorative fonts, can be hard to read. In a logo, the words should be easy to make out, and so any fonts which obscure the words should be avoided.
The lines used in a typeface carry much of the same symbolism as lines in general. Fonts with more curved lines tend to be more feminine while bolder, harder shaped letters are more masculine. More angular letters can be used to express conformity and rigidity, while rounder letters can signify elegance and youth.
Bringing It All Together
Every part of a logo carries meaning; it can be subtle, sub-conscious, overt and even inadvertent. During the logo creation process it’s fine to experiment and find what “speaks” to you in terms of design. But when you begin with the fundamental psychology of colors, shapes and fonts, you can create an icon which will support your brand goals while creating visual continuity and excitement.