03 May 5 tips for good logos: Tip #3: Geometry Matters
Put away that protractor, its not that kind of geometry. This third installment of 5 Tips for good logos isn’t going to teach you how to obtain the cosine of the adjacent angle but a simple knowledge of the four basic logo structures, how basic shapes can convey emotion, and proper logo proportions can go a long way towards a successful logo. Math wiz or not.
Define your logotype
Its important to understand what kind of a logo you are designing. It doesn’t matter if its your personal logo, or that of some high-society organization. Will your logo have an icon or symbol? Do you prefer an emblem with elaborate illustration? Is your company name recognizeable and short? All valid questions you should be asking yourself or the client. Here are the basic four logo structures commonly used. There are pros and cons for each type, and the style that will best suit you depends wholly on the type of business you are in.
A more widely used of all logo types, the wordmark focuses on text and typeface but can incorporate other elements as well. A wordmark is often text only or can contain small typographic treatments. The Yahoo! logo is a good example of this type of logo. It is pretty straightforward text with the exception of slightly raised and lowered letters that appear to get smaller the further away from the prominant Y. A great visual representation of sound leaving a source and getting smaller or weaker as it gets further away. These logos use no symbols, icons or illustrations other than those found affecting the lettering of the company name. These logos are typically used to push name recognition but require the company name be something memorable and short.
The lettermark is a wholly typographic mark, usually involving initials or abbreviations but does not spell out the entire company name. Monograms and anagrams are lettermarks. The composition of the letters becomes a symbol of the company. These logos are typically used when the company initials look better than the actual name. Unless your company is well known like IBM, chances are those 3 letters wont mean squat to the public. In this case, if you intend to use those initials, you will have to provide supporting text to further define what your company does.
A simple but strong graphic symbol, often abstract, that complements an aspect of a business or service and represents a company by association. Nike has spent years and millions of dollars in advertising to associate the Nike “swoosh” with “Nike”. Only after many years and countless cost, can Tiger Woods don a black hat with a simple, elegant white stroke and have the entire gallery instantly recognize that white mark as “Nike”. Apple has done the same with their Apple icon. It takes a well-established company and identity to be able to use solely a brandmark with no supporting text.
Iconic logotypes are also known as combination logos. These generally include a brandmark symbol with a wordmark. The combination can be loose or integral. With a loose combination, the elements can be used together or separately. A well designed iconic logotype can effectively communicate what a company does as well as reflect the company personality. Since Iconic Logotypes communicate more readily than other logotypes, less marketing is required for the logo to be effective. Therefore, iconic logotypes are the most cost effective type of logo design available and are ideal for startups or small businesses with limited marketing budgets
Use appropriate colors, fonts & shapes
Back to the geometry. Font geometry is something to consider when evaulating your company’s identity and what kind of message you want to send consumers. Serif fonts tend to be traditional: you’d use a serif font for a lawyer, doctor or bank. Serif fonts are popular in print as they enhance readability. Sans serif fonts tend to be more modern and are often used for computer and technical companies. Serif fonts are easier to read on the screen. Handwriting, script or calligraphy fonts tend to be used for more artsy companies, child-related companies or sometimes feminine and traditional sensibilities.
No logo should be considerably wider than tall nor taller than wide. It should serve as a unit. Logos that are larger in either direction become hard to scale, both up and down. A look a major logos will reinforce this. Their average proportions are approximately 1:1.5 in either direction. This means that most sucessfull logos have one side about 1.5, or less, times taller or wider than the opposite side. This is logo proportionality.
While I downplayed color in the last tip, it was merely in light of the basics. Color cannot make up for poor geometry, shoddy font selection or overall crumminess. But, color can play an important role in logo design. Your customer doesn’t want to hear that you chose that blue because it looks cool; they want to know what why you chose blue. Below are some common color associations:
Blue: trust, loyalty, water, relaxing, power, dignity, technical
Yellow: energy, joy, light, hope
Pink: calming, cheery, feminine
Green: life, growth, money, jealousy, nature, fertility
Purple: wealth, royalty, power, love, sophistication, elegance
Brown: credibility, stability
White: purity, cleanliness, innocence
Red: heat, passion, danger, power, force
More geometry that affects your logo design: Basic shapes. The simplest of shapes can convey worlds of emotion. Adding curves softens a logo, presents a sense of caring and warmth. In contrast a very blocky or square logo conveys a more traditional, stoic sense. The kind of feeling you would want to emit from a bank or doctor, square regimented, business-as-usual. Sharp corners and pointy peaks can feel more GenX-ish and edgy.
Circle: connection, community, movement, safety
Rectangle: solid, security
Triangle: exciting, powerful, aggression
Sometimes you create a logo so whacky it sticks out like a sore thumb. Other times its something that looks just like other companies in your field? How do you strike a balance? Next article we’ll be discussing standing out vs conforming to the industry.