The human mind can read as much information from a graphic as it does from reading type. But the meaning it takes from a graphic is all the more powerful for speaking to the subconscious as well as the conscious mind.
Corporate marketers have long understood the power of communicating without words, while successful graphic designers fully understand how to create images that have resonance on multiple levels. And nowhere is this skill more pertinent than in the design of corporate logos.
The importance of colour and shape
What is a logo if not the distilled essence of a company’s raison d’être, USP and core values? That’s a huge amount of information to be conveyed in something small that needs to work as a thumbnail on the Internet, on letterheads, on packaging and on posters — often without text. It’s a tough challenge for any designer and the use of colour and shape are critical in conveying the right message.
Understanding the implications of your design choices in terms of colour and shape are critical if you want to create a successful corporate logo. Just as important is knowing and understanding the message your client needs to convey.
The subliminal messages of shape and colour
- Use circles, ovals and ellipses for companies with an inclusive or community message. Circles and rings suggest unity and friendship, while curves can give a logo a feminine slant.
- Straight edges and jagged points are more masculine.
- Squares and triangles suggest stability and strength, efficiency and professionalism.
- Triangles, in particular, have a traditional association with science, religion and law.
- Horizontal lines imply calm and tranquillity; conversely, vertical lines bring to mind strength and aggression.
- Using the colour red for your logo suggests passion, danger or aggression. However in more muted shades it also implies warmth and heat, and can stimulate appetite.
- Youthful and innovative companies often choose orange — it suggests fun and affordability.
- Yellow is warm and friendly but beware — it is also the colour of cowardice.
- Use green for environmental and natural products.
- Blue and grey are associated with professionalism, authority, success and sincerity — which explains why this combination is popular with financial and government institutions.
- Purple sends out mixed messages of royalty, religion and passion.
- Black and white are not ideal colours for logos as these are often the backgrounds the logo will need to stand out from.
- Brown is masculine and outdoorsy, while pink is flirty and feminine.
The above interpretations of colour and shape are just the basics. Sophisticated design will combine and subvert the simple messages to build a more complex picture. Make a safe colour more dynamic with an interesting shape or soften a masculine graphic with a more feminine hue.
How well we communicate is determined not by how well we say things, but how well we are understood.Andrew Grove
These principles of shape and colour can also apply to typefaces — heavy bold type is strong and dynamic, cursive scripts appeal to women and novelty typefaces are good for children’s products.
Every designer worth his or her salt will be aware of all of the above. But it’s the subtlety and sophistication of its application that marks out a truly gifted logo designer.