I think graphic designers have been using this analogy (sales pitch?!) for a hundred years, but you wouldn’t do the electrical work on your house without consulting a qualified electrician, so it makes sense not to start on your logo without a graphic designer. Don’t get me wrong, many amateurs have produced seriously successful logos – for example, the Twitter bird icon, used from 2010 until 2012, was just a library symbol bought for $6. (The redevelopment to the current shape cost a little more than that, as you can imagine.) But in general, if you pick your designer based on their portfolio being relevant to you, you can be sure they will use their design knowledge and creativity to produce you a logo that will enhance your brand more than if it was thrown together in Word. Sales pitch over…
So, let’s talk about logos. I’m going to explain the basic principles of design here, so that you have insider knowledge on what makes a good design and can more easily make the decision about the logo that’s best for you. A logo has to be simple, memorable, relevant, versatile and timeless to be really successful. Graphic designers, tend to achieve this by following one or more of these six principles of design.
The first is balance or stability. This provides structure to a design, distributes the weight of the various elements in a harmonious way and emphasises the right pieces of a design. The examples shown are all of grounded logos which appear solid and balanced, even if they are not symmetrical, through careful distribution of text and line. Notice how even though the Hudson Heights logo is top heavy, the arms of the H act literally as a balance. The letters in the APA logo lean, but the words at the bottom of the triangle lead the eye to stability.
Repetition is another key principle. It establishes a pattern and strengthens a brand by tying all the elements together across the whole design, creating association and consistency. The examples include repetition in several different ways, either of line (bird), pattern (F), shape (triangles in Fraternity) or icon (hearts), creating continuity and therefore recognition.
Contrast can be used within the colour of a design, through positive and negative space or through the scale or style of the various elements. Good contrast allows the eye to flow naturally over the design. The fox, bear and fish all cleverly use white space to be defined, while the contrast between opposing styles of font work for the three typographic logos.
Alignment, spacing or proximity is also important. For someone like me who prefers precision, a design that doesn’t align is jarring. Alignment creates order by visually connecting each element and placing everything within a tangible structure. The logos I’ve selected to illustrate alignment show various ways of achieving this, from the clever “22” top left to the neat shapes of the Urban Organics logo and the great spacing of the complex Fruit & Grain.
Proportion or scale can make a difference to the design, along with the space around each element. Often, the contrast between large and small is the key to this, or using boundaries to define size either by flowing out of or staying within.
Dynamics or a sense of movement creates visual excitement. It can be as simple as a shape which leads the eye from one point to another, or as complex as a logo which seems to have its own life. Various forms of movement have been created in these examples. The three dimensional rainbow R, the script with all its swashes and the R with its shadow all show movement in varying ways.
Many of these logos display more than one of the six principles and while graphic designers don’t set out to pack each creation with as many as they can, an innate knowledge of the rules (and when to break them!) is a skill worth investing in, especially when it comes to your precious brand.
We’ll be having a look at colour theory next week, but in the meantime, see how many principles you recognise in the brands you see every day.