logo lessons 1: uniqueness

The quest for meaning.

The first attribute of a strong logo is how unique it is. A logo can be extremely generic or, on the other end of the creative spectrum, it can be unique. Often times, what determines where it lands on this spectrum, is the meaning behind the logo. More specifically, how the logo was designed to convey meaning.

Designers often feel the need to pack a logo with meaning. They want to make sure that when someone looks at the logo, the image explains as much about the brand as possible. Now, while it definitely doesn’t hurt for our logo to visually convey the essence of our brand, taking this task too literally can result in a generic logo.

This happens when the designer infuses the logo with imagery that very obviously relates to the brand’s products, services or themes. For example, a pizza shop having a slice of pizza in their logo, or a fitness gym having a muscular physique in their logo. If you were the only pizza shop or gym in the world, then it would be ok to use those elements in your logo. But because these businesses are everywhere, the reality is that a lot of pizza shops will have a slice of pizza in their logo and a lot of gyms will have a muscular physique in their logo. By definition, if your logo has the same elements as a bunch of other logos, then it’s generic. So how do we create a unique logo, without sacrificing meaning?

The mark of true creativity.

Abstract. A truly unique logo captures the essence of a brand in an abstract or clever way. Generally speaking, this requires a solid grasp of gestalt psychology (an understanding of how the human brain processes visual data), and the ability to think outside the box and make connections where others wouldn’t see them.

One example of this is a logo we recently did for a company called Qualicare, whose brand focuses on a complete yet sophisticated approach for homecare of the elderly. Now, if you look at the logos in this industry, close to 95% of them have either a heart, a house, a cross or a hand in them, because these are all images with a very clear and logical connection to home healthcare. The result is that all of these companies’ logos are generic.

We created a unique logo where the concepts of complete care and sophistication were represented in an abstract way via nothing more than the shapes and contours of the logo.

The thinness of the “Q” and its surrounding circular line, as well as their proximity to each other, all provide a sleek and sophisticated look and feel. Furthermore, the “Q” is being sheltered by the surrounding circular shape in a very neat and tidy way, symbolizing complete care. We were also able to include a third abstract meaning: that of hope, as the shape surrounding the Q resembles the outline of a sunrise.

Nice but not needed.

Even still, we know that there will be people who won’t immediately grasp the abstract meaning behind this logo, or any logo of an abstract and unique nature. And that’s 100% ok. In fact, if you have a decision to make between having a unique logo without meaning, or having a generic logo with clear & resounding meaning, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS go for uniqueness. There are two reasons for this:

1. Your logo’s primary purpose is to serve as a vessel for your brand; a reminder to consumers. When they see your logo, it’s meant to stimulate the feelings associated with your brand. So if your logo looks similar to a bunch of your competitors’ logos, you run the risk of people remembering your competitors’ brands by looking at your logo!

2. How often is your logo seen in the complete absence of your brand? Almost never. It will almost always be in the presence of some other content related to your brand, whether it be an ad, a business card, a website or a poster. So really, there is no actual need for your logo to explain anything about your brand, because it will always be in the presence of subject matter (such as verbal content or photography) that is much more effective at explaining your brand and business.

Dopamine Bonus

¬†There’s another reason why a logo with less obvious, more abstract meaning is a big plus. Because when people finally do figure it out, they get an “aha” moment, which science tells us is typically accompanied by a release of dopamine, the human “feel-good” molecule. From that point onwards, everytime that consumer sees your logo, their brain will associate your brand with feeling good.

The best part is, you can also lead consumers to that “aha” moment by having a page on your website and/or a social media post that explains the abstract meaning behind your logo.¬† This is a great opportunity to engage your audience in an emotional and thought provoking little adventure which not only strengthens their emotional connection with your brand AND gives them that AHA moment, but ask yourself this: how many of the other companies with hearts, houses, crosses, hands and pizza slice were able to leverage their generic logo in such a way?

But hey, if you want, you can go for the generic logo with tons of meaning. Your choice!