logo lessons 3: harmony

Nature holds the secrets.

Have you ever looked at a logo or some other visual design and felt that something was off, even though you couldn’t quite tell why? The reason it felt off, is because it was off. Geometrically speaking, that is. It lacked geometrical harmony.

When a design embodies geometrical harmony, our eyes enjoy viewing it. The best example is nature. The more scientists learn about our universe, the more they move towards the idea that this was all designed. Why? Because the natural world is filled with geometrical constants and patterns that are extremely unlikely to have occurred by chance. 

It’s these geometrical patterns and constants that contribute to the visual harmony and thus beauty of the natural world. We can see this literally everywhere in nature, including plants, animals, and even humans. Perhaps it’s also why our eyes and brains enjoy geometrical harmony so much: because it is a natural phenomenon, and so are we. (Birds of a feather, quantum entanglement, call it what you like.)

So how can we give our logo geometrical harmony?

Balance and proportion.

Two elements of geometrical harmony that can improve your logo design are symmetry and the golden ratio.

Symmetry is a simple enough concept to understand, but not so easy to apply to design. When you can cut something down the middle, and it’s identical on both sides, it’s perfectly symmetrical. Psychologists and neuroscientists know that the human brain prefers things to be symmetrical, the perfect example being that we find symmetrical faces more attractive.  

In order for your logo to benefit from symmetry, it doesn’t need to be perfectly symmetrical from every angle. Rather, it’s better to apply symmetry with respects to how the logo takes up general space, rather than being perfectly equal on all sides (in which case it could only be a circle).

Take a look at a logo we designed for one of Toronto’s oldest and most notorious Italian restaurants, the Big Slice:

Notice how the logo is not exactly symmetrical because on one side there is a spoon, and on the other there is a fork. Having said that, both are nearly the same size, both point outwards at the same angle, and both start and end in the same places. In other words, the general way in which they take up space is symmetrical. Also, the logo is only symmetrical when you slice it vertically down the middle. When you slice it horizontally or diagonally, it isn’t symmetrical, and that’s ok. Our brains love symmetry and are designed to spot it wherever it may be, and admire it.  If you can infuse general symmetry into your logo along just one plane (whether vertical, horizontal, or diagonal), then your brand is benefiting from visual harmony.

Another natural element that contributes greatly to visual harmony, but is less obvious, is the golden ratio. This geometrical constant is a number similar to Pi, which is found everywhere in nature. The golden ratio is 1.618. An easy way to understand this constant, is that when an object is 1.618 times bigger than another object, the two of them are exhibiting the golden ratio. However the ratio doesn’t need to be between objects. It can be within one object. For example the difference in size between two elements of the same object, can be a multiple of 1.618. Or, the rate at which an object expands outwards, can be 1.618. Here are some beautiful examples of the golden ratio found in nature:

There are many ways that a designer can apply the golden ratio to your logo, and it may not always be in the most obvious way. However, if it is applied correctly, it can have the very powerful effect of being consciously and subconsciously pleasing to the beholder’s eye.

It’s also related to the next desirable attribute of a powerful logo: memorability.