Designing a Logo: Shapes


Welcome to part 1 of our logo design series. One of the biggest challenges for any company, big or small, is image and branding. What do you look like from someone who has never heard of you? How can you ensure the impression is a good and memorable one? One of the most important tools is the company logo and it’s also one of the first places things can go wrong. We’ve all seen a logo in the past and thought, “What a mess.” It could be too small or too large, overly complicated, perhaps the colors look terrible together or the contrast makes it unreadable. Whatever the issue, we want to highlight some of the best practices in design to help you in the process. After all, your business is often an extension of you and we want it to look great!

In this first part of our Logo Design series we will be looking at the role of shapes. A shape will often make up the foundation of your business’s logo and is an ideal place to start. Some of the most recognizable brands in history are just common shape. They are simple and memorable.

BBC Logo
H&R Block Logo

Above are two simple and greatly effective uses of the humble square. Instantly memorable, and so simple.
Volkswagen Logo

The Volkswagen logo looks a little bit more involved but at it’s core all we have is a simple circle and two letters.

When choosing a shape for your logo think about the kinds of places you are expecting to see your logo. Perhaps you are selling a product where a rectangle would fit perfectly across the packaging. Maybe your logo will be on the back of a moving truck, or the door of a car. It could even be an internet advertisement. What shapes fit the nicest on website banners? Visualize the various shapes on your packaging or ad space.

Next you could consider what shapes tend to evoke in people. There is a lot of theory on shape choice and how it interacts with a mind. Of course it is all very speculative, but there is often some truth in the observations.

The Circle:
The circle is a very complete shape. It is comfortable to look at and can often evoke a sense of continuity and wholeness. The curves of a circle are less rigid, and perhaps softer than other shapes. You might use a circle to provide a sense of friendliness or community. Here some famous circle logos. How do they make you feel about the company when looking at them?

The Square and Rectangle
The straight edges of a square or rectangle logo can imply a sense of order and stability. It is a strong shape that we associate with professionalism and determination, even trust.

Watch what happens when you tilt the square though, it seems to evoke something new, a sort of playfulness is added to the design.

When choosing your logo be sure to move it around and see how it changes your perception.

The triangle is a fantastic choice for showing connectivity and structure. Often the points of a triangle are observed as joined in a fluid partnership evoking a sense of teamwork and commitment.

Don’t forget that a shape doesn’t necessarily need to be that shape exactly. There are many logos that conform to a shape without explicitly depicting it. This famous logo is immediately recognizable, but notice that it tends to confirm to the shape of a circle.

Here are some other cases, think about what base shapes you see in these.

According to Gestalt psychology, it is suggested that the mind remembers things as whole forms, and not as a collection of parts. When choosing your logo, filling an identifiable shape with the ideas you want to evoke will create something memorable and whole that the mind is naturally able to remember.

Try laying some shapes out on a table, see how they feel for your brand. Don’t forget to move them around and try different perspectives, maybe even try combining a couple of shapes, but don’t get too crazy! Once you have your shape selected, look at it and write down a list of things you feel the shape tells you. Have someone else do the same and see if there is any overlap. If there is an feeling you get that you want to bring out more strongly then it’s time we looked a color!

In our next blog we’ll take a look at color and its role in creating an emotional response in viewers. Or take a look at our complete guide to logo design.

See you next time!


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