When designing a logo, it is fundamental to take into account which colors are going to be used in the making of it, as well as its shape, lines and typography. All these elements have a fixed cultural meaning; therefore, they must be combined in perfect harmony with the message a company wants to transmit. This being so, the choice of these elements requires a good knowledge of the graphic arts. Otherwise, there is some risk of failing to consider such important factors as their influence over the public, their versatility, and their obligatory coherence with the values of a company.
Next, let us give you some guidance with these significant aspects of logo design:
colors are essential to create a really effective logo. As they are semiotic, non-verbal elements, they are indispensable to attract people’s attention, and to make a design memorable. However, using too many different colors can be counterproductive, as the design will turn out to be confusing. Besides, full-color logos are just too costly, and it is difficult to adjust them to black and white. On the contrary, a simple one- or two-color logo is easily adjustable to different formats. Not surprisingly, then, those logos with a poor chromatic variety are successful mostly on the Internet, where there is such a huge visual saturation.
But, in addition to using few colors, it is equally important to use striking colors. For instance, one living color and another one dull would make a rather good combination, as contrast is the perfect way to provoke a visual impact. Then, designing a logo that people will always remember is not impossible. It is also advisable to use clear and neat colors so that the image is not confusing. Besides, since a logo is bound to be put to use over printed matter, colors such as magenta, yellow, cyan and black (the colors that printing houses generally use) should be chosen. On the other hand, big companies often use unique colors, which are made up from a special combination of the aforementioned colors. This combination is registered according to an international chromatic guide called Pantone, which makes it possible to do the same exact combination of colors again and again. These specially combined colors are known as corporate colors.
Every color affects the public in a very different way –every color provokes particular emotions and arouses unconscious association. In graphic design, the analysis of colors and their effects on people is named color psychology. In order to draw people’s attention to a company and make them see it in a positive light, a designer has to choose his/her chromatic palette very carefully. Only when people are persuaded into buying certain products just by seeing its colors can we possibly affirm that a logo is a great success.
Furthermore, each color is culturally associated with certain meanings, which are not univocal, but connected with a small group of connotations in each particular culture. Therefore, as chromatic coherence consolidates the message, the graphic designer has to select his/her chromatic palette in accordance with the distinctive characteristics of an organization and what it wants to transmit. So, given that each color can have different meanings, factors like cultural insertion, business field and potential clients are important to understand exactly why a logo’s chromatic palette is so relevant to whether it is good or not.
Next, we provide a list of colors including some of their respective associated meanings:
Red: expresses energy, passion, vitality, courage, and also aggressiveness. Being such an attractive color, it is frequently used in logo design.
Purple: associated with elegance, sophistication, luxury and mystery, this color is that of Royal families, and it is mainly used for making elite designs.
Violet: also an elegant color, although not so sophisticated as purple. Mainly used by financial companies that want to add a touch to their designs.
Pink: as it has been traditionally associated with femininity, it is therefore closely related to softness, innocence, warmth and protection. Many companies targeted at women have logos in this color.
Orange: transmits joy, fun, warmth, even novelty. It is very catchy, especially when in contrast to some dark color.
Yellow: it is an optimistic, strong, warm color, as it is associated with the sun. Yellow is used by a large number of travel agencies, and also by fast-food restaurants and laboratories.
Green: normally associated with health and nature, it produces a feeling of peaceful calm and freshness. Hence, it is often used by health organizations and environmental groups. However, it is also connected with money, so it is used by credit companies too.
Blue: It is extremely popular in the field of graphic design, since it is strongly associated with seriousness, professionalism, elegance, trustworthiness, security and authority. Especially used by financial and technological companies, and also by firms of consultants.
Light blue: Traditionally connected with masculinity, but also with the sky and the sea. It generates feelings such as tranquility, peacefulness and purity. In a way, it is a neutral color. A lot of companies specialized in technology have logos in this color, as well as many others specialized in chemical products.
Brown: because it is closely related to earth and wood, it therefore expresses solidity, trustworthiness, energy and usefulness. In addition, similar colors as beige and golden are considered elegant and exotic. For this reason, many chains of first-rate hotels choose them for their logos.
Gray: as red, gray is also frequently used in logo design, especially in combination with some strong color. It is connected with future, security, authority and technology. Thus, it is generally chosen by companies specialized in technology, communications and financial activities.
Black: appropriate to show elegance, seriousness, responsibility, distinction and boldness. Because of this, it is a favorite among logo designers, who mostly contrast it with some other color.
White: closely associated with purity, elegance, vitality, confidence and delicacy. Thus, a feeling of peaceful calm is often transmitted by this energetic color.
when designing a logo, not only colors are important but also shapes. Therefore, the choice of colors must be done in harmony with that of shapes, as the final outcome can vary in a considerable way according to the nature of this combination. Shapes are of use to represent ideas, express feelings and put emphasis on certain aspects of a company.
Next, we provide mini-list of the most frequently used shapes in logo design, together with some notes:
these are the most elementary shapes, and also the most effective, owing to their simplicity and great influence on the public. One of the virtues of circles, squares and triangles is that they are easily adjustable to different positions, surfaces and sizes. Moreover –designers must be aware of this–, each of them is unconsciously associated with a particular meaning. Thus, circles suggest an idea of infinity, protection and perfection; squares, security, solidity, stability and confidence; and triangles, tension, but also motion and novelty. So, having into account these subliminal connotations, designers have to be careful to choose those shapes that best represent a company.
although less common than geometrical shapes, free shapes –which are spiral and asymmetrical– are occasionally used to produce an effect of spontaneity. However, it is important to remark that, if they are too complex, they can bring about effects that are contrary to those intended.
The shapes selected to make a logo can be more explicit or less explicit, which means they can represent a company in a symbolical way or in an abstract way. Symbolical shapes are those which are directly connected with the activities of a company; abstract shapes, those whose ties with the products and services offered by a company are much more blurred. In both cases, the designer plays a crucial role, since it is he who must choose the appropriate shapes according to the occasion.
In the case of symbolical shapes (e.g. a musical note representing a record company), the designer should be careful not to end up making a logo that is obvious –and consequently forgettable. On the other hand, in the case of abstract shapes it is necessary that the designer gives some kind of formal hint to make the relation between the company and the logo clear. If not, the design will turn out to be ineffective. Hence, a curved logo is also possible for a record company, as curves may be associated with sound waves.
Whatever shape they choose, designers must always have in mind simplicity, without losing creativity. Even different shapes and colors can combine together to obtain an amazingly successful logo.
as they call people’s attention to some particular element of the logo, the choice of lines, as that of colors and shapes, is very important too. Besides, thick or thin lines will make all the difference to a design. For example, thin lines are frequent to make logos look elegant as much as thick lines to make them appear impressive. Many a design is made up of images or words formed by a group of lines, as it is the case with the IBM logo.
As colors and shapes, lines also have their own particular meanings. Curves suggest motion, softness and closeness. Straight lines are associated with technology, formality and seriousness. Angular lines are very powerful and therefore suggest strength and active will to succeed, apart from being connected, as straight lines, with technology. Of course, all these connotations are relevant to the message a company wishes to transmit.
both logotypes (verbal-only logos) and isologotypes (those combining words with images) require that the designer should create a unique typography according to what the company wants. When a word –either the name of a brand or its abbreviated form– is joined to an image or icon, then typography has to be relevant to this interrelation. In fact, the typography and the image of a logo usually go hand in hand. (Take the logo of Ford, for instance, whose curved typography coincides with the famous oval). However, there are occasions when they are intentionally contrasted, as it is the case with the logo of Puma, in which the typography suggests solidity, whereas the image suggests motion.
Technically speaking, designers must reach their creative peaks to think of an original, distinctive typography that is legible –if not, the logo will be a failure to communicate– and at the same time appropriate for a certain company. Style, size, degree of inclination, colors, and even the format of the characters have to be carefully selected so they match the company’s concept.
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