Make sure that every logo design choice in your company’s logo is intentional and communicates the message you want to convey.
By Katie Lundin
Whether every detail of your company’s logo is intentional, every detail will influence people’s purchasing decisions.
Let’s take a deeper look at the psychology of logo design and how fonts, shapes, lines, colors, and composition can affect how a logo can influence purchasing decisions.
The Psychology of Fonts in Logo Design
How do you know which font style will work best for your business?
The Software Usability Research Laboratory (SURL) at Wichita State University ran a study that examined the traits people associate with varying fonts.
Traditional fonts including Arial or Times New Roman were categorized as “stable” and “mature”, but were also considered “unimaginative” and “conformist.”
In contrast, “youthful” and “casual” fonts like Comic Sans were also considered “happy” and “casual.”
Most important, be sure that the company’s name is legible and readable. You’d be surprised how many logos we’ve seen that are unreadable.
How can you remember a business if you don’t know the name of that business?
The Psychology of Shapes in Logo Design
All logos – whether they include an icon and text, only an icon, or even just text – have a shape.
The 3 major categories – geometric, abstract/symbolic and organic – all come prepackaged with their own psychological associations.
Geometric shapes look man-made. Mathematically precise squares, perfect circles, and isosceles triangles don’t tend to appear in nature. So, using these shapes communicates a sense of order and power.
Squares and rectangles convey stability, reliability, strength, order, and predictability. Think of the bricks that are used to build sturdy, stable buildings. If you want your logo to communicate strength and reliability, considering incorporating squares or rectangles.
Circles are never-ending. So, they may be the right choice for your logo if you want to make your consumers think of harmony, unity, eternity, or timelessness. Curves are considered to be feminine; and, as such, circles communicate softness, gentility, and femininity.
Triangles are a directional shape. As a result, they change meaning depending on how they are positioned. When right side up, triangles convey power, stability, and upward momentum. Inverted triangles suggest instability or downward momentum. And, triangles pointing to the side convey movement and direction based on where the triangle’s point is facing.
Abstract or Symbolic Shapes
Symbols are simplified shapes that represent something specific in a culture. And, because symbols have clear, common meanings, they are relied upon heavily as a visual language.
Stars can convey patriotism, religion, or even show business and Hollywood depending on how they are used.
Hearts can be used to communicate love, relationships, and marriage; while broken hearts represent break-ups, divorce, and sadness.
Arrows suggest a direction, movement, and travel. These are commonly used in businesses that ship and deliver goods.
FedEx and Amazon are examples of logos that use symbols well.
The arrow in the FedEx logo is subtle and created from negative space – it’s an unexpected surprise.
Amazon’s logo features an arrow that serves triple duty signifying a package being delivered, their range of products (from “A” to “Z”) and the recipient’s resulting smile.
Organic shapes include the shapes of organic items occurring in nature (rocks, leaves, tree bark, amoeba, water ripples, etc.). This category also encompasses any irregular non-symbolic shape, even if not inspired by nature.
When utilizing organic shapes, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Natural shapes like leaves, grasses, representations of water, and trees tend to have a soothing effect on the viewer. This is why they tend to appear in logos for spas and holistic medical businesses.
- Shapes with jagged angles may create feelings of anxiety for your viewers, while shapes with soft curves will make them feel more relaxed.
- Shapes that don’t resemble anything recognizable are open to the viewer’s interpretation. This means that you will need to work harder to communicate a specific message through other design elements and branding choices.
The Psychology of Lines in Logo Design
Lines divide space. They create definition and form. They communicate direction. Lines tell us where to stand and where to drive.
But, beyond their practical function, they can also communicate a great deal aesthetically. In fact, geometric line art logos are popular in logo design trends this year.
Thin lines are delicate and may appear fragile. They communicate elegance and femininity. They can also imply frailty, weakness or flexibility.
Alternately, thick lines suggest strength and rigidity. They appear more traditionally masculine than thin lines. Thick, bold lines are used to draw focus and create emphasis where they appear.
Straight lines imply order, structure, and predictability. They may also be perceived as rigid or harsh.
Curved lines, on the other hand, offer more energy and dynamism.
The position of your line in space impacts the psychological effect that the line creates.
Horizontal lines run parallel to the horizon. As a result, they contain the least visual energy of all line positions. They feel comfortable and safe.
Vertical lines run perpendicular to the horizon. They appear to rise straight up from the earth, filling them with the potential visual energy to tip or fall. Vertical lines draw the eye upward. And, as such, are often used in religious iconography to draw focus upward to the heavens.
Diagonal lines suggest movement and action. Diagonal lines can be positioned anywhere between horizontal and vertical. This makes them very expressive and the least stable of all the line positions.
Smooth lines are clean, calming and restful. Depending on their context, they can convey confidence, fluidity, or ease.
Jagged and zig-zagging lines are filled with tension. These dynamic lines change direction quickly, communicate erratic movement, and irregularity. They can suggest excitement or anxiety, confusion or danger.
The Psychology of Colors in Logo Design
Color contributes the strongest emotional trigger in your logo design repertoire.
Colors are strongly linked to emotions in the human psyche. Whether our interpretation of colors is hardwired into our brains or is due to cultural influence – or a combination of both – there is a generally accepted language of color.
It’s also important to bear in mind that how you mix your colors in a single design also has psychological implications for your viewers. For instance:
- A multitude of bright colors appears youthful, childlike, or full of energy.
- Black and white is a classically elegant combination that implies maturity and sophistication.
- Monochromatic schemes allow you to embrace more vibrant colors while maintaining a softer, more unified feel.
- Combining neutrals with an accent color allows you to take advantage of the emotional influence of a strong, bright color without the childlike implications.
Choose your colors wisely to elicit appropriate brand-appropriate emotions. Your color choices should always embody the personality of the brand.
The Psychology of Composition in Logo Design
Fonts, shapes, lines, and colors are the building blocks for a great logo design.
But, don’t forget that how you compose those elements also impacts how the logo is perceived and the message it sends.
Here are some important considerations to think through when composing a logo design:
- Size denotes importance. The larger an object is the more focus it draws and the more important it seems.
- Western audiences read from left to right. So, things appearing on the left side of the logo will be viewed first and perceived as the most important.
- Loosely spaced items surrounded by negative space look more restful than items that are closely spaced. If you choose to emphasize negative space, be careful not to leave too much or the logo may lack coherence.
- Scattered, or irregular placement suggests playfulness, chaos or rebellion; while orderly, symmetrical arrangements communicate formality, stability, and conformity.
- Layering items together creates visual relationships, so be mindful of how you combine shapes and lines.
Every detail of your company’s logo will influence people who see that logo.
You can communicate a lot – and do it efficiently and effectively – if you understand your brand and make informed, thoughtful choices regarding fonts, colors, shapes, lines, and composition.
Katie Lundin is with crowdspring, one of the world’s leading marketplaces for crowdsourced logo design, web design, graphic design, product design, and company naming services. She helps entrepreneurs, small businesses and agencies with branding, design, and naming, and regularly writes about entrepreneurship, small business and design on crowdspring’s award-winning small business blog.