What happens when a customer sees your logo for the first time? It might surprise you to know that there are many things happening at once.
In a split second, the human eye recognized colors, images, and shapes. Those are the key visual elements of your logo. However, they also register emotions and metaphors.
And all of that happens in period of time so small that it can hardly be measured. Before a customer registers what’s on your home page or in a Facebook post – and before they hear a word out of your mouth – they have already formed strong opinions about your brand.
For that reason, it is incredibly important to understand how a customer sees your logo. When you do, you can use that information to ensure that your logo does what you want it to do.
Human Vision and Branding
The first thing you need to understand is how human beings see images. When your logo flashes in front of someone’s eyes, whether it’s on your website or in a print ad, what happens to that person? How do they see it?
How the Human Brain Processes Images
The human brain processes images at an incredibly rapid pace. It might help you to hear that vision works at the speed of light, in a way.
What that means is that as soon as the light from a particular image, such as your logo, comes into contact with a person’s retina, the process of interpreting that visual begins.
Even more impressive is the fact that according to researchers at MIT, human beings can process images that they see for as little as 13 milliseconds. That’s much quicker than the blink of an eye and it points to why your logo must make an impact quickly.
The Importance of First Impressions
First impressions matter in many things, including branding and logo design. When a customer sees your logo for the first time, they should be able to look away and then draw at least a rough semblance of it from memory.
They also should be able to recognize it if they see it again. A common marketing truism is that a consumer must come into contact with a brand seven to ten times before they are comfortable with it. That may be true – but they’ll never get to a level of comfort if they have a negative first impression.
The bottom line is that your logo must be visually striking, impactful, and memorable from the first time somebody sees it. If you can accomplish those things, you’ll be well on your way to creating a visually effective logo.
What Makes a Logo Memorable?
What makes a logo memorable? It isn’t easy to sum up what your company does, and what it stands for, in a single image.
As mentioned previously, the shapes, colors, icons, and typography of your logo all work together to create a strong visual identity for your brand.
When we are children, one of the first things we learn to do is to recognize shapes. We learn faces first, and then gradually, we learn to identify and name squares, circles, and triangles.
Most logos use one or more of these three shapes, and consumers make snap judgments based on their appearance.
For example, squares and rectangles have an obvious solidity to them. They represent strength, predictability, and trust. They are often used to companies who wish to convey these values.
Circles represent warmth and connectivity. They also hint at a sense of safety and community. For that reason, circles often appear in the logos of companies that cater to children, as well as in the logos of non-profit organizations.
Triangles are the most exciting of the three primary shapes. When the eye sees a triangle, it sees innovation, creativity, and risk. A triangle’s points may be used to represent daring and they also frequently appear in religious symbolism.
As you can see, the shapes you choose speak directly to your target audience’s preconceptions about shapes. It’s important to choose wisely.
Like shapes, colors appear early in our visual education and continue to play an important role throughout our lives. Years ago, a famous experiment found that prison inmates whose cells were painted pink were less likely to be violent than those who lived in ordinary gray cells.
Color associations can vary from culture to culture, but in most Western companies red conveys excitement and passion. Green is associated with nature and money, and blue communicates serenity and trust.
The colors you choose play a big part in the values and characteristics you convey with your logo. You should choose wisely and also make sure that if you use more than one color, the shades you choose work harmoniously to deliver the desired message.
Many company logos use icons to represent their industry or niche. For example, educational companies use books, rulers, pencils, and other icons that remind us of school to represent themselves.
The reason they do so is that icons are instantly recognizable. They speak to the shared knowledge of your target audience and of the general public. Most people think of school when they see a ruler. They think of artists when they see a paint palette, and of cooking when they see a frying pan.
For that reason, it’s important to choose icons that speak to what you do – and yet, at the same time, you want to find a way to tweak the icons you choose and make them unexpected and unique.
For example, we designed this logo for a picnic supply company in Hawaii:
It uses a picnic basket – an instantly recognizable icon – against a backdrop that suggests the company’s Hawaiian location, including green volcanic mountains and palm trees.
Inside the basket is a collection of typical picnic foods, including sandwiches, fruit, and beverages. Any consumer seeing this logo for the first time would know instantly what the company it represents does.
Finally, you need to think about the typography of your logo. If you use a staid, conservative Serif font, then people who see it will assume that your company is steadfast, reliable, and maybe a little old-fashioned.
By contrast, if you use a brash and showy font, people will expect your company to deliver a product or service that is entertaining and fun.
How to Hijack Consumers’ Brains with Your Logo
Now, let’s put everything together and talk about how you can hijack consumers’ brains with your logo. Remember, the key is to create something that is instantly memorable without being a cliché.
Using Common Beliefs and Perceptions in Your Logo
The first thing you need to do is figure out what common beliefs and perceptions you can use in your logo. Earlier, we mentioned that many educational companies use pencils, books, and rulers in their logos.
Here are some other things to consider.
1. Real estate companies often use images of houses, apartment buildings, or keys in their logos.
2. Music companies use musical notes and notation, instruments, and microphones.
3. Sporting industry companies might use balls, nets, athletic shoes, or stylized images of athletes in their logos.
Your goal should be to choose images that consumers are likely to associate with your industry and what you do.
Of course, the associations don’t need to stop with images. If your company caters mostly to female customers, using pink in your logo might help convey that without you having to specify it. Likewise, a feminine and flowing font could get the point across.
Think about the associations, images, and beliefs that you want people to make and then choose the elements of your logo accordingly. You’ll be amazed at how much information you can convey this way.
How to Make Your Logo Seem Familiar
One of the most difficult things to do is to make your logo seem familiar and unique at the same time. Using icons, colors, and shapes to express your values is a big part of that, but you also want to be careful to balance creativity with familiarity.
For example, you might do that by using a familiar icon in an unfamiliar color. People might expect a gray elephant, but what if yours were purple or blue?
You may also want to play to people’s emotions, since they are strongly associated with the sense of vision. A mother, for example, might respond with a strong feeling of familiarity to the image of a baby even if she has never seen the image in question before.
Logo Analysis – Apple
To wrap things up, let’s look at one of the most famous and effective logos of all time: the Apple logo.
Apples are commonly used in educational logos, playing on the popular idea of bringing an apple for the teacher.
However, the Apple logos shakes things up. It is incredibly simple – a minimalistic line drawing of an apple with a bite out of it.
The bite takes it out of the realm of the purely educational because it echoes the Blble story of Adam and Eve – a tale that is almost as familiar to non-Christians as it is to Christians.
Since that story has to do with the pursuit of forbidden knowledge, it is in many ways the perfect icon for a company that innovates and uses technology to deliver products that people love.
It might interest you to know that the Apple logo has a direct effect on people’s brains. When Apple customers see it, they experience a surge of creativity and mental energy.
All of that, with just a simple image of an Apple. What can your logo do?
You only have one chance to make a first impression with your logo. For the best results, your logo should combine meaningful images and icons, resonant colors, expressive typography, and shapes that can be interpreted instantly.
If you can do all of that, then your logo could be the next to become a true icon.