Brand means how people feel about a company before they have a chance to think about what they’re feeling. When it triggers positive energy, brand can draw us in; when it triggers negative energy, it tends to repel us. What follows is the little-known secret to that automatic knee-jerk reaction.
The secret to powerful logos: shape
For the vast majority of people, the kitten on the right triggers a positive feeling – maybe a desire to come closer and pet it or feed it. The tarantula on the left triggers fear and repulsion – maybe even a desire to run in the opposite direction. The reason why these images cause such strong, gut-level, almost universal reactions, will give us a clue as to how to use logo design to trigger those same reactions.
Since these factors are just about equal for both species, we can rule them out for now as the possible emotional triggers. That leaves shape.
Here’s what the two creatures look like as shapes alone. Our reaction is not as pronounced as before, but it’s the same reaction. This suggests that shape alone might have the power to trigger automatic deep-seated emotions. But the question still remains: What about the shape of the tarantula causes repulsion? And what about the shape of the cat causes attraction?
www.symbols.com shed some light on the subject, highlighting two familiar symbols as examples:
In other words:
The above discussion implies that an attractive shape is composed of symmetrical, soft, closed, curved lines. A repulsive shape is composed of asymmetric, jagged, open, and straight lines. With logos, this distinction can be used with great effect both to build repulsive tension, and to resolve it:
Technically, this post could end right here. But there’s something telling me the job isn’t finished just yet. Since that’s what I’m here for, again I’m going to dig a bit deeper and ask what principle is at work beneath the surface.
Here it goes:
I’d like to suggest the reason we tend to like hearts and kittens, and hate spiders and swastikas, is the exact same reason I didn’t stop this post a few lines ago.
At a deep level of human consciousness, the state of “incomplete” bothers us. That’s why we often feel driven to finish what we’ve started. Some might even say that’s why we spend so much energy searching for a certain individual to complete us.
When the opposing component parts of the image are disordered, scattered, going in opposing directions, chaotic, incomplete … seemingly out of control. Our instantaneous response is to run away.
When the opposing component parts of the image complete a full circuit and return to home base; ultimately the opposing parts unify in endless loops. Our instantaneous response is to come closer.
There are certainly other elements that go into the creation of powerful logos, like color, scale-ability, and a host of other factors. But as long as we are aware of the principle of shape, and how it affects people in an automatic, gut-level way, this information can go a long way towards building powerful logos and brand.