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Symbolism and First Glances

Symbolism & First Glances

Using the Psychology of Human Perception to Make Logos More Memorable

We’ve all heard the common saying, “Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover.” Unfortunately, logos are judged by their cover every single day. All logos are subconsciously processed by the human brain at an incredibly rapid pace (as fast as 13 milliseconds!) [source], and must be made up of easily recognizable, meaningful arrangements of shapes, colors, and icons. First glances feed the future of your logo’s memorability and effectiveness and in turn create either a smooth path or a roadblock to your company’s success. The below facts, stats, and summaries can help guide you towards a more impactful logo and overall brand.

What is Perception?

Perception is the process where information from a proximal stimulus is encoded, judged, and given meaning. In order to ensure a visual stimulus can be rapidly served, designers must make an object easy for the user to commit their attention by using a combination of orientation, size, and color. The age-old saying “finding a needle in a haystack” relates itself well to perception. WIthout stimuli to perceive an object out from the crowd and focus attention on, it will be near impossible to find or remember in the future.


What is Symbolism?

Symbolism is “the use of written marks, shapes, or images that have meaning assigned to them.” (Source) Symbols are useful in design because they quickly provide a deep, visual expression of meaning without having to spell anything out in writing. The practical use of symbols is to speed up comprehension for the viewer by communicating visually. Even new, unique symbols are repurposed versions of or inspired by historic symbols from nature and geometry.


Gestalt Principles: Proximity, Similarity, and Continuity

Creating a visual structure starts with 3 Gestalt principles, the basic building blocks that help optimize our visual ability to recognize structures. Proximity, or the relative distance between objects, affects our perception of how objects are separated into subgroups or combined into a single being. Similarity, or the equality of elements depending on their similar shapes, helps us interpret elements into visual groupings. Continuity, or the continuation of segments, helps us add in missing visual data to create a whole structure. In fact, humans are “biased to perceive continuous forms rather than disconnected segments.” (source)


Conveying Characteristics with Color

While color associations vary within cultures, there are common similarities in the way that color affects the way your logo resonates with viewers. Color palettes must be harmonious, meaningful, and thought through. When color is used correctly, it can make a strong visual connection between you and your audience. Color can also help sway the personality of your logo; whether it be strong or simple, modern or classic, cute or creepy. In fact, 95% of leading brands use only one or two colors in their logo, compared to the 5% of companies who use more than three. (Source)


Logotype vs. Logomark: Defining the Differences

"A logotype is a logo centered around a company name or initials, while a logomark is a logo centered around a symbolic image or icon. The general term logo refers to all marks that represent a brand. Logotypes are also often referred to as wordmarks or lettermarks, while logomarks are also known as pictorial logos or logo symbols.” (Source) The line between a logotype and logomark can blur when a combination of the two is used, which is another viable option for any brand. It is important to decide which type of logo to use depending on the platform or space the logo will be displayed so it fits the area best and can be quickly absorbed by the viewer. 


The reason logo design can be so difficult is because there is no single right answer. Instead, a successful logo is properly backed by meaningful design decisions based on the above principles and allows for a seamless, memorable, visual experience. Without the psychology of design backing up your logo, it’s just about guaranteed that viewers can (and will) glance right over it. If these principles of symbolism in design sound Greek to you, we’re happy to help translate. Our designers are well-versed in the psychology behind symbolism and can create impactful first glances for any brand.