posted by Matt Ward on Sep 28, 2010.
In this article we are going to consider the question of scalability in logo design by looking at different logos as they are artificially projected on the moon. It may seem like a silly idea, but I think that the exercise has some valuable lessons to teach us about the whole realm of logo design.
The other day, I was sitting in the passenger seat of a vehicle, traveling down the highway later into the evening. As I am wont to do, I was gazing out the window and my eyes fell upon the moon. This was hardly a unique experience – I’ve seen that silvery globe many, many times – but for some reason or another, an interesting thought struck me.
I stated thinking about seeing logos projected on the moon.
Obviously, this is venturing deeply into the realm of science fiction, and I don’t think that there currently exists any feasible technology by which to actually project any sort of image onto the moon. There would also be all kinds of international, political ramifications to be overcome. After all, who owns the moon? Who has the right to turn it into a worldwide billboard? Quite frankly, those are some dicey questions that, even if such projection were possible, would be well beyond me.
But this isn’t an article about advertising ethics in international politics. It’s an article about logos and design. With that in mind, I tell this particular story about placing logos on the moon because it eventually led me to ask a very interesting question: would my logo fit on the moon?
Though it may sound ridiculous, I’m actually being very serious here. The more I thought about this question, the more it struck me as a surprisingly meaningful way of actually gauging the effectiveness of a logo design in one very particular manner. So let’s take a closer look.
The Litmus Test of Complexity
I have always maintained that one of the hallmarks of effective logo design is to create something that is, ultimately, scalable. Whether it is printed on a billboard or a golf ball, the logo should be clean, crisp and immediately recognizable to anyone who sees it.
Given this, I generally try to avoid high levels of complexity in my logo design, since such complexity has a tendency to compromise scalability (though this has not always been possible, based on client requests). Well, as it turns out, this question of whether or not your logo would fit on the moon is actually a remarkable litmus test for this kind of thing. While, in reality, the moon is one awfully big rock spinning along its orbit around the earth, when we’re looking up at it on a cool, crisp autumn evening, it really doesn’t look all that large. What would the spatial illusion of distance reduce it to? And inch? And inch and a half? Probably two at the most.
That’s a pretty small canvas, and the chances are that, if your logo will fit into that space and still be readable and immediately recognizable, it’s probably passes the complexity test! Let’s look at some examples:
When I think of simplicity in logo design, my mind almost always goes to the Nike logo. That simple check mark is universally recognizable, and scales down as well as any logo I’ve ever seen. This is exemplified in the following image.
What would a design article about logos be without showcasing the Apple logo at least once? This icon of designer-geek technological obsession (that’s me) is not quite as simple as the Nike logo, but it’s pretty darned close, and it too is clear and immediately recognizable when (artificially) projected on the moon:
Personally, of all of the infamous Paul Rand’s identity work, the ABC logo is probably my favorite. It’s circular shape, which is also reflected in the typographical forms, has an elegant simplicity about it. It is this very same round simplicity that also allows it fit so well on the moon!
A Little Less Simple
Not all logos work so well in this imagined scenario of lunar projection, however. Those containing more detail may have a tendency to become obscured and difficult to read. Even if they are actually somewhat recognizable, based on popularity, colour and shape, the overall effect has far less impact.
Like the ABC logo, the circular shape of this one might seem to suggest that it would fit well on the moon. However, its higher level of detail make it somewhat more obscure when scaled down to this size. The detail in the central illustration starts to get lost, and the typography is somewhat difficult to read.
I remember that there was quite a bit of discussion surrounding the re-branding of the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain of restaurants a few years ago. Well, whatever you think of the new logo, it certainly doesn’t scale down as easily as the Nike, Apple and ABC logos. You would probably recognize it based on its shape, but the type would be hard to read, and a lot of the detail gets lost!
Of the three more detailed examples that I’m showing here, the Wendy’s logo is by far the one that suffers the most in terms of scaling. I can just make out the word “Wendy’s” (barely), but everything else is completely unreadable. Moreover, pretty much all of the detail of the red haired, pig tailed girl is entirely lost.
As already mentioned, chances are that, if these logos really were projected on the moon, those of us who are already familiar with these identifying marks would probably be able to recognize them. Still, I think the examples illustrate the issues that can arise with scalability. I also think that it demonstrates the significant difference in impact between the simpler and more complex logos when reduced to this size.
Once Size Doesn’t Fit All
Of course, I am by no means suggesting that artificially projecting your logo onto the moon is by any means the best and/or only means of measuring its effectiveness. In fact, there are many great logos that would probably not do so well under this test. I actually like the KFC logo, for instance. Moreover, there may be some logos that don’t need to be as concerned about scalability – perhaps because it is known that they will never need to be scaled down (for whatever reason).
If you check out the logo section of my portfolio, you will also find that some of my own work wouldn’t really pass this test either!
So, I am not writing this article to try to offer some sort of gospel-like authority on logo design. I’m merely sharing an interesting idea that struck me recently, and which could have an impact on the process of logo design. Hopefully, it at least gives you something interesting to think about!
What about you? Would your logo fit on the moon? Does this kind of thinking have any use for you? Would you ask yourself this question the next time you need to design a logo? Have your say!Post A Comment
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