I am available for freelance work - HIRE ME

Would Your Logo Fit on the Moon?

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:

Nike

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.

Nike's recognizable checkmark scales down perfectly on the moon

Nike's recognizable check mark scales down perfectly on the moon

Apple

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:

Apple's logo also fits perfectly on the moon

Apple's logo also fits perfectly on the moon

ABC

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!

ABC's circular shape makes it a perfect fit here

ABC's circular shape makes it a perfect fit here

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.

Starbucks

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.

The starbucks logo is round like the moon, but loses some of its detail when scaled down

The Starbucks logo is round like the moon, but loses some of its detail when scaled down

KFC

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!

The new(ish) KFC logo also loses some of its detail

The new(ish) KFC logo also loses some of its detail

Wendy’s

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.

Suffering the most, the Wendy's logo becomes entirely unreadable when scaled down this far

Suffering the most, the Wendy's logo becomes entirely unreadable when scaled down this far

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

Also from Echo Enduring Media:

An Unfolding Tale

About the Author

Matt Ward is a digital artist who lances freely under the moniker of Echo Enduring Media, and specializes in graphics design, illustration and writing. He is also the Creative Director for Highland Marketing, a creative direct marketing company based out of Waterloo, Ontario. You can follow Matt on Twitter

Like this post? Help Promote it!

Comments

Sep 28, 2010

CardRabbit says:

Great idea. CardRabbit passed the test without any problems :)

http://cardrabbit.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/cardrabbit-moontest.jpg

Sep 28, 2010

Carlin Scuderi says:

This is an interesting way of making people think of scalability! I look at this as a great way to teach new design students (and remind old ones, too) on its importance.

Sep 29, 2010

Saifur says:

Pretty refreshing.

Sep 29, 2010

Daniel Ireson says:

Haha that was actually a good read and interesting thought Matt. Got me thinking too; sometimes just a plain old simple brand works best doesn’t it.

Sep 29, 2010

Reg says:

Great article! I recently designed a logo for a client which focussed around simplicity and scalability, yet didn’t compromise (too much) on design.

This is what I came up with:

http://www.terminalu.com

I reckon that would look quite nice on the moon, if I do say so myself :)

Sep 29, 2010

Dan Sunderland says:

Very interesting concept, both in reality and as a design exercise. I’ve actually had to create a minified version of my own logo for precisely this kind of reason, except more for a facebook company page image than celestial projection ;-)

Sep 29, 2010

Aaron Moody says:

Cool, and refreshing post Matt.

Sep 29, 2010

Kris Noble says:

Nice idea! Like you say it’s not perfect – although the Facebook logotype is very simple, it wouldn’t pass this test due to the aspect ratio – much wider than it is tall, so the letters would be very small. That said, the “f” alone would probably still be instantly recognizable and would work fine.

I think this is a great way to demonstrate the importance of simplicity in logo design, especially if you’re aiming for the big markets.

Sep 29, 2010

Dani Kelley says:

Interesting perspective! I’m happy to say that yes, my personal logo would fit on the moon.

Sep 29, 2010

Grade A Websites says:

Shoot. My twitter one does, but not my main one.

Sep 29, 2010

Russell Bishop says:

Very interesting thought – really shows how dynamic a simple logo can be.

Sep 29, 2010

Nikita Sumeiko says:

Of course, my website logo would fit on the moon. Cool idea, by the way…

Sep 29, 2010

Ankit Bathija says:

I agree with Carlin, its a great point which can be taught to students.

Sep 29, 2010

Eko says:

Really creative post, simple tips but very important for logo designer, I think..
Thanks

Sep 30, 2010

Hitesh Mehta says:

A new way to look at designing logos, nice perspective overall. Thanks for sharing.

Oct 1, 2010

Darryl Godden says:

Sorry, not a great article.

The criticism about insignia becoming unreadable when scaled down is not relevant. Companies create symbols to be instantly recognisable, not readable.

Oct 1, 2010

Jeffrey Bennett says:

Very interesting idea! I’m glad to say my “JB” logo would fit very nicely on the moon! :)

Oct 1, 2010

Erik Ford says:

At first, I was reading this post with one eyebrow raised in befuddlement. But, as I continued, I was struck by how hilariously ingenious this idea really is. What you have written speaks right to the heart of the state 21st century logo design.

As we burrow further down the rabbit hole of the digital age, logos continue to get more and more complex under the guise of catching our attention. But I always ask myself, “What is more memorable? A beautifully executed gradient within complex shapes or a beautifully designed shape that leaves a lasting impression?” In my humble opinion, it is the latter.

Oct 1, 2010

Sam-Mauris Yong says:

Can’t fit? The resize function works!

Oct 1, 2010

Ruben Berenguel says:

This reminds me of a short story by Isaac Asimov, “Buy Jupiter”. I don’t want to spoil it, so read it or look it up in Wikipedia, I think they have a small synopsis.

Cheers,

Ruben
Latest at my blog: Frame Switching and What Not

Oct 1, 2010

Scott Lord says:

Nice Idea… It made me dig out an old post I read by Hicks design regarding the logo he did for FireFox;

When creating the smaller versions, he purposely removed some of the details in the smaller versions, resulting in a cleaner scaled down version which was still recognisable.

Work a look:
http://hicksdesign.co.uk/journal/branding-firefox

Oct 1, 2010

BenMode says:

I really like how twisted our graphic designer mind works. Good job guy. This helps out when trying to make a logo design. Thanks.

Oct 1, 2010

Komal says:

Let me try with mine logo. Anyway good way to test

Oct 1, 2010

xontros says:

His face is sad

Oct 1, 2010

Joseph Alessio says:

To tell the truth, an alarming proportion of the logos out there wouldn’t past the scalability test. Identity design has so many of these small issues that make a big difference.

The downside to the scalability requirement is that simple can rarely be unique anymore, because decades of simple shapes being turned into logos has used up most of the simple shapes out there! That’s one of the biggest challenges in creating a logo, in my opinion: getting it simple enough to be recognizable and iconic, but not just the same as all the other good logos that you see every day.

Oct 1, 2010

Ken says:

Good read although a little proof reading and a little editing would help make it easier to understand.

Oct 1, 2010

Alex Reyes says:

Nice!!!!

Oct 1, 2010

Stephen B. says:

Great post, Matt! Very clever, and very useful. I don’t think the principles of simplicity and scalability mean that more complex logos are _always_ unacceptable/unsuccessful, but the moon test is a great way of making sure not to go too far in the other direction.

Oct 2, 2010

Rowan Zajkowski says:

Cool idea, we tried it out on our own logo immediately and it held up just fine. So probably we’re going to use this test for some client work as well in the future. Thanks!

Oct 3, 2010

Trish Kroeger says:

I have a little saying in life..
“The strength of a design lies in the simplicity of its elements”

I kept my logo simple.. and it fits!

Oct 8, 2010

Brad says:

New Gap logo. Put it on the dark side of the moon.

Oct 12, 2010

Bryce Wisekal says:

Very interesting! I wouldn’t in a million years have thought of this without reading your article. Fascinating thought!

My hosting business logo would scale down and still be readable but many of my other logos, personal and business, wouldn’t stand a chance in this test.

I think this is something I will benefit from in more than one way. I appreciate your creative mind Matt. Thanks for this awesome and useful article!

Jul 26, 2011

Danny says:

Of course, my logo would fit like a glove on the moon. great idea! does make you think!

Jan 12, 2012

book printing says:

Definitely, and it’d look much better than the nike tick ;-)

Leave a Comment

Copyright © Echo Enduring Media 2009-2014