What is behind a logo design?

As the world opened up their browsers to Google.com on the morning of September first, web surfers were given a shock. There was a flash doodle that featured Google’s logo, which was then then was erased and rewritten with a brand new one. The short feet of serif font disappeared, and the logo became flat and monospaced.

“The old logo’s typeface—reminiscent of literature, newspapers, printing—had a reassuring hint of history, paying its respects to what it had come to improve upon and replace,” said Sarah Larson, the roving cultural correspondent for The New Yorker. “The letters’ literary old serifs were subtly authoritative.”

Yes, Google changed its logo. However, this provoked lots of debates. But why do people care so much about a logo?

Why the logo matters?

In Google’s official blog, Tamar Yehoshua, Vice President and Product Management, and Bobby Nath, the director of User Experience, posted an announcement titled “Google’s Look, Evolved.” In this article, Yehoshua and Nath discussed that Google made this change because they wanted to show “when the Google magic is working for you, even on the tiniest screens”, because they are launching a broader market now.

“These changes in strategies can be shown in the logo design,” said Dr. Pattarapong Burusnukul, Assistant Professor of Marketing from the College of Business at Eastern New Mexico University, “Sometimes when they have new products and want to change their direction, companies will change their logo.”

Google was once only accessible from one device, a desktop. However now web surfers can access Google products across many different platforms. In their blog, Google suggested that they replaced the little blue “g” icon with a four-color “G”, which can also reflect Google’s omnibearing products and services, from Search, Maps, Gmail, to Chrome and many others.

“We think we’ve taken the best of Google (simple, uncluttered, colorful, friendly), and recast it not just for the Google of today, but for the Google of the future,” said Google.

A logo is a representation of a brand or a company, so it conveys the position and characters of itself. Of course, it has tight relations with audiences or customers.

“A logo design should be recognizable, when people see this logo, they can think about this brand, to recognize what brand it is.” Said Dr. Burusnukul.

From the view of art, simplicity is also an essential part of logo design, according to Brad Hamann, Art Department Chair at Eastern New Mexico University. As an experienced graphic designer and illustrator, he said that “a logo should be easy to read, and reflect the character of a product or company.”

What constitutes a logo?

Google has changed its logo several times in the past 17 years. In the old design, Google used typeface similar to serif, and used different colors which made it more interesting and attractive. Although the new design retains its diverse colors, it has made a relatively big change about the typeface, adopting a typeface similar to Helvetica.

“Helvetica is common is logo design,” said Mr. Hamann. People today are very familiar with Google, so “the new logo can be recognized as well, but it looks like Mobile Oil logo now.” He added, “It lost some elegance, and it looks like toys or plastic blocks.”

Sarah Larson criticized that “it now evokes the thoughts of children’s refrigerator magnets, McDonald’s French fries, and Comic Sans.” She described how she felt about the new design, “we have an insipid ‘G,’ an owl-eyed ‘oo,’ a schoolroom ‘g,’ a ho-hum ‘l,’ and a demented, showboating ‘e.’”

The comment on Google’s new childish look partly results from the new typeface. “I always tell my student to use the appropriate typeface,” said Mr. Hamann, “It can reflect characters and convey certain attitudes, such as energy, humor, seriousness or old-fashioned.”

A high tech company will not use old-fashioned type font, for they want to show that they keep pace with the technology. The New York Times uses the traditional font to show their credibility and dependability. Funeral parlors use more serious and formal logo fonts, and champagne companies always use elegant font to show their grandeur and luxury. Laundry detergents, such as Tide and Gain, often use powerful and strong fonts and design to show their cleansing ability.

“Some logos contain words, and some contain pictures,” added Mr. Hamann. He also pointed out that some logos have a “hidden” design. In the logo for FedEx, there is a hidden arrow between letters ‘E’ and ‘X’, which was not a coincidence, but an intended design. The arrow implies the direction and speed of delivery service. In the logo of ‘Tostito’s’ chips, there are two people sharing chips and a bowl of salsa.

Many companies tend to change their logos, but the design should be consistent. “Even the company changed its logo, it can still help with the recall,” Dr. Burusnukul said.

Why did it changed?

There are several possibilities as to why Google changed their logo. The first factor is the change of business direction. Consider Domino’s, they changed the logo from ‘Domino’s Pizza’ to simply ‘Domino’s’, after providing more food rather than only pizza. The logo of Starbucks Coffee was replaced by Starbucks when they decided to provide other food besides coffee.

“This change can prevent people from being confused. When consumers see the logo, they are reminded of company’s services and products.” Dr. Burusnukul explained. Another reason is to avoid being outdated.

“Companies use different logos during different time periods,” said Dr. Burusnukul, “Their design needs to be updated, and it needs to correspond to the current situations.”

However, some users even did not notice this logo change, because it did not influence Google’s function. Dr. Burusnukul said that changing the logo could grab more attention. He also indicated that Google changed its logo based on special events.

“They can change their logo and incorporate themes in their designs. This creates interest and anticipation from people.” Dr. Burusnukul added.

Mr. Hamann believes that sometimes companies “change for change’s sake”. Therefore the change is not always good. In the in the old logo design for UPS, there was a package above the UPS letters, which seems to be a gift box. This was replaced by the modern shield shape logo. Mr. Hamann said, “This change caused many complains.”

How is a logo made?

Large companies have better financial advantages, so they can hire art design firms or experienced designers. Then designers then begin doing pencil sketches, and show the company the best one. The companies may find a focus group, and ask them what they feel about this logo in order to test this design. After hearing the client’s feedbacks, they will make design revisions and design the final concept of the logo. Dr. Burusnukul said these companies would also hold a competition for the public to collect logo designs by offering some awards.

Small companies can also use internet, or even design the logo themselves. They may also hire students to do it, according to Mr. Hamann.

A company’s logo acts as a business card for customers, gives the customer the first impression of the company, and provides an image to recall for future use.

There’s no doubt that Google’s change of logo has nothing to do with its searching function, and people have gotten used to it.

“The importance of a logo is increasing with the development process, especially after people are aware of the logo,” said Mr. Hamann. When the recall of a company is established among consumers, they can recognize it easier and faster.

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