Logos are a part of everyday life. Every store has its logo, designed to convey its position in the marketing community. Within each store are shelves of products, each tagged with a company logo that tells consumers who provides that particular product. Each television station, radio station, publisher, web site and manufacturer has a logo designed specifically for them. Logo design is a part of the visual language of advertising, consumerism and identification.
Logos are designed to convey a story within a few seconds. In marketing, logos serve to attract consumers' attention and give them visual identification with a product or company. The imagery conveys to the consumer what service or product the company provides. This type of branding makes an indelible mark on the collective psyche of consumers, and the logo becomes synonymous with the company. When a consumer sees a smiling green man dressed in a toga of leaves, she knows that can of corn is Green Giant brand corn.
A successful logo imbeds the name of the company into the imagery. This doesn't necessarily mean the picture and words are "physically" connected. It means that the name brand is so closely aligned with the story the image conveys that a visual relationship is formed within the mind of the consumer. One of the most successful logos is the Prudential Insurance Company's logo of the Rock of Gibraltar. Consumers need only see an image of the rock to associate it with Prudential. The story is told in a glance: Prudential is steady as a rock, as solid as a rock, as enduring as the Rock of Gibraltar. Because logos must fight for consumer attention and win it within seconds, their success rests on instant recognition. The best logos are often the least complicated, such as Nike's simple, organic swoosh and the American Broadcasting Company's white Bauhaus lettering within a black circle.
Logo design is one of the many services performed by graphic designers. Graphic designers are trained not only in computer applications for creating imagery and fonts, but also in the psychology behind logos. A graphic designer uses color, lettering, imagery and shapes to communicate his client's message to the targeted market. To do this effectively, the designer must fully understand the client and his product. Color associations are essential to logo design: primary colors for companies that manufacture baby products, soft greens for health professionals and health products, bright reds or solid blues for department stores. In logo design, the graphic designer needs to pull together all the elements of design and assemble them based on the psychology behind consumerism.
Are consumers overwhelmed by the continuous onslaught of logos? Are the thousands of designs displayed each day defeating the purpose of individualizing companies? Logos have always been important to consumers, though they may not be conscious of their benefits. Logos are as unique to companies as signatures, and so they carry with them certain assurances. When a consumer sees a particular logo and recognizes it, he immediately understands what the product is, what company makes the product and how he can expect that product to perform. Names alone are far more difficult to remember than those associated with shape, form and color.
This has been true since before the Middle Ages, when craftsmen and merchants hung out shingles with pictures depicting their wares. When the majority of populations didn't know how to read or write, these signs served as guides, showing people where they could acquire the goods they needed. Certain symbols took on broad meanings; a barrel hanging over the door designated the shop as a winery and the hammer and anvil painted on a board directed people to the blacksmith. These early village logos are the ancestors of logo design. Far from crude, these objects and painted signs were artfully done, and often displayed on decorative wrought iron poles. Just as these signs directed villagers to merchants, logos direct consumers to the products they want. Decorative, eye-catching and sometimes iconic, logos continue to be an important part of cultural consumerism.