Deadly Sin of Logo Design #5 Fixed: Having No Overlapping Elements

A. Michael Shumate

A. Michael Shumate

Shadows or Outlines on Signatures
Even when drop shadows are done properly, they generally do not make for easier reading, as there is more for the eye take in. Sooner or later, clients will realize this and want cleaner, easier-to- read type in their identities.

1. The Campbell’s script wordmark was designed way back in 1869. It has served them well. Then in the 1990s someone decided to give it a black drop shadow, no doubt, to “boost legibility.” It did not last long as they saw that legibility was lessened, not improved. 2. Hershey’s use of dimensional type on its labels is another example of someone’s “good” idea that turns out to be bad. 3. The Hertz heavy drop shadow was an attempt to make yellow have contrast against black. The yellow bar underneath the new signature is much better. 4. Hobby Lobby’s orange type with white halo plus a blue border and shadow made a very complex signature. Simplicity is so much easier to read. 5. Even with Little Caesar’s much smaller black signature compared to the outlined orange one, it is easy to see which gives the greater clarity.

Overlapping Creates Clutter
As with many of the principles in this book, overlapping may not kill an identity, but it never helps it.

Think of an athletic competition when hundredths of a second can mean the difference between winning and losing. Athletes might carry extra weights when training for an event but never while actually running the race. Some of these visual extras are just that: extra, not necessary, a hinderance. More for the eye to digest and parse.

As mentioned earlier in this book, Simplicity is the Soul of Good Design.” Overlapping is the result of thinking, “What can we add to this identity?” instead of thinking, “What can we take away?” The latter usually gives better results in identity design.

1. Avianca’s wavy lines were not a major nuisance, but the signature is more readable without them. 2. Dish Network’s original identity was created in 1996. Since then, they have altered their identity six times, usually omitting elements that were finally seen as unnecessary. Six times in twenty three years is some sort of record and must have taken a financial toll. 3. Ebay’s mishmash of lower case with caps and different fonts plus different colors has given way to one font, all in lower case. The multi-colored treatment is still used, but a single color version is also used. 4. Vienna’s Stadt Wien with its hodgepodge of caps and lowercase as well as different fonts was interrupted with the shield. Now the shield is a focal point and the type can be more easily read. 5. Tresorit’s former logo comes across as a hexagon with a two-toned stripe. It was actually supposed to be an isometric black cube with a turquoise stripe. It obviously didn’t reproduce well. Their new logo, with a gradient can also be shown in a single solid color.
1. The original Alcoa logo was solid, but is improved by being brought outside the containing shape. 2. Best Buy’s former signature was always subordinated to the price tag shape; now it is freed and the price tag is subordinate to it, as it should be. 3. Eventbrite’s signature can also be bigger in the same space without the containing shape. 4. JCPenney’s signature was dwarfed inside that square. Now it is free. 5. Principal got rid of its containing triangle, which took a lot of space, and replaced it with a logo. 6. Kashi omitted its flag shape, which didn’t match it’s straight type, and is much more effective. 7. Zillow decided that the house shape was already a container for their stylized “Z” monogram, so why have another container around that? Besides, the former logo could remind someone of a house being swept away in a tornado. Getting rid of that was also a smart move. 8. Rexall’s heavier wordmark is a big improvement over its former tightly contained identity. 9. The oval a round the Boots signature added some mass, but little else. Now the wordmark has undergone a few modest changes and can be bigger in the same space. 10. Snapple straightened its type and took it out of the red racetrack shape for a cleaner identity. 11. MasterCard’s identity is cleaner with the signature separated from the logo. 12. WNBA’s monogram was so tiny inside its containment that it was often illegible. This redesign is a major improvement.

Adapted from Logo Design Theory: How Branding Design Really Works

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