Deadly Sin of Logo Design #7 Fixed: Omitting Thin Lines or Tiny Shapes

A. Michael Shumate

A. Michael Shumate

Thin Shapes Don’t Reproduce Well
Fine lines and thin shapes have a tendency to fill in when printed in reverse. This happens in almost every kind of printing: offset, letterpress, silk screen and even ink jet. The problem happens on coated stock but will be even worse on uncoated paper. Even positive lines that are thin present difficulties in certain kinds of printing. And sooner or later a client will need to or want to reverse their identity.

Online imagery is viewed through a grid of pixels. If the shapes are too thin, they will not occupy a whole pixel and will be reproduced in a color that is somewhere between the image color and the background color. Too many of these small shapes result in what I call “pixel mush.”

There’s no getting away from it: fine lines and thin shapes will cause problems and should be avoided in identity design.

1. Bank of America opened up the spaces in their logo. Unfortunately, they also switched their signature to all caps and allowed too much letterspacing, resulting in it looking small compared to the previous one. 2. Dominion Energy replaced their too-fine light rays emanating from a fingertip with a solid “D” monogram with spaces thick enough to not fill in. 3. Northeast Utilities changed their name to Eversource. They could have fixed the logo with fewer wedges and more space between them but Eversource opted for a wordmark with a multicolored logo (not good) in the middle of their wordmark (also not good). We can expect they will change it again in a few years to fix these mistakes. 4. State Farm stubbornly kept the words in the middle of their three ovals long after they were no longer legible. Finally, they omitted the containment square and maintained their three ovals without words. 5. The Historic Houses Association has replaced their logo with a sturdier logo that communicates “historic” and “houses” much better. They also replaced their serif font with a sans serif font. 6. Yum! made a solid change by replacing their thick-thin serif font with a heavier serif. 7. Papa Johns had a similar problem with their heavy slab serif font; the spaces between letters were too tight. They changed it to a similar weight sans serif that is more readable. 8. The negative spaces in the Rogers logo were too tight. They lightened the elements and opened the spaces a bit. We will see if they opened the spaces enough. 9. General Electric has had virtually the same identity since 1909 but in 2004 they thickened their lines a bit to prevent the difficulties we’ve been talking about. 10. Going heavier in the font is not always the answer. Intuit had a wordmark with a solid, heavy font, but the spaces between letters was so tight that they tended to fill in. They could have opened up their wordmark but they opted for a new design with a medium weight font. 11. Gap had problems with their thick and thin font in the square because it kept filling in. They replaced it with a heavyweight font with an overlapped gradient square. After only six years they went back to their previous font but in positive. It will still give them problems. 12. Kijiji is an online classified seller. When you have a company name that is difficult to read, it is best to have as simple a font as possible. Kijiji kept their playful feeling while making their wordmark much cleaner.

Adapted from Logo Design Theory: How Branding Design Really Works

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