Logo Design Visual Technique #1: Containment

A. Michael Shumate

A. Michael Shumate

I see Containment in two ways: Shallow Containment and Deep Containment.

Shallow Containment is merely placing a shape around a signature. Consequently, the image has not much more design value added than a plain signature. As I said before, a signature alone (merely choosing a certain font to write the company’s name) gives little value added and is mostly reserved for consumer product identities and the companies that make them. It is less well suited to other kinds of corporate identities.

Some uninspired designers will also add a shape to a poorly conceived or executed logo to mask its deficiencies. Again, Shallow Containment. It is an unfortunately common practice.

Shallow Containment: Placing a shape around a signature (which is mostly just selecting a font to write the company name). As with un-contained signatures, this technique is used mostly for consumer products and is not as suitable for other kinds of corporate identities.

On the other hand, the use of a containing shape can sometimes be the salvation of a decent design that might fail due to other considerations, such as lack of contrast (16). In sample (1), for instance, the leading edge of a white golf ball would have no contrast against a white background. The addition of “zoom marks” on the dark side completes the edge.

Containing a design can give a logical boundary or stopping place for an image, like a picture frame (2, 8, 12, 23).

Containers can contribute mass to designs that might be too insubstantial without them (2, 4, 6, 17, 20, 21). Containers can compensate somewhat for a color that is almost too light (14, 22), giving the design color mass, distinct from image mass already mentioned.

Containers can provide unity and cohesiveness to word-cluster-style wordmarks or reinforce the shapes in a wordmark (7, 9, 13).

Containment can echo the shape of a specific letterform (17, 18, 19, 22). Containers can contrast with the shapes contained (3, 5, 6, 12, 15, 20) or harmonize with them (7, 11, 14, 17, 18, 19). Containment can give symmetry or help center unsymmetrical shapes (3, 5, 8, 12, 14, 15, 20). Containment can change the overall shape of the significant design element (3, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, 22).

Containment can be the template for the whole design (11, 19).

Meaningful containment is a useful visual treatment and should be part of every identity designer’s tool box.

Adapted by Logo Design Theory: How Branding Design Really Works

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