Deadly Sin of Logo Design #6: Unrefined Shapes

A. Michael Shumate

A. Michael Shumate

Unrefined Shapes

Vector art is the medium in which all identities should be created, but it can be deceptive. Vector art can give the impression that shapes are better than they are because the edges are crisp and clean without necessarily being well rendered or refined. This can be especially true when altering letterforms (2, 7) if the designer fails to be sensitive to the inherent shapes of the font. Something about Intel’s logo must have bothered the company because they have replaced the design.

Lack of sensitivity to angles is another common shortcoming. In (4) the angles of the “f” are not the same as the angles of the containing box, neither coinciding nor contrasting. Irregular gaps between elements of (5) are laughable, not to mention the clumsy treatment of the letters themselves. And speaking of poorly rendered letterforms, (12) is obviously not a properly rendered type font design.

Curves also demand sensitive execution. Initially they can look passable, but on further inspection, we notice that subtle sensitivities are missing. Over time these clumsy curves become irksome and grating (3, 9, 10). With curves, our eyes are coaxed into following a particular sweep. If the trajectory deviates from the anticipated course, it is disruptive. If it is overt and explicit, it becomes a focal point. If it is merely an unskilled deviation, it is a mark of amateur drawing. Note the inept curves in (9) and how curves are not even attempted in the bottoms of the sails.

Here we come to a principle I call Visual Logic. Everything you draw sets up a visual expectation for the rest. In a series of uniform structures, one element that is slightly atypical will stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. If the difference is deliberate, overt and skillfully done, it becomes a point of emphasis. If it is not, it just comes across as ineptitude and clumsiness. In (11) the thickness of the straight lines is close, but not the same as those of the containing circle, and for no good reason. In (8) the lines converge to form a solid, but the perimeter of that convergence edge is lumpy and uneven.

Interestingly, when designers reach too far, they can over-stylize or over-refine an identity to the point of making it unrecognizable. Prudential Life insurance (6) had this happen when they simplified their logo so much that people no longer perceived the Rock of Gibraltar. They had to back off to a stylized but identifiable graphic.

Likewise, the designers of the Ibsen wordmark took their quest for “leading edge” to such an extent that they hoped people would read a lower-case “I” from a mere dot (1). It is too much to expect.

One of the leading music streaming apps is Spotify. That makes it a technology company. One might expect exactness in a logo for that kind of company. How sad that they have such an unrefined logo. One may look at the concentric arcs and think there’s something a bit off. But when overlaid with geometrically drawn concentric arcs, one can really see what a slipshod job they have done with their logo. They’ve only been around since 2008 and have updated their identity two times since then, but never bothered fixing the sloppy arcs in their logo.

Spotify has a logo that looks like concentric arcs on first glance. But on closer examination, it is clumsy in the extreme. Spotify made a change in its identity recently, but has not gotten around to fixing their bungled logo.

Adapted from Logo Design Theory: How Branding Design Really Works

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