Logos are designed to do three primary things: to represent a company’s brand; to be iconic and recognisable; and to engage the audience to create an emotional response. This last one is arguably the trickiest to get right.
One way that clever designers have engaged their audience is to create logos with hidden or layered meanings, subtly or not-so-subtly building a dynamic logo with which people can connect.
Here’s a look at some examples of hidden meanings in logos, to see how it can be done and how it can produce such successful logos.
Hiding Things With Negative Space
Some of the most eye-catching logos have been created using negative space – the gaps within the image or word of a logo positioned just so to produce another image.
The wonderful thing about using negative space in a logo is that it can be obvious, as with the Formula 1 logo where the space after the ‘F’ reveals the ’1′, or it can be used more subtly to effectively hide an image in plain sight.
A perfect example of this is the instantly recognisable FedEx logo. I have seen this logo countless times, but I had never (until researching this article) realised that the space between the ‘E’ and the ‘X’ perfectly creates an arrow – representing FedEx’s speedy and accurate delivery service.
And have you ever noticed the cheeky bear hiding in the Toblerone mountain?!
The power of using negative space in logos lies in its simplicity. It shows that clever does not have to mean complex, and that the simplest effect can be the boldest and strongest. Whether the visual effect is obvious when you first look at it, or takes a keen eye to become apparent, negative space is really something an audience can engage with.
Designs That Put A Smile On Your Face
Layers of meaning can also be created where the logo represents one thing while at the same time displaying or representing something different, usually something to do with the company or their ethos. Some excellent examples of this include the Tour de France logo, in which part of the word ‘tour’ (plus the clever addition of a simple yellow sun) depicts a cyclist, and the logo for the London Symphony Orchestra. This logo, created with just one flowing line, clearly spells out ‘L-S-O’, but look closer and you will see a dynamic conductor brandishing his baton.
The best example of layered meanings is the Amazon logo. While many people may only think of the word, and the simple bold font, there is a lot to be seen on closer inspection. There’s that line underneath, that people often overlook. It links two important letters in the company’s name, showing us that Amazon sells absolutely everything you might want, from alarm clocks to Zippo lighters, from ‘A’ to ‘Z’.
And even more than that, you might notice that the curved line is subtly smiling at you. And when you notice that, it’s hard not to smile back. The logo has engaged you.
The Magic Of Design
Hidden meanings in logos represent the magic of design. The best design is not about making something pretty, it’s about creating meaning and feelings and conveying those emotions to the audience to make a connection.
The cleverness in some of the more subtle hidden meanings is that they often are not noticed. But then, when people do see what the logo has to reveal, they feel special. They feel like they “get it”, like they are part of an exclusive club and that they have a relationship with the company. Take, for example, the logo for South African consulting firm Eighty20. The squares in the logo represent, in binary, the name of the business. Anyone who sees that when the see the logo will know that they are in a minority, and feel special and immediately engaged with the company.
Conclusion – Engage Your Customer To Find Success
Engaging your customers with just a logo alone is incredibly hard. Yet it is worth striving for – your logo is how many customers will define your business and it will be how you appear to them when they think of you.
If you can surprise them with hidden meanings, then you will have won them over. Your customers will feel like they are already in a relationship with you, and they will feel that same sense of engagement and exclusivity when they discovered your logos secrets. Those hidden meanings, once discovered, pop to life and remain there forever to that customer, hovering faint yet unmissable in that space between their eyes and the logo itself.