The Science of Logo Design
Illustration by John Hersey

M is for memory


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The Science of Logo Design

with William Lidwell

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Video: M is for memory

The fourth goal of a logo is to be memorable. That is why memory is the fourth cognitive event in the ARMM model. The second m is for memory. The good news is that by achieving the first three events in the ARMM model grabbing attention, setting the right emotional tone and expressing meaning, we've already done much work to make a logo memorable.
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Watch the Online Video Course The Science of Logo Design
45m 3s Beginner Apr 30, 2014

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Logo design requires artistry, but did you know your logos can also benefit from science? William Lidwell introduces the whys behind well-known guidelines and even debunks a few outdated design myths along the way. He reviews the 4 principles that make a logo ARMM'd for use: attention, response, meaning, and memory. Use these tips to bring scientific rigor to your logos and start designing on evidence, not industry hearsay.

This course was created and produced by William Lidwell. We're honored to host this training in our library.

Subject:
Design
Author:
William Lidwell

M is for memory

The fourth goal of a logo is to be memorable. That is why memory is the fourth cognitive event in the ARMM model. The second m is for memory. The good news is that by achieving the first three events in the ARMM model grabbing attention, setting the right emotional tone and expressing meaning, we've already done much work to make a logo memorable. So, this final step is really to tune a logo to take it to the next level to make it as memorable as possible.

And like expressing meaning the techniques we will explore to help people remember require conscious processing to review the first two steps of the armm model grabbing attention and getting the right emotion response happen beneath our conscious awareness within a second or two. The latter two steps, expressing meaning and making it memorable, happen at a conscious level. Beginning after a few seconds of exposure, and lasting as long as we can hold the person's attention.

So let's look at three techniques that can make our logos more memorable. One The Von Restorff Effect. Two Mnemonic Devices and, three The Concreteness Effect. We begin with the Von Restorff Effect. This effect is basically the same as the Novelty Principle discussed in the attention lecture. The Von Restorff effect describes the phenomenon that different items in a list or set are more likely to be remembered than similar items.

This means that the first thing we can do to make our logos more memorable is to make sure that they don't look like their brand logos in their category. And ideally we don't just want to be different, we want to be different and interesting. Consider for example the Chili's logo, not only does it use an image of a chili pepper, it's horizontal orientation permits its stem to double as an apostrophe. Which then sets up the S at the end.

You read the logo from left to right like a word but the primary element is an image, unique and interesting. Another favorite of mine that we encountered previously is the LG logo. The logo looks like a deconstructed smiling face. Which is very different and very interesting to look at. And in addition to the Von Restorff Effect, both the Chili's logo and the LG logo employ numonic devices to make them more memorable. A mnemonic device is a way of organizing information to aid recall.

It typically involves using a bridging letter or image to help us remember something. For example, the Chili's logo uses a mnemonic device known as feature-name. Which uses a bridging image to help remember a word. In this case the chili pepper is the feature that bridges us to the word chili and the apostrophe s at the end finishes the job. You see the feature name mnemonic device in logos such as Apple, Target, Shell, and Twitter.

The LG logo uses the different mnemonic device known as First-Letter, which highlights the initial letters and words it recall. Study the LG logo for a few seconds and you will see the letters L and G emerge, which is the name of the company. And the initials of their tagline: Life's Good. You see the first letter mnemonic device in logos such as HP, Volkswagen, McDonald's and Adobe. The third technique is a phenomenon of memory known as the Concreteness Effect.

The concreteness effect describes the fact that concrete nouns and images are processed and recalled more quickly and accurately than abstract nouns and images. Concrete nouns are words like house, dog, pencil and computer. They correspond to familiar physical objects. Abstract nouns are words like quality, loyalty, intelligence, and service. Like words, images of concrete nouns are also better recalled than images of abstract representations or icons.

A good test of concreteness is to see how difficult it is to describe the primary aspects of a logo in words. The more words it takes to describe it, the less concrete it probably is, and the less memorable it will be. Let's look at some examples of logos that benefit from their concreteness. Take Red Bull which has a pair of red bulls, Target which is a target, and American Airlines which is a bird and a wing.

All about as concrete as you can get. Now, let's look at a couple of examples that are abstract. Take the now infamous 2012 London Olympics logo, which is a seemingly random collection of shapes making it very difficult to describe. If you squint you might be able to make out the year 2012 in the logo, but most people only see the numbers when told that they are there. And, the Logitech logo, a very abstract logo that is difficult to describe.

Is it some kind of track ball, or mouse? An eye, a painters palette? It's so abstract that you see what you want to see in it. But it is anything but easily described. Now it's important to know, that what the London OLympics and Logitech logos lack in concreteness, they make up with novelty. A logo need not employ all techniques to be successful. In the case of these logos, they do not benefit from the concreteness effect. But they do benefit from the von restorff effect.

And if you are able to see the 2012 in the London Olympics logo from a mnemonic device as well. So, from a memory perspective they are still successful even though they are not concrete. So, let's summarize. The fourth goal of a logo is to be memorable. That is why memory is the fourth cognate of event in the ARMM model. The second M is for memory. How do we make logos memorable? We reviewed three techniques. The Von Restorff Effect, which is essentially making the logo different.

Mnemonic devices, where we discussed two types. Feature-name and first-letter. And finally, the concreteness effect, which says concrete things are more memorable than abstract things. And we keep in mind that a logo need not employ all techniques to be successful. Employing one technique really well will do just fine in ensuring that people who see your logo, remember your logo.

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