Can the Overused, Commonplace and Cliche Help a Logo Design?

November 4, 2012 | Design Basics, Logo design

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When most of us think about design and creativity, we think about making something unique. A designer is judged on her ability to create something new and different.

Is a unique logo important?

Most logos (and the companies they represent) hope to be one-of-a-kind and wonderfully different so that they stand out from the crowd. In design school we are warned about the dangers of cliche in our design solutions.

But overused cliches dominate our subconscious.

Carl Jung developed the idea of archetypes that are held in the collective unconscious. But I don’t even mean anything so heady.

A baby gets simplified images ingrained early

Take a look at this photo of my son. It was taken last winter when he was several months old. The picture book shows a frog and a duck. I have never seen a duck like that in my life. Have you? Around here, ducks are usually mallards which are mostly brown and green, and baby ducklings are light brown and fluffy. But this early imprinting of these images affects us.

We recall these simplified icons as we look at the symbols used in logos.

The book also includes this page with the snail and the butterfly. Again, as an adult we are so accustomed to this overly cute and simple way of portraying these animals it doesn’t seem strange that they really don’t resemble their natural counterparts very much at all.

I think about how my son, being born in Maine in the fall, had seen few or any of the animals from this book when I introduced them to him. So these illustrations of the animals is his first linking of the words (that I read to him) and the image or concept of these animals.

Incorporating overused symbols in logo design

Let’s imagine that I am designing a logo that involves a snail. Am I going to head out to the local pond and look at a real snail? Am I going to review photographs of real snails? I hope I do.

real snail photo

But the oversimplified (and cute and friendly), children’s book images may hold more of a connection with my viewers.

And that connection, especially one held so deep in our subconscious, is very powerful.

Real snail image from JuditK on Flickr

2 comments

  1. Mary Baum | June 10, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    This is so true. I often forget that designing the bug isn’t about being able to draw – it’s about being able to suggest. (Shades of first-year drawing class, i suppose.) It can take a few iterations before I’m back on track with symbology versus representation.

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