May 20, 2011

The complete guide to interpreting logos & It's Basic Elements

The complete guide to interpreting logos & It's Basic Elements
As part in planning any corporate identity design, logo likened to a body part capable of expressing the hearts of a product or company.

In terms of marketing, a logo has a function as an identity that differentiates a product with others. They are not separated from the essence of the logo itself, as an art form of the usual two-or three-dimensional objects. As a work of art, a logo can not be separated from the basic art elements that form it, such as line, shape, color, space, typography, etc.. As noted by John Murphy:

The successful designer of trademarks and logos needs to have basic intellectual and draftsmanship skills in addition to a sensitivity to the aesthetic elements of design.

The Four Basic Elements Of A Logo

I will present four basic elements that make up the logo
    1. Line
    2. Shape
    3. Color
    4. Typography

four basic elements of a logo

Following is an explanation of the four basic elements of a logo


four basic elements of a logo

A line by Lexicon Graphic is: a thin two-dimensional object that extends. While Lillian Gareth defines the line as a set point, which is when it all aligned, the length dimension would appear prominent and the figure is called the line.

Establishment of a line is a movement of a point, forming a lasting trace of a scratch. They can occur through pencil, pen, brush and others. In art, the line has a fundamental function, so it is likened to the heart of art. Lines are often referred to as contour.

The importance of line as an element of art has been seen since ancient times. Our ancestors in ancient times have used the line as a medium of art expression in the walls of the caves. They've also used the lines to form their ritual objects. An example is a painting on the walls of Lascaux cave in France, Leang-leang in Sulawesi, Altamira in Spain and many more. The human ancestors also use the line as a medium of communication, such as the Phoenician letters nail relic (Century 12-10 BC) in the form of scratches. Besides the potential contour line as a shaper, it is also an element to express the motion and shape. Both the form of two or three dimensions.

four basic elements of a logo
Lascaux Cave Paintings

Atmosphere in a line

In conjunction as an art element, the line has the ability to express atmosphere. The atmosphere can occur due to the stimulation of the simplest forms around us that are represented from the line shape itself. An example is when we see the lines that form the letter 'S', or so-called 'line of beauty' we would feel something soft, smooth and supple. This feeling happens because our memories to associate it with the dominant forms curved, like a dancer or a motion of the waves.

Here are some types of lines and the atmosphere it evokes:

  • Straight lines are impressive strength, direction and resistance.
  • Curved line of impressive elegance, movement, growth.

and here I present some kind of line and associations it evokes:

  • Horizontal: Giving suggestions about serenity or something immovable.
  • Vertical: Stability, power or grandeur.
  • Diagonal: Not stable, something that moves or dynamics.
  • Curved 'S': Grace, elegance.
  • Zig-zag: Passionate, spirit, dynamics or fast motion.
  • Bending up right: Sad, depressed or grief.
  • Diminishing Perspective: The distance, distance, longing, and so forth.
  • Concentric Arcs: Expansion, the movement expands, joy, etc..
  • Pyramide: Stable, majestic, strong or massive force.
  • Conflicting Diagonal: War, conflict, hatred and confusion.
  • Spiral: The birth or generative forces.
  • Rhytmic horizontals: Lazy, calm pleasant.
  • Upward swirls: The spirit of fire, burning, desire to grow.
  • Upward Spray: Growth, spontaneity, idealism.
  • Inverted Perspective: breadth of the infinite, absolute freedom, widening unimpaired.
  • Water Fall: Waterfalls, a rhythmic reduction.
  • Rounded Archs: Curved round sturdy and strong impression.
  • Rhytmic Curves: Weak graceful, cheerfulness.
  • Gothic Archs: Trust and religious.
  • Radiation Lines: Convergence, explosion or eruption.

Furthermore, the line according to the typical functions which are able to form a symbol that has special meaning strongly support its use as a symbol element. The use of line as the element symbol was first introduced by Otto Neurath (1882 - 1945) (a teacher and social scientists), who named symbol as Isotype. Then Isotype language has evolved and become one of the language of images that can represent various forms of communication. In subsequent developments, other forms of this symbol widely used in the design of the logo in it's effort to be easy to remember and have good communication power.


four basic elements of a logo

Understanding the shape according to Lexicon Graphic is kind of a way or form of something, like a circular ellipse, round rectangle, and so forth. From these definitions can be described that the shape is a form of visual things, usually in the form of rectangular, triangular, circular, etc. elip. In the process of designing a logo, the shape occupies a position that is no less important than other elements, as regular geometric shapes is a symbol that carries a certain emotional value. It is commonly understood, because the form has the effect or impression visible. As expressed by Plato, that the manner or form is a world language that is not hampered by such differences found in the language of words. But Plato's theory should not apply. There are other aspects that lead to language forms are not always effective. As the international application forms with the traditional target or vice versa. In other words, if the target is not familiar with the traditional plain language, use the language of international invisible and vice versa.

For example: for example if we have to design the logo of the fleet of the armed forces of the republic of Tanzania, will be less prevalent if we choose the form of keris (the traditional dagger of Indonesia) as a supporting element in the logo, because the shape of the keris less or even not recognized by the people of Tanzania.

The complete guide to interpreting logos

From that example, then comes the theory of frames of reference (a frame of reference) and the field of reference (field experience) explains that some form of message acceptance is influenced by several aspects of the five senses, thoughts and memories. So as in the example above problems, the shape of the logo will be more effective and communicative when aimed at the armed forces of the Republic of Indonesia, and not with the Dominican Republic because they have no frame of reference and field of reference about the keris in their memory.

Here are some examples of forms and associations thereof based on the book Handbook of Design & Devices writing Clarence P. Hornung.

  1. Triangle, a symbol of the Trinity concept. A religious concept which is based on three elements of the universe, namely God, man and nature. In addition, the triangle is a manifestation of the concept of the family ie father, mother and child. In the world of metaphysics triangle is a symbol of the body, mind and soul. While in the Egyptian culture, was used as a symbol of femininity and in letters Hieroglyps triangles depict the moon.
  2. Yin Yang, is a form included in this type of Monad, which is a form that consists of round geometric figure which is divided by two forms intersect with each facing the center point. In China, the form is called 'Yin Yang', in Japan called 'Futatsu Tomoe' while the Koreans call it 'Tah Gook'.

The complete guide to interpreting logos

'Yin Yang' is a picture of two natural principles:

  • 'Yang' represents the brightness, 'Yin' symbolizes the darkness.
  • 'Yang' symbolizes nirvana, 'Yin' symbolizes the world.
  • 'Yang' as the sun, 'Yin' as the moon.
  • 'Yang' has an active position, masculine, 'Yin' passive, feminine.

All of them represent the basic principles of life, namely the balance.


four basic elements of a logo

The understanding of color is divided into two parts by its nature

  1. Colors according to the science of Physics.
  2. Color by Material science.:

Colors according to the science of Physics.

The definition of color according to the science of Physics is: the nature of light depends on the wavelength of the reflected object. Object that reflects all wavelengths appears white, and other objects that do not reflect at all will appear black. Dispersion can occur when sunlight comes through a glass prism-shaped spectrum and speed of spreading depends on the wavelength itself. Primary colors of light or the spectrum is blue, yellow and red, with combinations that can form any color.

Color by Material science

Definition of color according to materials science is: any of certain substances that give color. Pigments provide color to plants, animals, as well as in paints, plastics and other manufactured goods except on textiles that use dye for coloring substance. A typical colored pigments can therefore suck some wavelengths of light, and reflects the other. Pigments are widely used in industry, such as plastic, rubber, ink, and lenolum.

As part of the elements of the logo, color serves as a means to reinforce and strengthen the impression, or purpose of the logo. In planning a corporate identity, color has a function to strengthen the aspect of identity. More is said by Henry Dreyfuss, the colors used in graphic symbols to reinforce the intent of the symbols themselves. An example is the use of red color on the security triangle, also the colors used for the traffic light. The color red for stop and green for go. From these examples can be seen that the influence of color can provide a fast and powerful impression.

The ability of color in creating the impression can cause certain effects. As described by J. Linschoten about the psychological effects that may result:

The colors are not something that can only be observed only, a color may affect behavior, and plays an important role in aesthetic judgments. It also helps determine on whether or not we would prefer one or many objects.

From this understanding can be explained that: In addition to can only be seen with the eyes, the color also can affect a person's behavior, aesthetic judgments, and also helped determine on whether or not a human love at some things.

Here are the potentials of color and character that could give an impression on someone:

  • a. Black, as the oldest color (dark) by itself became a symbol for the nature of the pitch and darkness (also in terms of emotions).
  • b. White, as the brightest color, symbolizing light, difficulty etc..
  • c. Gray, is the most neutral color in the absence of a specific nature or life.
  • d. Red, is conquered, expansive (widespread), dominant (ruling), active and vital (life).
  • e. Yellow, with rays that are less deep, is representative of the things or objects that are light, the momentum and impressive things.
  • f. Blue, a color that can lead to the impression of depth (dediepte), the nature of the infinite and transcendent, it has also the nature of the challenge.
  • g. Green, has the nature of balance and harmony, evoking serenity and a place to collect new powers.

Of the many colors can be categorized into several sections, often referred to by the Prang color system invented by Louis Prang in 1876 that includes:

  1. Hue, is a term used to indicate the name of a color, like red, blue, green and so on.
  2. Value, is the second dimension of the brightness or color. As the level of color from white to black.
  3. Intensity, often called chroma, is the dimension associated with bright or gloomy colors.

In addition, there are still some other color systems, such as:

  • CMYK or Process Color System,
  • Munsell Color System
  • Ostwald Color System
  • Schopenhauer / Goethe Weighted Color System
  • Substractive Color System, as well as
  • Additive Color / RGB Color System.

Among the various color systems above, which are now widely used in visual media industry print is CMYK (Process Color System) which basically divides color into Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. While RGB Color System is used in electronic visual media industry.

4. Typography

four basic elements of a logo

Typography definition according to the book "Manuale Typographicum 'is:
Typography cans defined a art of selected right type printing in accordance with specific purpose; of so arranging the letters, distributing the space and controlling the type as to aid the reader's maximum.

From the definition, it can be concluded that the typography is the art of selecting and arranging the letters by setting its spread in the available spaces, to create a special impression, so that will help readers to get comfortable reading as much as possible.

As part of human culture, the letter was never separated from daily life. Almost every nation in the world using it as a means of communication. Historical development starting from the use of typography pictograph. The form of this language among others used by the Vikings of Norway and Sioux Indians.

Egypt had developed a kind of 'letter Hieratia' or better known by the name 'Hieroglyphe' at around 1300 century BC. The form of this typography is the root of the form Demotia, which were written using a special pen. The form is finally growing up in Crete, then spread to Greece and eventually spread throughout Europe. The peak development of typography, occurred at about the 8th century BC in Rome as the Romans began to establish their power. Because the Romans did not have its own writing system, they learn the Etruscan writing system which is a native of Italy, and improve it so that formed Roman letters.

Typography current developments have evolved from the phase of creation by hand (hand drawn) to have computerized. Computerization makes use of typography becomes easier and faster in time with the kind of choice of hundreds of letters.

Here are some fonts based on the classifications made by James Craig, as follows:

1. Roman letters
The characteristics of this letter is to have the fins / foot / taper-shaped serifs, at the edges. Roman letters have the thickness and thinness of the contrast on the lines of the letter. The impression created is a classic, elegant, graceful and feminine.

2. Egyptian
Is a typeface that has a characteristic foot / fin / serif square shaped like a board with an equal or nearly equal thickness. The impression created is sturdy, strong, sturdy and stable.

3. Sans Serif
San Serif is without fins / serif, then this type do not have fins on the end of the letter and has an equal or nearly equal thickness. The impression created of this type is a modern, contemporary and efficient.

4. Script
These fonts resemble hand scratches done with pen, brush, or sharp pencil and usually skewed to the right. The impression created of this type is personal and intimate nature.

5. Miscellaneous
This typeface is a development of the forms that already exist. Plus decorations and ornaments, or decorative lines. This typeface has the decorative and ornamental impression

Several aspects must be considered in the selection of typefaces are products that will be highlighted and also the character of its market segment. Like for example the women perfume products wouldn't use the Egyptian typeface because of it has strong and hard impression Instead of using the Roman typeface that classical and soft shades that match the character of fragrant oils, and female..

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Very interesting article. It's the first time when I read in detail about logos and the idea behind them, what they represent and I'm very excited about the article. I learned some new things and that's important.


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