In order for a logo design to be truly successful, it must be memorable. But what is it that helps us remember certain designs and forget others? One way to answer this question is to look at the psychology of memory. A great source for understanding is the research study “Memory for pictures: Sometimes a picture is not worth a single word” conducted by American University and Carnegie Mellon. We can learn a lot from the study about what makes a logo more memorable:
It is widely understood that pictures are more memorable than words. We often say that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. The theory explained in the study is that a picture elicits an associated word automatically, and that we store two representations in our memory (the image and the word). On the contrary, words do not automatically cause us to think about an associated picture.
If you don’t instantly recognize an image and associate a verbal label, you’re less likely to remember it. Abstract imagery is much worse than obvious imagery when it comes to memory retention. According to the study “if you cannot name it, you will probably not remember it.” The Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey logo above was created by Nathan Hinz at Cue, Inc, and is the logo for Jack Daniel’s new honey-flavored liqueur. The symbol within this design is instantly recognizable as a “bee”. On the other hand, it’s very difficult to tell what the symbol is supposed to represent within the Logitech logo.
If the name and symbol work together to allow us to more quickly associate a word with a graphic, we’ll likely be storing both in memory and more easily recall the design in the future. If the symbol is very closely associated with the company name, the icon has a much better chance of standing on its own.
Using unique typefaces will make your designs more visually distinct and aid in memory retention. The “hype” design shown above was created by Dustin Chessin, and is one of our featured designs this month.
The study showed that if we encounter similar images frequently, it becomes more difficult for us to distinguish them in our memory, and we’ll likely forget them.
Questions to Consider
Is creating a logo that is more memorable most important for small businesses, large corporate brands, or equally important for both?
Are the famous logos that don’t heed the memory advice (listed above as “NAY”) less successful because of it?
The study was focused on remembering an image/word shortly after encountering it for the first time. We come into contact with famous brand icons time and time again (like those used above as examples). Are there different important factors that effect memory in these situations?