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A Logo to Remember

Perhaps the only person who understands the way memory works better than a psychologist is an advertiser. In particular, designers require a basic understanding of the recall process in order to create logos that make lasting impressions. Stock photo websites allow webmasters, marketers and publishers to locate pictures for their marketing and promotional materials without the hassle of organizing a photo shoot. With copyright laws businesses must be very careful in using unlicensed photos.

There are three distinct types of memory: sensory, short-term, and long-term. Sensory memory corresponds with the few moments directly after perceiving an item. While most sensory memory degrades quickly, some information is transferred to short-term memory to be processed. The capacity of short-term memory is also limited, but some techniques have been found to increase recall and memorability. Items are then placed in long-term memory storage. In particular, there are four attributes that contribute to mnemonic value: basic form, historical continuity, learned response, and emotional resonance.

In the split second after seeing a particular form, the brain first identifies shape and color. Once classified, the form is then filed into a historical context, e.g. contemporary or ancient, relevant or antiquated. Meaning can then be created according to an individual's specific learned responses. A form that is round and red is likely to prompt a "stop" response, due to its association with a stop sign. Pink evokes femininity, while an apple shape induces academia. Mnemonic value is further linked with emotional association, which is more personal and difficult to predetermine. If you were hit by a black car as a child you may have an aversion to black. If your grandmother used Noxzema face cream to wash, its distinct smell will forever conjure up whatever feelings you have for her.

Beyond these four attributes, various memory studies of recent years have shed light on some interesting facts. Being aware and utilizing these conclusions can mean the difference between creating merely clever logos and truly memorable ones.

First of all, numbers are important. Memory studies have shown that short-term memory has a capacity of 7 (+ or - 2 items). In particular, people remember information better when it is chunked in groups of threes. The way phone numbers are clustered is significant - the groupings of three and four numbers are easier to remember. Thus, a logo incorporating three items, be it pictures, numbers, shapes, or letters, will make a stronger impression in the minds of viewers.

Second, logo designers should give the brain something to chew on. Studies show that the longer information stays in the brain for processing, the more likely it is to linger there and be recalled at an opportune moment. Logos which require the viewer to organize or solve will be more memorable. Simple anagrams or riddles are perfect. Be aware, though, that a logo which is too complex will have the opposite effect on people—they will put it out of their minds and associate it with frustration.

Finally, your logo may have an effect on people that you didn't expect. Designers should note two significant effects which have repeatedly surfaced in studies. In one, people have shown an undue liking for an item merely because they are familiar with it. This is the reason advertisers splash their logos on every surface visible to mankind: buses and buildings, clothing, and now even on the sidebars of our computer screens. Aside from this constant bombardment, it goes without saying when designing a new logo, there is a balance between a fresh current look and something that rings familiar in the minds of viewers. Another effect which has surfaced in recall studies is the picture-superior effect. After viewing several items, individuals tend to remember pictures over words. In other words, it is true that "a picture is worth a thousand words." While there are some advantages to using a word over an icon in a logo, words alone may be generic and lack mnemonic value. Icons are easier to read on an object such as a computer or a hat. A skillfully designed monogram may be a good middle ground.

While science is not art per se, knowing a little of psychology is smart when designing a logo to remember.

Suggested sources for logos:
Logo Search - http://www.logo-search.com
Logo Works - http://www.logoworks.com

About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll http://www.feedforall.com software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for RecordForAll http://www.recordforall.com audio recording and editing software