Logo Philosophy: Intuition, Symbols and Creativity

by Mike Jansen
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Logo Philosophy: Intuition Symbols and Creativity

Be it science or arts, there is philosophy behind everything. We might not notice the deeper aspects of reality due to our busy schedule, but once we sit and think we slowly begin to realize how everything in nature is connected. I will explore how the realization of “being connected” helps designers in creating timeless logos in this article.

Have you ever wondered how musicians create beautiful music? Have you ever thought about what it takes to be a great actor or a painter? Talent, you may say. Well you are not entirely incorrect. While talent and practice makes one perfect in their craft, it is simply not enough to understand creativity. Creativity goes deeper than talent and practice – somewhere in the realms of the soul! 

Logo designers are great artists; they have evolved their talents after years of dedication, practice and hard work. The more they focus on their work the more connected they become! Connected to what, you may ask. Here is the answer – great artists, whatever form of art or science they might be involved in, are deeply connected to themselves!

The more connected you are to yourself, the deeper your understanding about things gets.

This enhanced knowledge about the self and the things around them helps them create timeless pieces of art. No text book, no computers and no mobile phones can ever help you get connected to yourself. It is only through dedication and practice that one gets connected or in touch with themselves.

Now that we understand the power and philosophy of being in touch with the self, let us explore intuition, symbols and creativity in connection with logo philosophy.

The power of intuition

Power of intuition in logo designing

Intuition, the non-quantifiable, has been dismissed by many as overrated; however, some of the greatest thinkers in history have given intuition the place it deserves. Carl Jung, Albert Einstein and Nicola Tesla have been extremely vocal about the power of intuition. We will look at what they said about the power of intuition, but first let us understand what intuition is.

What is intuition?

Wikipedia explains intuition as “the ability to acquire knowledge without recourse to conscious reasoning.” Yes that is one way to look at it. The other way is a little complex, but I will break it down for you. Intuition does not fall in the realm of the “conscious” or the “subconscious” instead it is power that anyone can develop over time. When you focus on just one thing for a period of time you begin to develop a power. Many have associated this power with wisdom and insight. This natural process of deep realization is intuitive wisdom.

Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists in the world would often say, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.”

According to Psychology Today, the great physicist once told a friend, “All great achievements of science must start from intuitive knowledge. At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason.”

Carl Jung describes intuition as an “irrational function” which is directly opposed by sensation. He calls it “perception via the unconscious” which is used to bring forth goals, possibilities and images out of a congested situation. The more the intensity of perception, the more vivid will be the ideas and the images.

Here is a great video where Carl Jung explains Sensing vs Intuition:

Nikola Tesla, one of the greatest scientists the world has ever seen, used to say, “But instinct is something that transcends knowledge. We have, undoubtedly, certain finer fibres that enable us to perceive truths when logical deduction, or any other wilful effort of the brain, is futile.” Inventor of Tesla Coil and Wireless Lightning, Nikola had been vocal about the power of intuition till his death.

For designers, intuition is not an alien subject but something which is as natural as breathing. Designers use various inspirations on a daily basis to create timeless logos. Like a swimmer needs water to swim, designers need intuition to draw inspiration while using his intellect to deliver the finished product. The combination of intuition and intellect gives a good designer an edge over the others. A good designer knows when intuition is combined with intellect unimaginable things can be accomplished.

Intuition works in the following ways for a designer:

  •  It inspires him to do greater things.
  • Encourages him to take risks.
  •  Provides him with greater insights.
  •  Helps him tap into a never ending source of power and energy.

The power of symbols

The power of symbols in logo design

A symbol is an object, image, phrase, pattern or even a word that represents something else by association or convention. Symbols possess an intricate set of meanings that attach it to the thing it represents. This association between the symbol and the thing it represents creates an inherent value of its own.

Powerful symbols appear powerful because they have varied meanings; the relation between symbols and the things they represent are extremely complex. Again, less powerful symbols are loosely associated with the things they represent. Therefore, one may safely conclude that the more complex the association between symbol and the thing it represents, the more powerful the connection between them.

Symbols impact the mind faster than words. When you look at the Yin Yang symbol below, for example, the impact is immediate: you comprehend two opposite sides contained within a whole. However, when you look at the words, an additional step of visualization becomes inevitable before the symbol becomes meaningful.

Logo Philosophy: Intuition, Symbols and Creativity

Impact of symbols in logos and branding

There are those who might argue that logos are in fact a symbol; however, there is more to it than meets the eye. While it is true that a logo becomes the symbol for the company it represents, any pre-existing symbols used in a logo design plays an extremely crucial role in establishing the logo’s meaning.

If done the right way, incorporating symbols in a logo can have an extremely positive effect on the audience. 

Branding is crucial for any business as it creates a lasting impression. Branding allows the people to know what your business is exactly about. Branding, in another word, is the company’s story. From a psychological perspective, symbols can elevate the brand story and make it more compelling for the audience. However, choosing the wrong symbols may backfire and may result in people choosing another brand with similar products and services.

Types of symbol

  1. Iconograms: These kinds of symbols are illustrative representations. The iconic signs represent a common point between signifier and the signified. Such as a place of worship.
  2. Cartograms: These kinds of symbols are generally topographical representations with complex functions. The best example of a cartogram is an atlas.
  3. Pictograms: As the name suggests, they are pictorial representations. Pictograms tell complex facts without the use of words or sound.
  4. Diagrams: These are functional carriers that show a series of facts or functions.
  5. Ideograms: These kinds of symbols generally represent an idea. Typically, they represent the exact idea or concept being referred to without diluting its meaning. The Apple logo is the best example of an ideogram, where the word and the symbol mean the same thing: an apple.
  6. Typograms: As the name suggests, typograms are typographical representations. Wordmark logos are the best examples of typograms.
  7. Logograms: These kinds of symbols generally represent a word or a phrase. Some ancient writings, such as Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), are the best examples of logograms.
  8. Phonograms: These are phonic representations and are generally used to depict linguistic or other sounds.

Tips on using symbols in logos

  1. Storytelling: You must conduct your research well before using a symbol in your logo. If you choose any random symbol of your choice that does not go with the brand narrative, it is sure to backfire. So picking a logo that clearly conveys your brand story is the way to go.
  2. Use symbols cautiously: Symbols have been in a state of interaction since their inception which is why they have friends and enemies. Designers and brands must use symbols judiciously so as to avoid any negative connotations associated with them.
  3. Conflicting ideas: While it is a great idea to use symbols in your logo, using too many or conflicting ones may cause confusion. Conducting a thorough research is probably a good idea to get things into perspective. You can use more than one symbol in a logo but ensure they do not have contradictory meanings.
  4. Keep it simple: Time and time again I have mentioned the power of simplicity and I will do so again. Keep your logo clean and clutter free. Using just one symbol could turn out to be a great idea.
  5. International perspectives: Depending upon the geographic locations, a symbol might have multiple or contradicting meanings. If you are a brand that is seeking global recognition, understanding symbols is extremely crucial if you want them to be a part of your branding.

Symbols works in the following ways for a designer:

  • It complements the brand story.
  • It makes the brand extremely attractive for the customers.
  • It has an immediate impact on the people.
  • It makes the brand memorable.

The power of creativity

The power of creativity in creating a logo

Whether you want to express your hunger in a foreign country or express your feelings through your paintings, it requires a certain degree of creativity. Creativity is truly the food for life! As I mentioned earlier, creativity comes from deep within oneself: the more in tune a person is with himself the better will be his creative output.

There have been attempts to understand creativity and how some people are more creative than the others, but they are mostly on the lines of science fiction. Well, as much as I have tried, I will probably not be able to paint a perfect picture of creativity.

Let us now see what some of the greatest thinkers have said about creativity:

Ray Bradbury, one of the most celebrated American writers of the 20th-century once said, “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”

Steve Jobs, founder of the big-tech company Apple, used to say, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.” George Bernard Shaw, one of the greatest playwrights in world history said, “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will do what you imagine, and last, you create what you will.”

Tips to bring creativity in logo designs

  1. Color psychology: Color usage is one of the key elements to a great logo design. Various colors are said to trigger varied emotions, red, for example, evokes the feeling of love and passion; whereas, blue portrays the feelings of calm and peace.
  2. Know the brand: It is important for you, as a designer, to have an insight into the client’s brand and their customers. Once you know the brand story, your job becomes that much easier.
  3. Minimalism: Minimalism in logo design is the current trend and is here to stay. Minimalism is all about keeping your design clutter free, clean and balanced. Apple logo, for example, is one of the best examples of a minimalistic logo design.
  4. Maintain proportion and symmetry: Do you know what is common between some of the most well known logos in the world? The most well known logos in the world are pleasing to the eyes and are achieved by maintaining proportions and symmetry.
  5. Use negative space: Let me give you an example to define how negative space can be used. The FedEx logo is one of the most iconic logos in the world in terms of design aesthetics. If you take a closer look at the space between “E” and “X”, an arrow will be clearly visible to you. The arrow very well defines what the company does: express shipping.

Logo philosophy is indeed a deep subject and cannot be explained in one article. Just like any other art form, designing logos too has a deep philosophy.

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