If a brand is the perception of an organization that exists in the minds of those who encounter said organization, then an understanding of the human mind is critical to the work of designers who engage in branding initiatives. Understanding users, as well as the context of use, informs the development of brands that deliver a desired effect.
Marks and Meaning
According to Psychology Today, each of us is subjected to anywhere between 3,000 and 10,000 brand exposures every day. We don’t yet understand the complete psychological effect of so many commercial messages, but this much is clear: Logos play a big part in this increasingly rich and complex landscape.
Graphic identities need to reflect the values, demographics, and psychology of their intended audience. Many essential elements of a logo—shape, color, pattern, etc.—mean different things to different audiences.
Understanding people’s needs and desires through research and rapid prototyping is one way of evaluating graphic treatments for a graphic identity. Can you test the appeal and connotation of a red logo in South Korea vs. Western Europe? Another method involves consideration of trends and the competitive landscape. What ideas are being adopted from another culture? Is Hello Kitty on the rise for your target audience?
As a graphic identity moves into the physical world and interacts with spaces and objects over time, often the audience experiences a more visceral and immediate effect.
As you enter a retail store, do you pass through glass doors? Do the interior graphics entice you to look up or down? Does the space remind you of your garage or kitchen?
Do the photos in a brochure encourage close examination or a cursory glance? Does the text make you want to read it twice? Does the printed piece look like a phone book or a work of art?
The application of program elements can be a powerful way of amplifying the psychological effect of the graphic identity.
The world’s most memorable brands tend to distinguish themselves in the connotation—not just the denotation—of the value proposition. Brand builders strive to create just the right connotation for the brand in the mind of its target audience. Success in this endeavor is a rare and precious commodity.
While the idea of corporate reputation is nothing new among public relations and marketing professionals, linking diverse brand initiatives for a cumulative psychological effect on target audiences is the work of building a brand identity. It starts and ends with what people think—or, more accurately, what a brand can inspire people to think.