7 Ways the Internet has Changed Logo Design Principles

by Alabaweh Baweh -
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The only constant is change. That might be a cliche (sorry about that), but it's absolutely true when it comes to the internet. Especially in the world of marketing and branding, everything has changed in the last 20+ years. The world we live in now, and the way we promote our companies and organizations, looks nothing like the world of the early 1990s.

That matters for copywriting, web development, and even product development. But it also matters in one area particularly important to you: graphic design. Especially in the world of logos, the shift has been drastic and is worth thinking through.

Every logo designed today has to be finished with the internet in mind. It will appear on websites, blog posts, social media accounts, and more. That's why every designer needs to know the 7 ways in which the internet has changed logo design principles.

1) New Size Restrictions

Gone are the days where a logo would appear only on a billboard or a magazine spread. Today, the internet is ubiquitous, and with it, the possibilities for where that logo could show up have multiplied. Any given company might showcase their logo:

  • As a featured image on their website
  • As the thumbnail in a browser tab
  • As the profile image on social media
  • In an email signature

And in countless other spots. Traditional print and out of home uses, of course, are still in the mix. That means any logo has to be just as effective in a 50x50 pixel thumbnail as it would as the feature image on a logo. It's the first, and perhaps the most significant way in which the growth of the internet as a marketing channel has influenced the design and creative process.

2) Simplicity is King

Perhaps it's partially because of the size restrictions mentioned above. Perhaps consumer preferences, shifting away from fancy garnishments and towards straightforward communication, have something to do with it. Either way, logos are becoming increasingly simple as they strip away unnecessary flourishes.

Think about Nike or McDonalds. In each case, a simple shape communicates everything it needs to in the blink of an eye. That's because both embrace the simple aspect that the internet has made so prevalent in logo design.

It might not need a wordmark; Starbucks went away from it in its most recent iteration. It might not need multiple colors or symbols. It might just be as simple as the core communicated feature about your brand and its business. In the online age, simplicity in logo design is the absolute key to long-term success.

3) Vector Design is a Must

You probably already design your brand logos in vector format. Not everyone does. Especially in previous decades, needs tended to be limited enough that a simple pixel logo, resized as needed, would do for most companies. The necessary versatility of the logo mentioned above has played a large role in making sure that that's no longer the case.

Vector designs are resizable to any degree without necessary adjustments or potential loss of quality or accuracy. They make sure your thumbnail logo looks just as good on a highway sign. The rise of the internet and its accompanying need for more iterations of company logos, once again, has played a major role in that development.

4) Brand Recognition as an Instant Reaction

Logos largely function as brand symbols. They communicate the equity that your company has built with its audience, evoking specific feelings, memories, and expectations that the product or service itself can (hopefully) fulfill. That's always been the case. The only thing that's changed in the age of the internet is how fast that process needs to happen.

One recent study found that the average user spends more than 1.5 hours per day paying attention to ads, which amounts to 15% of their entire daily media exposure. Your company is just one of many vying for attention, and the logo could be the key to success.

The days when your logo would be the only brand identifier on a brochure, flier, or prospectus are over. Instead, your audience will likely see it alongside hundreds of other logos and messages. Standing out means standing out the first instance they spot it; after all, it takes only a fraction of a second for your audience to form an impression about your brand based on your logo.

5) The Need for Specific Shapes

Logo design is no longer a free-for-all. The media in which it will show up is not always ownable. That's why, in the age of the internet, restrictions are not just based on size but also on the shape that the logo should take.

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Social media is a particularly important example of why. Networks like Facebook and Twitter, for instance, restrict the logo spot to a circle. Any sizing issues can lead to parts of your most important identifier being cut off or misplaced. Most logos have to fit within a circle these days to be as effective online as they would be in print.

6) Fonts as Core Brand Elements

The rise of the internet has brought with it a clear understanding by the general public of fonts. Three decades ago, it might have been acceptable to design a logo or wordmark using Comic Sans. Do it today, and you run the risk of becoming an online laughing stock.

The reason is simple. Thanks to platforms like Google Docs, Squarespace, and more, every internet user can see and understand basic fonts. Mishaps with typography get turned into memes for thousands of retweets. That means the modern graphic designer has to spend extra time and effort on making sure that the font is right, not already overused, and doesn't carry any negative connotations.

7) The Possibilities of Moving Graphics

Finally, digital logos can now be designed in motion to add even more intrigue and audience attention. They can introduce the logo and its various elements in a dynamic way that is sure to become a centerpiece for the visual.

The key here is not designing a logo that can only be used in a moving, GIF format. You will still need to use that logo in print and in online formats where GIFs are not an option. Instead, design the logo in static format, then think about the possibilities of adding motion to it in a way that adds intrigue and not distraction. 

Designing logos in the digital age is fundamentally different than the decades before. Understanding where these differences are is a core step to making sure that the graphics you design measure up, are usable, and exceed audience expectations. The above differences are a guidepost; ultimately, testing your own designs will be the best way to make sure that can happen.