The Incredible Shrinking Logo

One of the key considerations when designing a logo is that it be clear and readable. This might seem obvious, but take a stroll down a typical street of shops and businesses and you're likely to see at least a few logos that need some scrutiny in order to be deciphered. Regular culprits are overly elaborate fonts, or illustrations that are so overdone they become a tangled mess of lines, shapes and colours. Clarity was a challenge even when the standard medium for displaying a logo was a 15-foot long signboard. Now that many brands exist solely in the digital space, destined only to be viewed through a 6-inch smartphone screen, the challenge has become more pressing.

Every brand and its dog (or other suitably irritating mascot) now feels the urge to develop an app in order to stay relevant. This inevitably means shrinking the logo down to 120 pixels by 120 pixels, the standard icon size for an iPhone app. Viewed on a smartphone, social media profile pictures can be even smaller than that. These are absolutely minuscule renderings of symbols that are supposed to convey a certain depth of meaning at a glance, and a challenge as old as art itself suddenly seems almost impossible.

For any brand developing a logo in the mobile era, the idea of using illustration or intricate motif to convey meaning is practically unthinkable. The necessary clarity simply cannot be maintained at these smaller scales. We're reaching the point (if we're not there already) where an elaborate logo, stunning though it may be, is going to become a costly indulgence. Costly in terms of its failure to successfully connect with the consumer, and also in terms of the rebranding exercise that will almost certainly have to be conducted in the future.

Numerous surveys, including this one conducted by Intelligent Positioning, clearly show that mobile usage is set to overtake desktop in the near future. The challenge of the shrinking logo is here to stay. As brand consultants and designers, it's important to us that we help our clients understand this changing landscape. The logo design solutions of the last few decades are no longer viable, and we all need to accept that a cleaner, more streamlined, minimalist design approach is now inevitable if we are to build successful brands, with logos that are clear, distinctive and memorable.

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