The Role of Shape In Logo Design

The brain acknowledges and remembers shape first. It has to do with the four regions of the brain known as V1, V2 , V3 and V4. Researchers have been able to show that visual information flows from the eyes to the V1 sector first and then moves toward higher processing areas like V4, where increasingly complex properties of the object are analyzed and encoded. V1 represents very simple properties like orientation, color and direction of motion.

Shape recognition is inherent in the way we learn. Whether it be geometric or something more organic, a distinctive shape is memorable long after it leaves our view. In order to read, one must have an ability to distinguish and recognize the shape of letters and the distance between words. Each letter becomes associated with a meaning and also a sound.

In our research of travel and destination brand identities, we have found that there are actually very few logos that rely on a unique, well-defined shape. Too often, logos in this category rely solely on their name as the main image. The problem is that, while a well-designed wordmark can appear powerful, research shows that a wordmark that has a distinctive shape or is integrated within a distinctive shape is far easier to remember.


See how many of these logo shapes you can recognize

Many logos have distinctive shapes that also combine the initial(s) of the brand into the icon. The “W” from the W Hotels is one of our favorites. The styling of the simple “W” is clean, modern and streamlined and has distinctive points that create its shape. The bottom of the“W” and the center top point are razor sharp.

You could argue that the W Hotels logo is a word mark as they capitalize on the simplicity of their name, but you wouldn't confuse them with any other hotel that begins with a “W”. Theirs is a powerful use of shape and language, creating a completely ownable logo.