A Data-driven Approach to Logo Design: An Overview

24 September 2021

Everything is data. All that makes up your surroundings, your actions, and even you, can be quantified and analysed. This might sound obvious, but this data quantification and analysis has led humans to where we are today in terms of evolution. Almost every innovation comes from a vague (or meticulously calculated) data analysis. Hence, it would only make sense that data-driven approaches are applied to design innovations as well. This not only makes sure that there is a science to the artistic process of design, but that it is highly effective in what it does for the audience.

When Gap altered its logo in 2010, there was such a strong reaction that they felt compelled to reverse it after only a week. Evidently, logo design has a lot of power, and creating a new logo or – god forbid – making modifications to a current one are not actions to be taken lightly.

A Data-driven Approach to Logo Design: An Overview

Logo design: What data can do for your brand’s focal point

Logos are one of the most immediately identifiable aspects of every company, from the Nike swoosh to the Starbucks mermaid. Many logos are becoming symbols in their own right, and the public is incredibly connected to them — to the point that corporations typically suffer substantial reactions if they attempt to modify them. Traditionally, logo design has been seen as more of an art than a science, but a recent study by Wharton marketing professor Ryan Dew recommends a more data-driven alternative. He says in his research paper “Letting Logos Speak: A Machine Learning Approach to Data-driven Logo Design,” that a logo serves a fundamental role as the visual figureheads of brands. Yet, due to the difficulty of using unstructured image data, prior research on logo design has largely been limited to non-quantitative studies. 

Logo design has long been seen as a kind of art. Today’s firms may improve their logos by incorporating scientific studies into the blend.

Many factors, both physical and intangible, contribute to the creation of a business’s brand. Its products and what they signify to customers are one thing, and the folks who work to get them to customers are another. However, when you think about the world’s most well-known companies, the logo is usually the first thing that comes to mind.

From Ford’s blue oval to Mercedes’ steering wheel to McDonald’s golden arch, logos are ingrained in our culture, and we form strong emotional attachments to them as customers. But to study what makes them “work”, means studying how they influence customers psychologically. It also means studying how well they convey their brand’s message and purpose through that one symbol. All of this is where you need to employ data. 

Before we discuss further how data-driven design can be applied to logos, let us have a look at what “data-driven” actually means. 

What is data-driven design, and how does it work?

It’s the practice of creating or enhancing a product based on measurable criteria. The data-driven design approach relies on acquired data (both quantitative and qualitative data) to create an educated choice for a specific set of consumers.

Data gathering and analytics enable us to lay emphasis on our clients’ particular and genuine challenges, uncover insights, and tailor initiatives to their specific requirements. It is important to write down even the tiniest information, classify, organize, and seek trends; nevertheless, it is also important to remember that we do not need to examine everything. Too much data can result in analytic chaos, which no one will benefit from.

The gained information will begin to integrate into fast wins over time, making it simpler to uncover insights on your own between immediate gains. Gathering a massive number of data and variables will not allow you to decide whether a hypothesis is supported, but a careful approach to their selection may. Looking for trends in the data is also an essential component.

Understand that with product analytics, you must always start with the widest available context before narrowing it down to a specific data segment.

While having a sophisticated algorithm would do a much better job, you can still use data and research to steer your logo design in the direction that it needs to go.

1.) Know what invokes what

Doing market research means being thorough with everything. Taking input from customers using surveys and dummy-ad-runs is the best way to go. If you run a food business, and your logo has monochromatic colours with an 80’s style colourful typeface, have your customers guess what kind of food you serve. This would help you see which logo conveys exactly what you want it to convey, or invokes a reaction in the viewers.

2.) Study the clichés

There is a reason why something is a cliché. While it is usually a good idea to steer clear of them, studying what makes them a cliché can help you employ those principles in your own design. For instance, Versace, Hermes, and such high fashion luxury brands stick to slick metallic/monochrome logos that are thin and elegant. Whereas, Moschino strays away from the norm while still being a high-end luxury brand. Then how does it still maintain the same air as the other by-the-book brands? The answer lies in the way it presents its logos. You’ll find its logos in high-resolution editorial-style prints and ad campaigns that have an air of luxury around them. What they have realized is that “tacky shows”. So they do everything in their power to avoid that despite having whimsical and fun elements in their branding.

This is one of the instances where you can see that studying a cliché can help you crawl into your niche perfectly, without having to blend in with the others. 

4.) Study your competitors

What are your other competitors opting for? How is their logo working out for them in terms of engagement and branding? These are very important questions to answer. Hiring a market research team helps a great deal with both the collection, as well as the interpretation of such data. The more you know about what your niche looks like to the average consumer, the better you will be able to design something that looks familiar, yet stands out to the customers.

5.) Consult typeface specialists/research them yourself

Type is a major part of logo design, even if it isn’t directly included in the logo. A good font can do a lot for your company (Look at Apple, IBM, Adidas). So try and understand where the industry’s familiar logos and your brand purpose converge. This is the point where you will find the biggest clues about what your typeface “aesthetic” should be like. 

Things to keep in mind

  1. Choose metrics carefully. 
  2. If possible, quantify ambiguity.
  3. Make proofs of concept as simple and reliable as possible.
  4. Analytics may be used to assist the design team, project team, clients, and customers, but do not let them completely dictate the logo design process.
  5. Always be sure to clarify your analytical decisions to your designers.

Advantages of employing data in your process: Data-driven vs. Data-informed design

There are several methods to utilize data to make creative or strategic choices, and debating which is best can take forever. Data-driven and data-informed design are the most common techniques. Each has benefits and downsides, so it’s critical to pick the one that will best assist you to answer your hypothesis and take the necessary measures.

When we want to know “What?” and “How many?” we should utilize data-driven design. For instance, “What happened?” and “How many people did this?” This method is focused mostly on quantitative data and is particularly useful when we want to improve a certain aspect of the product. It makes it easier to get rid of personal prejudices.

It aids in overcoming personal biases and intuition, and it has the potential to streamline some aspects of the data-driven decision-making process. Furthermore, you will have verified facts, making it simpler to push back against business stakeholders with their own motivations. You’ll also be able to see patterns that might indicate a future problem with the design. (Like, you would be able to predict when the design might become obsolete)

Data-driven design will aid us in answering “Why” queries like “Why did something happen/not happen?” It makes use of more qualitative data, and data is simply one of the components in the judicial process in this situation.

Final words

Whatever your objectives are, data-driven design may help you achieve them. It’s generally a good idea to think about data as a member of the design team rather than a set of statistics. Understanding how data science works, as well as user research and testing procedures, offers designers more tools to back their ideas. It also enables them to develop the finest possible services by providing facts to support their vision.

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