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Apparently we've been doing logos wrong this whole time

Descriptive logos
(Image credit: Business Insider)

We've seen a ton of new logos this year, and it's fair to say most have taken a minimalist design approach. Indeed, from car brands such as BMW and Nissan to web services like Gmail, almost every rebrand we've encountered in 2020 has seen the company opt for a flatter, simpler version of its previous logo. 

But perhaps brands would do well to revisit a study which revealed that if they want a logo that encourages shoppers to buy from them, they're better off using a descriptive logo. Many of the best logos in some way portray what the brand sells, and it seems shoppers actually prefer this approach as opposed to abstract or minimalist designs. 

The study, originally published in the Journal of Marketing Research last year, argues that a descriptive logo is more successful as it creates trust. Research professors from Canada, England, and France examined 597 logos with the help of 2,000 participants to discover that "logo descriptiveness can positively affect impressions of authenticity and, in turn, purchase intentions".

Descriptive logos

Some of these logos are more descriptive than others (Image credit: Business Insider)

Participants in the study were given descriptions of various companies, then judged their logos on their authenticity. Descriptive logos came out on top in every category. The study even goes on to say that there is a "significant positive association between logo descriptiveness and gross profit."

A good example of how a minimalist design can cause upset is the new Gmail logo revealed last month. Not only did the removal of the envelope background shed its connection to email, but users were also unhappy that it confusingly resembles Google Workspace's many other abstract logo designs.

Descriptive logos

Abstract logos generate less trust (and therefore less profit) (Image credit: Business Insider)

There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach though. When a company becomes big enough, it doesn't need to rely on a descriptive logo that tells people what it sells. Just take McDonald's, whose famous Golden Arches logo has nothing to do with its fast food. It's also a good example of how a textless logo can work. If you're looking for inspiration, our logo design guide has you covered.

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