What’s in a Logo?

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One of my goals for the Abilipad app was to find a new, original logo. I chose the old logo from an image library, hoping to convey three ideas:

(1) the app is a specialized keyboard as demonstrated by the small square “keyboard keys”,
(2) that one could customize it as demonstrated by the different colors and sizes of the “keys”, and
(3) that it had speech-to-text, hence the speech bubble reference.

If you did not appreciate the depth of the logo prior to my explanation – I do understand. For most people, the logo conveyed that it was a communication app for non-verbal individuals. Although Abilipad can be used for text-based communication, that is not its primary mission.

So I set out to find a new logo – my favorite hunting ground was Dribbble. I loved designs that looked really simple, but upon closer inspection had a clever twist. Take a look at these genius works:

After an extensive search, I found Brian Cook. I explained that I needed to re-brand my existing logo. “It should be clever, strong, kid-friendly, superhero-ish, and most of all symbolize that it is a writing tool that uniquely enables one to create keyboards to fit a student’s exact needs.” Any reasonable person may have declined the contract at this point.

Brian quickly assembled four logo approaches:

An interesting email discussion ensued:

Cheryl: I like the 4th one, but don’t think it demonstrates anything about the app itself. Could we try something like this … (Honestly, I am too embarrassed to post my drawing, hence the “…”)

Brian: Before I try to render your example more cleanly, I wanted to share another variation that might convey the function of the app more simply. In this construction, the horizontal shadow forms a stylus (shaft and point) on the left, and a tablet on the right while also creating an “A”. This relies heavily on gestalt design, with the brain working to perceive meaning out of abstract shapes, and I think it would make a more compelling symbol for the applications you have in mind.

Cheryl: I think I have to forego some aesthetics in order to more clearly convey the function of the abilipad app.

Brian: Based on all of my experience and education about branding, literally illustrating the function of a product isn’t typically one of the purposes of a logo. If you think about the products you use (Google, FedEx, Apple, Toyota), almost none of them explicitly illustrate what their products do. That’s left to the other marketing materials: images, copy, video, etc. Instead, the brand is about creating something appealing and recognizable, something that communicates the spirit of the product or organization. You mentioned the kids you work with being excited about a logo that looks like something a superhero might wear. That’s a great example because when you think about superhero brands, they don’t have images of big muscles or utility belts; Superman has a stylized “S” in a shield that conveys a sense of strength and protection. Batman has the silhouette of a bat, a nocturnal animal that moves silently above the city.

Cheryl: Is there a way to make the pencil / A look “younger”? Would it work in a color?

Brian: I’ve tried rounding the corners and modifying the proportions so that the pencil + pad symbol is more apparent and the “A” slightly less apparent. I’ve also included some different styles and color variations that could be applied to this logo. What are your thoughts on this direction?

Cheryl: The yellowish one is a keeper. Really a winner!

In the end, I was sold by Brian’s thoughtful analysis and logical reasoning. I absolutely love the final result:

So, next time you happen upon a logo – pause to consider that there may be more than meets the eye and that it may have taken a lot of thought, and even a little bit of crazy to get it just right!