Logo design – dental practice
The ‘obvious’ first idea
The obvious thing to do here, and it’s probably occurred to you too, is draw a castle next to the words ‘Castle Dental Practice’ (see below). Sometimes obvious is what you want but, as I was doing this as a personal project,1 it wouldn’t have been much of a challenge. And it’s very boring.
‘Castle’, though, is the sort of concrete word that a designer likes because it’s easy to make into a recognisable symbol and can be drawn in lots of different styles. So, the image of a castle was worth using but I wanted to do something more interesting with it. I wanted to include it as part of the text of the logo. To create a logotype.
An abstract symbol by itself is fine for a logo but there has to be a good reason for using one. Like: the organisation has the same sort of fame as a pop star known by their first name. Most organisations will want their name, perhaps their field of business, in there too.
This means that logos often consist of a symbol alongside text. But if the symbol and text are always going to be used together and the text is essential, why use a symbol at all? The job the symbol does can be done by the name alone. This is a logotype.
Logotypes are generally more effective with short single words. Long words or phrases become less symbol like and can have less impact. Distinctive features can disappear amongst all the letters.
Here I treated ‘Castle’ as the logotype and ‘Dental Practice’ as the, less important, accompanying text.2
The shape of the word
The first thing to do see how helpful the shape of the word is. Sometimes the word has the image you want lurking within. This is the case here. The ‘tl’ stands proud of the surrounding letters and already suggests the shape of a castle. It’s a coincidence but feels like design voodoo when it happens. Hurray!
It’s more important for the logotype to be readable 3 than for the the designer’s work to be obvious. Or is it?
When the brain tries to read a word it recognises the pattern of letters. It does this below the level of consciousness. Any interruption to that pattern, such as a tomato pretending to be an ‘o’, interferes with this process. The above example should be about as clear as this sort of substitution can be but it still causes the brain to ‘stutter’.
If the brain does stop to work out what the logo says, this might not be a bad thing. The brain has engaged with the logo, rather than ignoring it as it does with most things, and this should make it more memorable.
On the other hand, the brain might find it too much effort and not ‘see’ the logo at all. It may also find it ugly or annoying, giving the logo negative associations.4
You take your chances. It’s probably better to allow the brain to read the logo easily and appreciate the design later. There’s also the pleasure the brain gets when it discovers something in a design that may not be immediately obvious. (This being the most famous example.)
The typeface is Avenir. It’s difficult to write about typefaces without resorting to vague subjective words. Here are mine for this one: neutral but friendly, clean, clear, so ideal for medical organisations. The letter shapes are quite simple which made them easier to mess with.
Less is more
I adjusted the letter shapes and tried adding features to make the ‘tl’ more clearly castle-like: crenellations, windows, doors, flags. This affected readability. It looked like a drawing of a castle had been plonked into the word or made the ‘t’ and ‘l’ unrecognisable. I stripped back the features until there was the bare minimum needed to suggest a castle.5
The ‘castle’ was then too subtle so I raised it from the baseline, which suggests a motte and bailey.
It works in black and white but pale blue and green are (apparently) the standard dentistry colours and I didn’t need to argue with that. Green goes on the bottom because, if you insist, it’s the grass in front of the castle. I thought about making the castle darker, to separate it from the blue ‘sky’ but that was overdoing it.
See more of my logo designs here.
- It’s a real practice. I thought designing its logo would be a good exercise in avoiding the immediately obvious.
- If you think that I’ve therefore still ended up with a ‘symbol’ plus ‘text’ arrangement, you’re right. I have some justification but it’s weak.
- If it’s not readable then it’s gone back to being a symbol.
- Speculative notion: the brain when faced with two things that it wants to handle separately, the photo and the letters, doesn’t like having to make the association and finds ways to dislike the whole. i.e. finds it ugly.
- I may have gone too far.