Never Explain your Joke – How clarity of design is your friend
One of the oldest rules of comedy is that “If you have to explain a joke, there is no joke.” This is a rule that is applicable in the field of graphic design as well. In many forms of art and expression, ambiguity can be your friend. For the abstract artist, undefined masses of color and form can be interpreted in an infinite number of ways depending on the mood of the viewer, and they can ALL be right. But for a graphic designer creating a logo, ambiguity often equates to a failure to communicate.
Falling victim to overly clever design is a pitfall that every designer needs to be cognizant of as they work. A logo needs to convey the message your client intends clearly and to the widest possible audience. And it needs to do so WITHOUT the graphic designer walking up to each observer one at a time to explain the concept. But as designers, we all want to wow people with our work. Deep down, most of us want someone to say “Boy, that’s a great logo,” even though one could argue that the goal SHOULD be obvious: a logo so well thought out that it can automatically convey everything you need it to and more, without anyone really thinking about it. In some respects, that’s the graphic designers flying unicorn; we all want to believe it exists but fear we will never quite discover it.
There are many famous logos that come close to that fine line between clear and almost too clever. Baskin Robbins Ice Cream has a not so hidden “31” revealed in the coloring of the “B” and the “R”, a reference to their famous 31 flavors. The logo for FedEx has a much more subtle arrow facing to the right, hidden in the empty space between the “E” and the “X”, which most people were surprised to discover when I’ve pointed it out to them.
It’s up to the designer to determine if a logo is TOO clever, or if it’s perfect for representing the client’s business. We all have our own styles and opinions. Just be sure that what YOU as the client or designer think is clever isn’t being lost on the rest of the world. Don’t get caught having to explain the joke.
Written by Blog Contributor: Dee Fish