Hiding messages in logos is a great way to expand the iconography, meaning, and impact of a brand. However, it can be difficult to pull off effectively. If the message is too obvious, it may reduce the impact of the logo. If it is too subtle, it serves no purpose. Luckily, there are plenty of examples to look toward for inspiration and tips for beautifully hiding a hidden message.
To insert a hidden message in logos, first decide what the message will be. It should be a subtle, secondary mark that compliments the logo as a whole. Utilize negative space, color, and typography to make the hidden component blend in. Use famous logos with hidden messages for inspiration.
We recommend using a logo template to get the ball rolling. This will give you design inspiration, and allow you to choose a template with the opportunity for a hidden message. Here are our top logo template recommendations.
The rules are fairly basic; a large part of any good hidden message in a logo is proper execution. Finding the balance of all the different parts and ways to hide a logo is the main challenge.
How To Put Hidden Messages In Logos
Putting hidden messages in logos should be carefully considered and planned before executing. Otherwise, the result may be unclear, resulting in a useless hidden message that also serves as a detriment toward the logo as a whole. Effectively using alternative space, colors, typography, and symbols is essential for putting hidden messages in logos.
While exploring ways to place a hidden message in a logo, be sure to not lose sight of the logo as a whole. Good design should always come first, for all parts.
If trying to place a hidden message in a logo is not working, take a step back and analyze the whole piece to get a hint about why. Do not be afraid to constantly iterate on ideas until you land on one you are happy with.
Put Good Logo Design First
It is imperative to not destroy the logo or business identification aspect of a brand while including a hidden message. This becomes even more essential if the logo is a redesign; people will have gotten used to the old logo, and too much of a shock will result in a failing rebrand.
Define the purpose of the logo as a whole, then define the purpose of the hidden message. There are plenty of additional steps to explore for both of these aspects, but it is important to at least set a baseline before moving on. Largely, defining these aspects comes down to understanding the business. The next section goes over this in more detail.
After that is complete, employ good design principles while creating the logo. Keep the logo distinct, legible, and effective. For more tips on general logo design, you can find more here. Thinking of these various tips while incorporating the hidden message will be essential in making it good.
Utilize Negative Space When Possible
Negative space is essential for creating logos that stand out and breath. Essentially, negative space is the area between distinct areas of a design. Popular examples include the area between Apple’s apple and leaf in their logo or the blank space of the “P” in Pinterest’s logo. Any vacant space between two design elements is considered negative space.
It may be helpful to think of negative space as only being affected by the design elements around it; when you manipulate the shapes, you are also affecting the empty area. This can prove incredibly useful for hidden messages, as this negative space can be shaped into a hidden symbol or word.
A Few Examples
Let’s create a quick example. If you are producing a logo for an ice cream company based in Louisiana, it may be possible to hide the shape of Louisiana in the negative space between letters and the cone. Of course, this is still a highly creative process – it is important not to force the negative space to be something it cannot. Otherwise, it ceases to be negative space and the design will become too busy.
For a real world example, look toward Yoga Australia’s logo. The main logo is a woman performing a yoga pose, the predominant design. Hidden within the pose, however, her body creates an outline of Australia.
Negative space can also be utilized in between letters when creating a wordmark – it is not just an aspect of symbolic logos. When in between letters, simpler messages are better as there is less space overall to work with.
Arrows, circles, triangles, etc. all work best. When using negative space to include your hidden message, it is a good reminder that the hidden message must be secondary to other parts of the logo.
Optimize Color Usage
Switching between colors, introducing new ones, or using the changes between them are great ways to introduce a hidden message in a logo.
When colors are used effectively, they can create illusions and make negative space easier to notice. In this way, optimized color usage is a way to improve the look of a logo as a whole, or compliment a hidden message that already has plans to exist.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways to use a logo to include a hidden message, as well. Introducing a rainbow color scheme to a subtle part of a brand will suggest a different message than keeping the whole logo black, for instance.
While these are not direct hidden messages, they speak to the power of color. You can find more information on color theory as it relates to logos and their hidden components here.
Especially when rebranding a logo to include a hidden message, explore previous uses of color from the brand or similar companies to ensure that you are keeping the logo noticeable while also being unique. For instance, if a company is heavily focused on nature or recycling, introducing green into the logo is likely a good choice.
If the logo has multiple colors, it makes the negative space between them much more powerful. Areas where color is missing can easily be shaped into hidden messages, often by changing just a few lines or aspects.
When it comes to using color for hidden messaging, it requires a holistic view of the logo. Most often, inserting a hidden message works best due to the absence of color – making color just as important to the entire design.
Explore Typography And Symbols
Exploring options with typography and special symbols in your logo is one of the best and most unique ways to introduce hidden messaging.
Ultimately, the sky is the limit with this method; unlike negative space and color, utilizing typography to create a hidden message allows direct control over what is happening without necessarily influencing other parts of the design.
The ways to use typography in hidden messaging are endless, from switching fonts to cutting letters. Even something as simple as splitting an “L” into two separate lines can end up having hidden messaging, or creating a face out of the parts, as LG does.
Other common examples of using typography to create hidden messaging often include utilizing “O”’s as eyes, switching font so that it looks like it could also be something else, or using typography that meshes seamlessly into the rest of the design.
It is easy to fall into the trap of cliches when incorporating hidden messaging through typography, so be sure to continue following the rules of good design. Keep everything legible, effective, and distinct. Otherwise, the hidden message may become lost among the other elements.
Various symbols can also be used for hidden messaging where typography may fail or not make sense. Symbols, in this context, are any design element that is not directly related to font, color, or negative space. For instance, incorporating a smiling face or arrow into your design would be using a symbol. Often, these can be used to include a hidden message.
Utilizing symbols for hidden messaging works exceptionally well for logos where the wordmark is not as important as the logo, or pieces that use artistic lines. The more abstract the symbol, generally speaking, the easier it is to include hidden messages.
Of course, this does not mean that all hidden message logos must be abstract; Amazon, one of the largest companies in the world, includes an arrow that unifies the word Amazon while stretching from the letters “A” to “Z” – because the store stocks everything.
There are a plethora of examples of hidden messages through additional symbols or modified typography. It is likely the most popular way to include hidden messages in logos, but certainly not the only way. It is also a dangerous habit to get into while early in a design career; it is easy to go overboard with symbols and destroy the overall look of the logo.
When possible, it is best to incorporate symbols that also complement the main purpose of the logo instead of just focusing on the hidden message.
Understand The Business And What The Hidden Message Is For
Before starting any design work on the logo, it is essential to define some aspects of the business and point of the logo. The main purpose of a logo is, generally speaking, to be easily identifiable; customers should be able to look at a logo and know it relates to that specific business. The presence of a hidden message should not interfere with this at all.
In order to successfully hide a hidden message in a logo, the main message of the logo must be defined first, then the hidden one. Essentially, a hidden aspect of any logo simply exists to provide an additional point – one that ideally accentuates the first one.
Aim to know as much as possible about the business before starting to set yourself up for design success.
Define What The Business Is About
Learning more about a business may seem unnecessary, but preliminary research may end up being the most important part of the process. Whether designing a logo for an entirely new business or reworking an old one, there are some essential questions to ask that will make the process of inserting a hidden message easier.
First, figure out what the business wants the logo to represent. Do they want to be kid friendly? Elegant? Business-oriented? There are a plethora of options here, and narrowing it down is vital to producing good work later.
Getting some specific information will help with this if the client does not have a clear vision. Asking questions such as:
- Who is the primary customer?
- Has market research been done?
- What brands do you see as most similar to yours?
- What competition exists?
- What logos do you like?
Will help make the process much easier. Ultimately, the point of these questions is to figure out the main message that the logo is attempting to give off. Once you have that defined, you can begin work on the second message, as well as on actual design work for the wordmark and logo.
Well-established businesses likely have other material that you will want to incorporate or change as well. Which you choose will depend on whether the logo design is part of a whole rebranding package or a purely logo refresh.
Overall, establishing a secondary message is much easier when things are consistent. That way, the notable change where the hidden message enters is clearer.
Figure Out What The Hidden Message Wants To Say
After the main message of the logo has been established, or at least thought out a bit, the process of figuring out what the hidden message should be can begin. This process is largely similar to the ideation process of establishing the main message, with a few key differences.
Some of the key differences are:
- The hidden message should complement or reinforce the main message
- The hidden message should have a good reason to exist and be part of the logo
Keeping these tips in mind will allow for the previously mentioned techniques to actually be effective. Otherwise, the hidden message may fall flat and end up hurting the logo more than it helps it.
Compliment or Reinforce The Main Message
This key difference is likely the most important. It is wise to consider a hierarchy of importance when it comes to logo messages. People tend to focus very little time on logos; they want to be able to quickly look at one, recognize the brand, and move on.
During the first look at a logo, the observer should only notice one message. That being, the main message. This is true for a number of reasons, but the main one is that people do not want to be confused or have to spend extra time on something like this. Ultimately, when people look at the logo a second, third, or even fiftieth time, they should notice the hidden message.
Think of popular logos that have hidden messages, such as Amazon or FedEx. It is likely that you did not notice the hidden message of these logos until much later – after you easily recognized and identified the logo with that brand. Making the hidden message too obvious will alter people’s perception and make it more difficult for the initial recognition to occur.
Toward this goal, it is a good idea to choose a hidden message that helps with the main message of the logo. Consider, for instance, designing a logo for a beauty company. The company wants to feel sophisticated and well-established. They have been around for a few decades and want to incorporate that into the logo, but it should not be the focus.
With that example, the dichotomy between the main message and the secondary message is clear. Using this information, incorporating the date, silhouette of their first building, original colors of their first logo, or any of the above can easily be done as a hidden message. It complements, rather than distracts from, their main message.
Having A Good Reason For A Hidden Message
Although it may seem like a good idea for every logo to include a hidden message somewhere in it, it is often not the best-case scenario. The fact is, very few people spend time analyzing and constantly looking at one logo.
Especially for small businesses where their logo needs to stand out more than most, the inclusion of a hidden message may detract from the logo’s effectiveness.
Logos are small and need to be legible quickly; if a hidden message interferes with that, it should be cut. They really cannot store an incredible amount of information. However, a good logo will call customers in, who then become interested in the brand. At that point, they can learn more about all the other reasons to support the brand.
Consider, for instance, designing a logo for an old-time popcorn company. Let’s say the company was established by the son of one of America’s first presidents. While that is an interesting fact that may draw in extra customers, it is probably not the best decision to include an homage to that in the logo. It likely does not mesh well with the other message of the logo and could make things confusing.
However, if that same popcorn company’s logo is effective at drawing customers in, marketing material or their website can then dive into the company’s history and mention that fact. Be critical in determining whether or not to include a hidden message in your logo, and only include the best.