Our eyes are attracted to symmetry. There is something about the natural elements of it that appeals to the primitive aspects of our brains. This is one of the many reasons why companies have traditionally tried to incorporate symmetry into their logos. If you want to have a logo that appeals to the eye, symmetry is a quick and easy way to accomplish this goal.
Should logos be symmetrical? It all depends on what you are trying to convey with your logo. Symmetry is a shorthand that you can use to communicate certain messages to your audience without them necessarily being conscience of that message. Symmetry suggests balance, craftsmanship, and engineering. It also gives an audience a feeling of comfort and stability. If this is what your product is about, your logo should use symmetry.
There are many ways that you can effectively use symmetry in your logo, depending on the message you want to send. You can make your whole logo symmetrical, or you could just make a portion symmetrical. When you understand what symmetry is and take a look at how it has been used in other famous logos, you will be ready to develop the perfect symmetrical logo for your needs.
What Is Symmetry and Why You Want It In Your Logo
Symmetry is when both sides of an object are exactly the same. If you draw a line down the middle of a logo and both sides are mirror images of each other, then the logo is symmetrical. When most of us think of symmetry, we think of reflection symmetry, but there are actually four types of symmetry. Which type of symmetry you use communicates different messages to your audience.
Understanding these types of symmetry by looking at famous brand logos is the first set of lessons we can learn about the power of symmetry.
Reflection symmetry is the most basic form of symmetry, and the one most people think of when they think of symmetry. It is when two sides of a logo are identical. If you fold the logo in half, the two sides will match each other completely. It is also sometimes referred to as mirror symmetry.
One of the most famous examples of reflection symmetry is the McDonald’s golden arches. It is a perfect example of the power and simplicity of reflection symmetry. The logo is two arches that connect in the middle to form an M. It was meant to represent both the two golden arches that adorned the original restaurant’s roof and the M that starts off the chain’s name.
This simple design has gone on to become a worldwide symbol of globalization, capitalism, and the American way. Part of what makes it so iconic is the simple symmetry of its design.
Other examples of reflection symmetry are:
With rotational symmetry, the symmetry of the logo will remain the same no matter how you turn it. Shapes like stars, circles, and hexagons work great as rotationally symmetrical logos.
A great example of a famous logo that uses rotational symmetry is the Walmart spark logo. It is said that the spark stands for the spark of inspiration Sam Walton had when he opened his first store, but the rotational symmetry of the logo’s design also suggests that the spark is in all of us.
Other examples of rotational symmetry are…
- BP Oil
- Sun Microsystems
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Translation in design speak means to move an object from one position to another. In logo design, translational symmetry is when a designer can move an element of the logo without compromising its symmetric properties. This usually means that the logo contains a repeating element in its design.
The four interlocking rings of Audi’s logo is an example of translational symmetry. Each ring looks identical and can be moved anywhere in the logo, and the logo will not change. The four rings represent four German auto companies that decided to join together during the Great Depression in order to save their business. The translational symmetry of the rings suggests the power of union. Today, the rings are also silver to suggest luxury and technological discovery.
Other examples of translation symmetry are…
- The Olympics
- NBC Peacock
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The least-common form of symmetry in logo design is glide-reflectional symmetry. This consists of taking an image that shows reflection symmetry and moving one side of the image above or below the other side.
To visualize this, spread the fingers of each handout in front of yourself and touch the tips of the thumbs. That is reflectional symmetry. Now, if you move your left hand up, so your thumb is level with your pointer finger, it is glide-reflectional.
BMW uses this technique in their logo. The two blue squares and the two white squares are reflections of each other yet are not on the same plane. Again, the logo is very simple and widely recognizable. The glide-reflectional symmetry stems from the company’s desire to include the colors of its home state of Bavaria yet comply with local laws that said you couldn’t use state coats of arms. The logo is the reverse order of the Bavarian coat of arms.
Examples of the Effects Of Logo Symmetry
When you add symmetry to your logo, there are many effects that it can have on your audience and your business. Symmetry can bring many things to your logo that will help you and your business reach a wide audience. Here are some examples of logos and the elements they bring to logo design.
Balance and proportion are important to any logo. It is the balance of colors, shapes, and fonts that make a logo appealing, unique, and memorable, all things you should want in your logo. If there is an imbalance, focusing on the design will become difficult, and your message may get lost.
Symmetry will help you create balance in your logo by distributing the elements, color, shapes, and fonts, evenly.
Starbucks is a great example of symmetry creating balance. The two sides of the Starbucks mermaid contain all the same elements and match each other like mirror images. The mermaid seems to be a detailed, intricate drawing but is nothing more than a well-balanced mirror image. Having elements like the tail appear on both sides of the mermaid add balance that makes the logo so appealing.
If you want your logo to reach a wide audience, you are going to want it to be aesthetically pleasing. There is a natural aesthetic to symmetry that appeals to the human eye. By using symmetry, you will be using a design construct that almost ensures that you are creating an aesthetically pleasing logo.
With Marvel movies reigning supreme at the box office, it should come at some surprise that there is no comic book logo more iconic than the DC Batman logo.
While the DC brand struggles to keep up with its Marvel counterpart, the symmetrical bat encased in a yellow circle remains more popular than any other comic logo. This is in part to the aesthetics that the bat symbol contains.
Simplicity is effective is design. The easier a logo is to recreate, the more appeal it seems to have. For one, with fewer elements, there is less clutter. Less clutter is going to make your logo more appealing to the eye.
If you use reflection symmetry, you are limiting the elements since one side is just a mirror image of the other. All you have to do is design half of a logo and then just create a mirror image either next to or above or below what you have created.
The Volkswagen logo is a great example of how effective the simplicity of reflection symmetry can be. The famous VW sitting one on top of the other is maddeningly simple, yet so pleasing to look at and so incredibly simple to recreate. Three Vs. in a circle are all the design that was required to create a world-famous logo.
Gestalt Theory tells us that the mind looks to organize objects so it can make sense of visual stimuli. Our minds are naturally looking to make order, so when objects are symmetrical, that order has already been created for us, and we tend to be drawn to it more. In this way, a symmetrical logo is going to naturally draw more people to it.
PBS uses translation symmetry to help organize the visual of multiple heads. This nationally famous logo is able to convey deep meaning while creating a logo that draws attention to itself. PBS is the network of the people, and the repeating image of heads tells us that we are all part of the organization.
9. The Hartford Whalers
If done right, symmetry can add many layers to a logo. These layers can hide images that our sub-conscience recognizes, but we do not notice until we study the design more. People tend to think of simplicity when they think of symmetry, but there can be complex to symmetry as well.
Twenty-three years after the team stopped existing, the Hartford Whalers are still one of the top merchandise sellers in the NHL. Why does a team that could not hold on to a big enough fanbase to remain in the NHL continue to sell tons of merchandise? It’s simple. They have one of the greatest team logos in the history of professional sports.
The key to the logo’s success is the way symmetry and negative space create complexity. The logo is a perfectly symmetrical W topped by a symmetrical whale tale. But, if you look into the negative space between the two, you will also see a hidden symmetrical H.
10. Shell and Target
It is possible to create a logo so iconic that you don’t have to include the company name. Symmetry helps create simple images that do all the talking and remove the need for words. Of course, it helps if the company name can be conveyed in an image. Pairing a great name with a symmetrical logo is a quick and easy way to start a brand that will resonate with people visually.
Shell gas uses a simple yellow and red shell that is an example of reflection symmetry and completely removes the need for words. When you see the iconic image, you know it’s time to pull over and refuel. The natural symmetry of the shell shape makes the logo aesthetically pleasing and draws your attention as you drive down the street.
Target uses a logo that is an example of rotational symmetry. It utilizes the familiar image of a bullseye to pull the viewer in and a color scheme that suggests passion and purity. When you find yourself in a new town and in need of basic living items, it’s easy to find the comfort of the red and white rings surrounding a red dot on the horizon.
In recent years, a lot of companies have been moving away from symmetrical logos in favor of more edgy asymmetrical designs. Asymmetry in logos has come to represent high-performance and excitement. Which means symmetry has come to represent the opposite.
Symmetry has come to stand for stability and classic ways. That is not to say symmetry is old fashioned, it is still stylish but in a classic way, like a 1956 Corvette.
One can see this difference in the way that Adidas has handled their recent rebranding. For many years Adidas used a trefoil logo, broken up by their identifying three lines, that was bilaterally symmetrical. They recently switched to a more modern asymmetrical logo that takes the famous three lines and shapes them into the shape of a rising mountain.
The interesting thing about Adidas’ use of their logo and the lesson to be learned is that they still use the old logo, They have a line of product that they call their classic line, and they use the old logo on this product while using the new logo on their newer high-performance wear. This supports the idea that symmetry represents the old stable style.
12. Nintendo Switch
We are told by almost every adult as we grow up to pay attention to rules and follow them or else, but one of my college professors taught me that you have to know the rules, so you know when and how to break them.
One of the most important lessons to learn from famous logos about the power of symmetry is when and how NOT to use it. Many companies, like Pepsi and Adidas, have moved from their iconic symmetrical logos to new modern asymmetrical ones. The key is understanding what made the old logos so powerful and incorporating that element in new ways.
The most famous recent example of knowing when and how to break the rules of symmetry is the logo for the Nintendo Switch. At first glance, the logo appears to be a brilliant example of
reflection and glide-reflection symmetry, but as you look closer, you should notice that it is not symmetrical at all:
- The left side is bigger than the right.
- The right dot is further from the bottom than the left dot is from the top
- One side has a border
- The other doesn’t.
To be able to create a logo that tricks the viewer into thinking its symmetrical while maintaining asymmetry, you have to know the rules of symmetry and how to break them without losing symmetry’s benefits.
The last lesson that should be learned about symmetry from looking at famous logos is that you don’t have to just use symmetry in your logo. Your logo can be a combination of both symmetrical and asymmetrical elements. If you are trying to send a message that your company is both a rock of stability and on the cutting edge of your industry, the use of both may be what you need.
A great example of a logo that uses both symmetry and asymmetry to deliver a message about what their company is and what it stands for is UPS.
The UPS logo is an asymmetrical brown shield surrounded by a symmetrical yellow shield. The outside shield stands for sophistication and efficiency, important qualities for customers who want their packages on time. The internal, slightly asymmetrical shield, however, shows a more human side to the company, reminding the customers that UPS is not just about efficiency but people too.
Use the Power of Symmetry for Your Logo
Now that you have looked back at these famous logos and better understand the power of symmetry and how you can use that power to make your logo, you are all set to design the next great logo. Maybe someday we will be looking at your creation to understand how symmetry draws in the customer and defines the company.
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