Perception plays an important part in determining how a person remembers a brand or logo. There have been numerous studies on the science of perception. Therefore, understanding how a logo is perceived visually will help it to become successful. According to Alina Wheeler (2012) in her book “Designing Brand Identity,” there are three steps to the sequence of cognition. First, we notice and remember shapes, next is color, and finally words/form. Visual images are processed by our brains more quickly, while more complex brain activity is necessary in order to process language.

Our brains process and remember shapes more quickly than text or words, which require the brain to decode them first. For example, when a child learns to read they start by recognizing the shapes of letters before they are identified as actual letters, then come the sounds and the groupings to form phonics, which then makes up words. These days it is common to see strong and well-known brands all over the world like Starbucks, Shell, Apple and Nike have logos that do not contain any words at all; they rely on shapes to convey their brand. For example, the Nike swoosh can be easily communicate that a product is Nike, without having to write the name of the company in logo-type.

Following the identification of shape, the brain then recognizes color. Color provides emotion and influences feelings and moods. For example, blue uniforms are commonly worn in the airline industry by pilots and fight attendants as navy blue communicates a professional but friendly feeling.

Finally, content is the slowest step of cognition as the brain processes language more slowly. As we have seen in the first two steps of the cognition process, using only a company name as a logo generally requires very careful design, as the shape and color of the name become a critical element to the success of the logo in order for it to be easily remembered by customers.

It takes time, along with continuous repetition in marketing, advertising, design, sponsorship activities and more, for companies’ logos to successfully become instantly recognizable and identifiable. For example, the green Starbucks logo is an immediately synonymous with a place you can get a coffee in the busy shopping center or high street. Shell’s yellow logo quickly tells us from a distance where you can refuel your car. The Premier League hopes that its new logo will do the same for football.

Therefore, it is vitally important when creating a new logo, or rebranding, to bear in mind the sequence of cognition: shape, color, content. This knowledge of how the human brain works in terms of visual stimuli provides an advantage to designers in their creative process. Understanding perception and the three steps provide a baseline knowledge
of brand development and branding success.