While logos often serve as the face of a company, a new study suggests that designing compact logos encourages favorable brand evaluations by suggesting product safety, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Caroll School of Management at the Boston College and the Indian Institute of Management Udaipur reviewed 17,000 consumers and conducted studies with different brand logos.

They present their findings in the article "Safe Spaces: Spacing In-Text Logos Affect Customer Opinion," published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

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The Impact of Character Spacing and Culture on Logos

Researchers discovered that tracking, an aspect of typography that specifically deals with the character spacing between characters, can influence consumer attitudes on brand logos. On top of this, cultural factors also play a role in these consumer attitudes. They were able to observe, based on survey data, that the same behaviors persisted even during the global coronavirus pandemic - a time when public health guidance on the public placed emphasized social and physical distancing, which, in turn, was supposed to affect public opinion on space.

"We found fairly consistent patterns in these responses, even during the pandemic when some brands were experimenting with placing the letters of logos farther apart to emulate a social distancing signal," said Henrik Hagtvedt, co-author of the study and an associate professor of marketing at Boston College. He made the report together with Tanvi Gupta from the Indian Institute of Management Udaipur.

To arrive at their findings, they analyzed responses from 17,000 consumers that evaluated 629 brands. The authors of the study found compact logos - where tight tracking, or character spacing, leaves less free spaces - encourage favorable consumer attitudes than loose logos where the tracking creates a more spacious feel.

Consumers say that compact logos suggest that the brand it represents was "reliable, secure, and trustworthy."

Typography and Logo Design for Consumers

Logos are an important part of a brand's identity, helping get important details to get across their target markets at a glance. In this study, compact logos that give the impression of physical robustness imply that the products they represent are also safe and reliable for use. They found that compact logos in the study received more consumer confidence.

Researchers also noted that this is more prevalent in textual logos, where the tracking or character spacing was perceived by consumers as a sign of the brand's reliability and safety. Basically, for textual logos, tighter typography is equivalent to sturdiness for the consumers. On the other hand, looser typography implies vulnerability.

Another factor to consider are cultural influences, with the researchers grouping the psychological effects of logos based on the respondents' belonging to a culturally "tight" or "loose" population. Tight cultures are explained as a function of adapting to threats like violence or natural disaster. For example, in the United States, southern states tend to be more culturally "tight" compared to those in the west and northeast regions.

Regardless, under usual circumstances, consumers from both cultural backgrounds preferred the compact logos over the looser ones. However, when researchers introduced the context of brands with potential safety concerns - such as pharmaceuticals or mobile financial services - only those from the culturally tight group exhibited more favor towards the compact logos.


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