Audiences Can Judge Your Logo Within Seconds

They say that we develop first impressions of the people we meet within moments. For example, one study concluded that we judge the trustworthiness of a human face in a tenth of a second or less. Branding is remarkably similar: a quick glance at a logo can yield a wide range of emotions and associations.

I was on a bus driving through Times Square recently when I invented what I call ‘The Logo Rorschach Test.’ Basically, it just means that you look at a batch of logos in quick succession, giving your first impressions of each without over-thinking it (it’s not exactly the same as an actual Rorschach test, but it’s a catchy name).

The following are some logos I saw during that bus ride, along with the first words that popped into my mind when viewing them. I actually think this can be a very efficient way of critiquing brand identity. Of course, my first impressions of these logos are not first impressions – these are familiar brands so my responses partially reflect the logos themselves, but also reflect my feelings about, for instance, how crappy the Times Square Marriott probably is.

What does your logo say to people at first glance?

Ann Taylor Loft Logo

Ann Taylor Loft First Impressions:


Charles Schwab Logo

Charles Schwab First Impressions:

Blue is disarming

 Asics Logo

Asics First Impressions:

Complete and total indifference

Merrill Lynch Logo

Merrill Lynch First Impressions:


Marriott Logo

Marriott First Impressions:


TD Bank Logo

TD Bank First Impressions:

Wasted opportunity
Green = money = duh/so what

H and M Logo

H&M First Impressions:


A Tribute to Tracy Morgan

Thankfully, Tracy Morgan is healing from his 2014 accident. Once he is done healing, he said, “I’ll get back to making you laugh. I promise you.”

Tracy Morgan has made me laugh very hard. The time he made me laugh the hardest was when we watched a movie together in Times Square. I’ve been living in New York City for 17 years now and I’d say it is one of my all-time favorite New York experiences.

My girlfriend and I had just sat down in the 42nd Street Regal to see Sam Raimi’s over-the-top horror/comedy masterpiece Drag Me to Hell. We were chatting in the half-full theater when a couple walked into our row. The man spilled popcorn on me as he clumsily climbed past. “My bad!” he exclaimed. The voice sounded familiar. “I’m spillin’ popcorn up in here! I’m outta control – somebody ’bout to get pregnant up in here!” It was Tracy Morgan, and he entered the theater using his own catchphrase.

Tracy sat down next to us and was talking loudly to his female companion. He apologized to me again about the popcorn, and we made a couple wisecracks about the movie trailers. I knew that he had just filmed the Kevin Smith flop Cop Out, and I asked him how it went. He made a few affable comments about the shoot, which I think was in Canada. Tracy was loud and boisterous, and generally acting like we were all in his living room. A few people in the audience turned around, squealed and waved. His presence was large and he was totally unabashed about it.

Drag Me to Hell was the perfect movie to watch with Tracy. It’s outrageous and hilarious – but also a loud romp that is only enhanced by some uproarious commentary. Tracy made a lot of brief wisecracks and interjections to the characters onscreen, but there was one moment in particular that I’ll never forget. Apparently, Tracy heard a fart in the audience after a particularly scary moment in the film. “Yo, he farted!” Tracy exclaimed. “Somebody got so scared, they farted!” Tracy was dying with laughter. Waves of laughter went through the audience, too.

Get better, Tracy. New York loves you.


This Major Athletics Brand Needs a Redesign

lululemon logo

Can you think of any major brands that use a logo that was actually designed for a brand name other than their own? This is the case for popular women’s workout clothing retailer Lululemon Athletica. According to their website, “The lululemon name was chosen in a survey of 100 people from a list of 20 brand names and 20 logos. The logo is actually a stylized ‘A’ that was made for the first letter in the name ‘athletically hip’, a name which failed to make the grade.”

So the Lululemon logo is a stylized ‘A.’ When I noticed a friend carrying a Lululemon bag, I asked her what she thought the logo meant (after all, the consumer’s impression is a brand’s most important quality). She said it’s an ‘A’ for the Athletica in Lululemon Athletica, and it also represents a woman’s hair and face outline – the brand’s core demographic is young women. The brand describes their demographic thusly:

Our primary target customer is a sophisticated and educated woman who understands the importance of an active, healthy lifestyle. She is increasingly tasked with the dual responsibilities of career and family and is constantly challenged to balance her work, life and health. We believe she pursues exercise to achieve physical fitness and inner peace.”

The brand deserves a visual identity that reflects that consumer.

greek omega symbol

When I asked my girlfriend what the Lululemon logo was, she said, “I think it’s something to do with math.” That association comes from the Lululemon logo’s resemblance to the Greek letter Omega (pictured). The company’s bizarre logo just feels cryptic and quizzical: it makes the audience wonder, am I missing something here? 

After having recently written about the symbols of Scientology – which incorporate the Greek alphabet for dubious purposes – I don’t think an odd association like the Omega symbol does any favors for an athletics brand that has been accused of cult-like behavior. The Omega has nothing to do with Lululemon, of course – that’s the point. It just goes to show how muddled and confused the Lululemon logo is. It’s a big bowl of WTF.

The bottom line: this logo doesn’t bear much relation to Lululemon. The ‘A’ doesn’t represent their primary name, the ‘woman’s hair’ interpretation is a bit of a stretch, and the logo doesn’t communicate anything about athletics. In short, it feels like it was designed for a different name, because it was.

Lululemon has recently survived public fiascos (the sheer pants recall) and the feuds of embattled CEOs. It’s 2015, they have a new CEO (Laurent Potdevin), and their stock is thriving. They deserve a refreshing new brand identity to reflect their new beginnings – one that truly represents their customer for the first time.

Laurent Potdevin, if you’re reading this, get in touch! I would love to redesign your brand. Just think of the headline potential – CEO hires brand designer from a blog post. Side note: I will do away with the lowercase ‘lululemon’ spelling – it’s a cutesy brand affectation that makes the word seem too meek to perform even a downward dog pose.