all small or add caps?

7 Feb 2009 - 8:39pm
5 years ago
18 replies
844 reads
Janna
2008

I am working on rebranding and a new logo for my company. I have been
considering using all small letters. Today, I had a discussion with a
designer more visual than I, who sad that using caps at the beginning of
words is more memorable - but many of his examples included drive by's --
seeing the logo on trucks or billboards. Being in design research/ux, I
don't really envision my company name on a billboard or truck any time
soon.
Does anyone have experience or thoughts on all small vs. caps? I'm also
considering using periods between letters since the letters are part of an
acronym such as o.n.c.e. instead of "once". One compromise was to make the
"small letters" at the beginning of each word in a larger font. telling vs.
telling

Would appreciate feedback on usability, visibility!
Thanks,

Janna C. Kimel, JK Consulting
Career: Design Research/User Experience
Volunteer: Vice-Chair OR-IDSA
Blogging: http://seenheardnoticed.blogspot.com/
Calling: m 503.200.0099 o 503-200-2715
Motto: The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands, but in
seeing with new eyes. -Proust

Comments

8 Feb 2009 - 9:04am
bminihan
2007

I can't imagine a definitive study proving this statement: "using
caps at the beginning of words is more memorable"

If you're talking about a logo, it probably doesn't matter, as long
as your logo, itself, is memorable and connects people to you and/or
your company. If it came down to caps vs lower, I'd ask some people
who have never seen it before, which is more memorable. You might get
50% on either side...

Good luck...

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8 Feb 2009 - 8:01am
Tom Coombs
2009

Few thoughts ...

- (I think you may be referring to this but in case not ...) there
is the known phenomenon of people being able to read lower case text
faster than all upper case text. It's to do with the fact that if
you block out the shape of a word, lower case words have ascenders
(on h, b etc) and descenders (on g, j etc) that give it a more
recognisable shape. There might be an argument for reconisability,
but in a one-word name I would doubt it woudl be important, and as
you make the distinction between your site and drive-by, I think
you're saying the same thing.

- I'd check out if there's an SEO impact of adding additional
characters. If it's a period/full stop, potentially there's a
blunter usability problem ... e.g. users typing in
http://www.o.n.c.e.com

- In terms of graphic design trends, I am no expert, but it is my
perception that "all lowercase" was a trend a while back, but looks
a little dated now.

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8 Feb 2009 - 11:03am
Mark Busse
2009

My only comment would be to be cautious about using trendy design
choices like small letters unless there's reason behind it. Are you
trying to make the wordmark appear friendly? Youthful? Casual?

Remember, your company name is a proper noun, and proper nouns are
capitalized%u2014it's what we're used to seeing%u2014so any
deviation from this is actually out of the norm.

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8 Feb 2009 - 11:42am
Den Serras
2009

Unless you're going with some kind of symbol for your logo, what will
be most memorable is the name. To develop that kind of shape
recognition a text logo would need a heck of a lot of brand
repetition. You're probably better off with a good name and a
professional logo that helps tell your story. Think of it as the
heroine's car in a movie; it's not critical to the story (usually),
but it's very indicative of her character.

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8 Feb 2009 - 11:55am
SteveJBayer
2008

Having capital letters at the start of the words certainly calls more
attention to the words and emphasizes that. I cannot personally
recall a logo with small letters and all the logos I can recall from
memory end up having at least the first letter capitalized.

As Mark stated, company names (and branded products too) are proper
nouns and thereby should always have the first letters of their name
capitalized. As an example: reading the words 'microsoft windows'
just doesn't seem to me as impressive as reading the words
'Microsoft Windows.'

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8 Feb 2009 - 12:20pm
Mark Schraad
2006

When you are working with brand and marketing (of which logos and
corporate identity are a part of), breaking from the norm is very
very powerful. Throw out the old english teacher rule book and make
decisions that empower the brand and match it to your targeted
audience. There are plenty of examples of logos (abc, hewlett
packard, the old anderson consulting, etc) that use lower case.

Opinions vary when converting a lowercase brand to text... you will
find strong arguments for both, and there is not consensus or a
'right' way. You can also extend this to brand positioning statements
and headlines. Most larger companies will have a style guide for
implementation... but the name of this (style) implies it as an
interpretation. Rules are conveniently (and justly) broken when you
are striving to stand out from the crowd. This is not english lit...

Mark

On Feb 8, 2009, at 8:55 AM, SteveJB wrote:

> Having capital letters at the start of the words certainly calls more
> attention to the words and emphasizes that. I cannot personally
> recall a logo with small letters and all the logos I can recall from
> memory end up having at least the first letter capitalized.
>
> As Mark stated, company names (and branded products too) are proper
> nouns and thereby should always have the first letters of their name
> capitalized. As an example: reading the words 'microsoft windows'
> just doesn't seem to me as impressive as reading the words
> 'Microsoft Windows.'
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38327
>
>
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8 Feb 2009 - 1:43pm
SteveJBayer
2008

Conventionally, small letters in a logo does work for initials. For
organizations whose overall demeanor is of understatement or breaking
the mold, then going for small letters for the company name could work
in their favor.

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8 Feb 2009 - 12:41pm
Bryan Tiller
2008

I don't think any text treatment should be ruled out because of
typography rules. A logotype is as much an illustration as it is
text. Recently... some of the best known brands have switched to all
lower case. xerox, intel, (and just this month) pepsi.

My best practice...consider as many options as possible and converge
on the ones that best embody/communicate your brand goals.

Bryan Tiller
User Experience Designer

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8 Feb 2009 - 5:51pm
Adam Korman
2004

I won't repeat a lot of the other good comments, but will add that in
terms of making sure the word mark is distinctive, the specific
letterforms involved play a big factor. In your example, the all
lowercase "once" may not be very distinctive because none of the
letters have ascenders or descenders, and the characters are all
similar width, whereas these all lowercase wordmarks have distinctive
letters involved: ups, abc, adidas, flickr, facebook, bp, ebay, jamba
juice, at&t.

On Feb 7, 2009, at 5:39 PM, Janna wrote:

> I am working on rebranding and a new logo for my company. I have been
> considering using all small letters. Today, I had a discussion with a
> designer more visual than I, who sad that using caps at the
> beginning of
> words is more memorable - but many of his examples included drive
> by's --
> seeing the logo on trucks or billboards.

8 Feb 2009 - 9:28pm
DampeS8N
2008

Also, try to ask yourself how important your logo being memorable is
to your brand. Sure, it is always good to have a top-shelf logo and
great design. But not at the expense of other services and in the
case of a website, usability.

I have seen first hand companies spend a large amount on a great
logo, such a large amount that they could have invested the money in
interaction design, or user research, and ended up with a service
that didn't suck. They might have survived to this day.

The same goes for any other kind of over-spending. (Looking at you
pets.com)

There are a lot of companies that do really well with really bad
branding. And on the internet, there are many that do very well with
almost no branding. To the point where the lack of brand becomes the
brand (XKCD, Maddox, so on)

And the big guys are starting to catch on, well, sorta.
http://inventorspot.com/articles/mcdonalds_japan_goes_nobrand_with_quarter_pounder_shops_19505

It is like a twisted kind of minimalist branding.

But what it is indicative of is the slow realization that the only
value a good brand has is recognition and anything else about it is
purely there for design snobs. No one outside the design world cares
about Pizza Hut's new brand, or their last new brand. They were
happy with whatever. So long as their mutant-pizza still tastes good.

The long and the short of it is, don't spend too long agonizing over
your logo and your branding. Shoot for 'not crap' and move on to
things that will effect your users. MMM.. Like stuffed-crust pizza...
Yes. Stuff the crusts of your site, not your logo.

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8 Feb 2009 - 10:16pm
Janna
2008

Thanks for all of the thoughtful input. And to William, touche'. One
reason I did not want to go back into business for myself was all of
the branding and marketing, website work that seems to take endless
amounts of energy. Yes, our work should speak for itself, but it
never hurts to have a catchy name or memorable logo. But yes,
memorable can be simple.
And to Steve, great point about Microsoft Windows. As a usability
experts we do want to appear approachable and casual, but perhaps the
punch of initial caps is a more powerful statement for a small
company.

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8 Feb 2009 - 4:35pm
Stephen Holmes
2009

Janna, there are no real rules in design as in any art - only guides,
and even then they can be ignored!

Some pitfalls that may eventuate from your stated approach:

"One compromise was to make the "small letters" at the beginning
of each word in a larger font. telling vs. telling"

I'm not a great fan as the larger lower case letter at the start of
the name will also have visually thicker lines which tend to grate
after a while.

"I'm also considering using periods between letters since the
letters are part of an acronym such as o.n.c.e. instead of "once".

The full points tend to draw the eye too much, taking some of the
impact away from the words.

Another think that can come back and bite you is making the logo all
CAPS (especially if it looks like a four letter acronym) and then
having you customers constantly bugging you for the full name. I did
that once - under the direction of a client - and in the end the
client made up an acronym to fit - a long winded one that defeated
the purpose of the catching four letter brand! (sigh)

My advice in the end is to make your logo unique, memorable, and look
equally good in black and white as it is in colour - it needs to work
anywhere and on anything. (And if you are wondering why you need it
in black and white when we all have inexpensive colour printers now
remember that most giveaways and show gifts still only allow for
one-colour screen printing of your brand.)

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9 Feb 2009 - 7:41am
Anonymous

I agree with Bryan Tiller: a logo is a visual shape and you can act
more creatively than with a common text.

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9 Feb 2009 - 6:39pm
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

Yes, a logo is graphic. The choice will depend on the type face, the
letters you use in the logo and any embellishments you might choose to add
to the letters. Look, for example, at the lower case Citibank logo.
Capitalizing it would lessen the impact of the red umbrella on top of the
graphic.

Play with the type face for couple hours, sleep on it, and the solution will
present itself.

--
Oleh Kovalchuke
Interaction Design is design of time
http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm

On Mon, Feb 9, 2009 at 6:41 AM, Ferran Alvarez <zumaques at zumaques.com>wrote:

> I agree with Bryan Tiller: a logo is a visual shape and you can act
> more creatively than with a common text.
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38327
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
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>

9 Feb 2009 - 6:41pm
Angel Marquez
2008

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9 Feb 2009 - 7:12pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

>
> Unless you're going with some kind of symbol for your logo, what will
> be most memorable is the name.

For better or worse, my logo is all lowercase, but the brand mark is
actually part of the name. http://miskeeto.com/

-r-

10 Feb 2009 - 7:57am
Ted Kilian
2009

One additional factor to consider. When brands get written about and
referenced, writers (or their editors) will usually use title case
regardless of the brand standards. This leads either to endless brand
policing and frustration or just giving up and saying that the brand
is capitalized in print but lowercase in the marque. It is easier to
maintain control of brand consistency if you keep things standard.

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10 Feb 2009 - 7:57am
Ted Kilian
2009

One additional factor to consider. When brands get written about and
referenced, writers (or their editors) will usually use title case
regardless of the brand standards. This leads either to endless brand
policing and frustration or just giving up and saying that the brand
is capitalized in print but lowercase in the marque. It is easier to
maintain control of brand consistency if you keep things standard.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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