Do All Logos Need To Be Square?

Designing logos for use on social media networks

Social media logo test subject

We never thought that designing logos for use in social media was an important enough topic to even discuss, let alone write an entire page about for our Design Help Center. Until that is, a frantic client called our studio recently with an issue about using his logo on a Facebook profile page. “It’s so small,” he explained, “and half my company name isn’t even there.” Having designed the logo over a year ago, we knew right away what was wrong. The logo was slightly horizontal in its aspect ratio, had a minor footprint issue, and when it was uploaded to the server, Facebook’s online cropping editor was resizing and forcing his logo into a square format. That made the image terribly small, and the square format of the profile picture was lopping off half the company name. Having a cool logo is fine and dandy, but in this instance, it was completely unusable.

Logo footprint illustration

Square images are used by most social networks

The problem didn’t stop there either. Using the logo on other social media platforms, Twitter and YouTube for example, the issue would get progressively worse, as most other social media networks employ avatars that are much smaller than a typical Facebook profile ‘badge.’ On Twitter, neither the logo icon, or the text portion, would be legible at all. Even though this design, all things considered, is a fairly simple iconic logo. In terms of application on social media profiles and timelines, that didn’t matter. It wasn’t the complexity of the logo that was an issue. If was the aspect ratio – the ratio of the design’s height to width – that was throwing things off. Not much we could do to help either. Even if we used the absolute minimum visual ID area, removing almost 2/3 of the overall design, any avatar badge would still be tiny. All things considered, a quick-and-dirty fix was simple enough. We set up a couple of square JPG files, using a highly edited version of the standard logo. Our client could use the square version of his logo on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and the edited version still had enough of visual relationship with its horizontal sibling to make sense from a branding perspective. Granted, and as this particular logo wasn’t originally designed with social media in mind, it wasn’t the world’s best solution. But it would work well enough to keep everyone happy.

Revised social media icons

Converting a logo to use in social media

Afterwards, we realized that this issue might not be so uncommon for our clients, especially with the do-it-yourself nature of setting up social media profiles. Our client had no idea why his company logo was being cropped and truncated, yet our designers were able to figure it out fairly quickly. We can all agree that social media is here to stay, and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future, so should that use of a logo dictate some of the logo design process itself? In its simplest terms, is social media an argument for square logos? Or at least the creation of logos from which we can shave off a square portion, so that business owners can effectively manage their avatars and profiles on social media platforms? To illustrate the thinking behind this, we grabbed some examples from our portfolio and attempted to make them into social media avatars. So that nobody can accuse us of ‘cherry picking’ design (for best results) we used a couple from the first set in our logo design examples slide show. As the following will illustrate, we had mixed results.

Twitter avatars from source

The first two logos (left to right) were able to be used ‘as is’. At the size most social media icons use, any text isn’t going to be terribly legible in the first place, so we simply used the icon portion of the logos. On the third logo, My Car Guy (right), because the text is interwoven with the design itself, that wasn’t an option. But even though it’s a relatively complex illustrative logo, it’s still not too bad. Though in terms of being able to read the company name, that’s probably the result of a Rorschach Test effect. What’s that? As we know what the logo is supposed to look like, having seen the original, our brain tricks us by filling in the details. So here’s the question. Would a first time viewer be able to read the tiny type or recognize the itty-bitty car? Here’s another thing to think about too. Even though the car illustration looks like it has a square aspect ratio, it doesn’t, and any serious social media application would need a redesign to make it into one.

Should we always design square logos?

Should we design every logo in a square shape? No. We’re not suggesting anything that drastic, and there are times when a square logo isn’t the best alternative – when using a logo on websites & blogs for example, the optimum configuration would be a horizontal format. When all is said and done, square logos are but another option in an almost limitless arsenal of design options.

It’s up to you to decide which is best for your particular application.

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