Visual Attention, Research and Logos


Designing a logo may be creative by nature but it should not be necessarily left to chance. There is scientific data rooted in psychology that can help logo designers capture the attention of people.

The academic mind of Saul McLeod published in 2011 a report that delved on the psychology of visual attention. As a reference to his study, he mentioned the works of previous academicians such as Driver in 1996 that noted that the eye focuses on particular regions. This is important information because this helps a logo achieve effective results if the designer knows the key areas where the eye will most likely look.

The research of Posner in 1978 values the impact of peripheral vision. He noted if people fix their eyes on a particular object, it is still possible to see stimuli from seven degrees on either side of the target. This means that a logo should be holistic in its design. Even if a logo has a main feature (for example, Apple’s bite and the arrows in FedEx) all the rest of the design should work with symmetry so that it can appeal to people.

The Spotlight Theory

In 1980, Posner called this peripheral vision shift as covert attention or spotlight theory. It was possible to have shifts in attention in a particular object when the eyes are focused on it.

A 1983 study provided support for the spotlight theory by presenting experiment participants with five-letter words and asking them to respond as quickly as possible. The probe discovered that even though participants were asked to concentrate on the middle letter, they were also aware of the other letters nearby. It was a narrow attention beam.

The experiment proved that people responded quickly if they were within the attention spotlight, which in the case of the experiment was the middle letter. The spotlight theory of visual attention believes that although peripheral vision is noticeable and important, it should still provide minimal stimuli outside of the visual spotlight. In logo making, the attention to detail should be comprehensive to make sure that no peripheral detail is distracting to the eyes.

There were other studies that have confirmed the spotlight theory to prove that it can be useful for logo design. There were experiments from Johnston and Dark in 1986 that played with words out of focus. There were also other studies such as the ones conducted by Juola and company in 1991 that posits that the spotlight theory as over simplified. This experiment used three concentric circles and it proved that not all people are attracted to the strong center spotlight where visual attention should be focused.

Logo Design Essentials

With comprehensive research such as the spotlight theory, designing logos should have a solid scientific reference. However to make the logo more effective, it should readily communicate the mission and vision of the company it is representing. A logo becomes the face of an enterprise. It is essential that its design should reflect various meanings that are compatible with the values of a business.

We believe that creativity is better expanded when there are various inputs from people who matter. Unifying the look and the message of a logo is important to make sure that a company has the right branding for its industry.

Attention is a key element in any logo design. It must be compelling enough for people to remember and associate it with the company. Otherwise, it will fall into obscurity. Instead of standing out as one among many, a boring logo may make a company become just among many in an industry.

Collaboration and open communication lines are essential in any logo design. Studying new trends especially in visual attention will be helpful in the pursuit of a designer in creating a very memorable and significant logo.