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How does logo shape affect readability?

How Does Logo Shape Affect Readability?

Whether you’re developing a new logo or getting a fresh redesign, be sure to consider what shape the logo should be. Is round, square or rectangular the right choice for you?

For a website, a rectangular logo is generally the best shape. This is because a header can impose both a width and height constraint to which the logo must conform. A rectangular shape usually fits this space best.

However, it is advisable to create alternate designs of the same logo. This ensures that your logo will display optimally in all circumstances. At a minimum, we recommend one rectangular logo design and one square.

With that in mind, let’s look at two websites. One has the standard side-by-side layout: logo on the left, navigation on the right. The other has the logo above the navigation. We will illustrate why the rectangular version of your logo is usually the best one to use on your website.

How is the readability of the logo on these websites affected when its shape is square rather than rectangular?

Logo shape: rectangular

Columbia County Tourism header

Logo shape: round

Columbia County Tourism header with a square logo

It may be difficult to believe, but the two Columbia County Tourism logos illustrated above are the same height – yet one is perfectly readable and the other is not.

In the second example, the square shape means that the words have to be smaller to fit the available area. The words are much smaller and it is more difficult to read.

Let’s look at another example with a different layout.

Again, the height is the constraint. When the logo is square, the readability is negatively impacted.

Logo: rectangular

Spencertown Academy website header

Logo: round

Spencertown Academy website header with square logo

Of course, these are not the only header layout options. There certainly are and have been examples of websites with square shaped logos that look just fine. However, finding a design that works well with a square logo is far more difficult and usually requires the header to be much taller. (Read our related article why prefer shallow header sections.) By using a rectangular logo, the header is compact, the design comes together more easily and the user is presented with a layout that they are familiar with. 

If your company name is a single word with just a few letters, the drawbacks of a square or round shaped Logo are less pronounced.

Examples of this are:

However, note how small these logos are on the page. Yes, they are still readable, but is it ideal? 

The other point to consider is that these companies have spent millions of dollars building their brand. Even if the user can’t actually read each individual letter of the logo, they may still recognize it from seeing it so many times. If you’re a small business without a huge budget to build your brand, we do not recommend a logo like this.

Why square and round logos for a website should be used cautiously

There are no black and white rules to logo design. When we suggest avoiding square or round logos on a website, we are saying that in our experience, logos that are rectangular usually fit more easily in the available space, giving your potential customers the greatest chance of understanding who you are and what you do.

See our portfolio of logo designs. If you’d like a new website for your business or organization, give us a call at (518) 392-0846 or email [email protected]. Also, if you have an existing logo that you would like reworked to fill a different shape, we can do that, too.

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