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Is your logo losing you customers? 6 ways to improve it

By on February 6, 2012

Zoya Street is editorial assistant at Gamesbrief, and is about to complete a Master’s in History of Design at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Her thesis is about Sega’s RPG Skies of Arcadia, and she is speaking at GDC this year about the fictional economies surrounding weapons in Final Fantasy games. Find out more at Zoya Street‘s personal website.

The logo for your mobile app is as important as the cover design for a boxed game. Just like a shelf in a physical store, your customers browse the app store, waiting for something to stand out and grab their attention. Don’t get lost in the sea of icons. Here are some key design features of top logos from the iOS app charts:

  1. Show the object of play
    The majority of touch-screen games are like toys. They are easy to understand because they centre on one object of interaction. Your logo should clearly show the object that users will play with. The
    Angry Birds  logo doesn’t show the slingshot, it shows the bird.
    At the Mobile Games Forum, Michael Schade from Fishlabs mentioned that he wanted the logo for their Volkswagen games to be an image of the car, but Volkswagen insisted on using their company logo. He was pretty sure that an image of the car would have further boosted their success.
  2. Represent what users will do
    This is secondary to showing the object, but it does help if you can graphically symbolise the action of play. Cut the rope features a ‘cut here’ sign with scissors and a dotted line, but more subtle cues also work. Fruit Ninja shows the blurry shape of a blade in motion, while Angry Birds uses a comic-book background effect to imply propulsion.
  3. Jump outside the frame
    This is another great comic-book trick to emphasise movement. First, you need to include a frame. These are usually white or silver, so as not to get in the way visually. Then, you want to make the object extend beyond it. The logo for NFL Flick quarterback shows the footballer leaning outside the frame. The juice splatters on Fruit Ninja appear to have landed right on the frame itself. The clouds in the Angry Birds logo are a frame and a background at the same time.
  4. Point toward the player
    Just like the famous ‘I need YOU’ poster, many top app logos point straight at the viewer. Monopoly shows the mascot gesturing out towards you, his hand outside of the frame. Words with Friends has letter tiles flying out, the edge pointing towards the customer. In contrast to logos that use this effect, many others look flat and motionless, causing them to fade into the background.
  5. Use primary colours
    This is a must for the majority of games, with notable exceptions: if your game is meant to look charmingly primitive, like Hatchi or Stickman cliff diving, use plain white or grey. The point is to either go for bright, strong colours or no colour at all; there are very few pastels in the top apps charts.
  6. Don’t use the name
    The name of your game is already written next to the logo, so you have no good reason to include it in the logo, unless your game is already famous. Grand Theft Auto? Fine. Anything else? Probably not.

About Zoya Street

I’m responsible for all written content on the site. As a freelance journalist and historian, I write widely on how game design and development have changed in the past, how they will change in the future, and how that relates to society and culture as a whole. I’m working on a crowdfunded book about the Dreamcast, in which I treat three of the game-worlds it hosted as historical places. I also write at and The Borderhouse.