The most common example of hidden imagery in a logo is likely FedEx and its arrow. For me, however, it isn’t what first comes to mind. As a child, I saw something in the Kentucky Fried Chicken logo that I can’t help continue to see to this day.
While the logo and even the name has changed over the years, I firmly still associate the company with the image you see when you roll over or click the logo below.
The original Kentucky Fried Chicken logo was designed in 1952 and updated to the version above in 1978. Lippincot & Margulies designed both identities, and I wonder if during its development anyone mentioned that they saw more than just a bow tie? The current KFC logo has been changed to the point that the bobblehead I saw as a child is barely there, but it’s still what I connect with.
“I See a Fetus”
I once had a client see a fetus in a logo I designed. After she had prompted countless people to see the unborn child in the identity without success, the design went ahead unchanged. As far as I know, no one else has ever seen a fetus in the identity although it did go on to win many awards and inclusion in several design books. I imagine all graphic designers have experienced a client pointing out unintentional symbolism in a design.
Individuals Determine a Logo’s Meaning
As an identity designer, I am responsible for ensuring a logo doesn’t convey inappropriate imagery. I look at it upside down, sideways, in reverse, and I ask others what they see. I explore if the company name when used as a URL is going to create a hidden message, and is the company signage going to transform into a vulgar four letter word when the first and last letter of the name burn out over time? A graphic designer is responsible for reducing these risks.
Target’s up & up packaging reads d(ow)n & d(ow)n when tossed in a cart.
In execution, a logos meaning is dependent on each individuals preferences, bias, history, and mood alongside experience with the brand. While a graphic designer can reduce risk, sometimes people will inevitably see ZION in an Olympic logo or a Southern man with an immense head, missing his hands and feet in a fast food identity.
What strong associations do you have with identities that the designer and client did not foresee?
Rollover code for Colonel Sanders via We Saw a Chicken