Objective & Subjective/Social & Cultural Factors of Symbol Impact

With a market that is growing more and more international everyday it is critical to consider how graphic logos and branding will be perceived in the different cultures, religions and groups. While graphic symbols are the best way to communicate through a language barrier, depending on the type of symbols used there is always a possibility that the final design could be perceived as offensive to certain cultures or groups; therefore, it vital to create the logo or branding to be as objective as possible. The use of subjective elements that lead to personal or subculture bias and beliefs must be avoided to accomplish successful international branding for the future. While trying not to offend a particular group is important with creating a corporate symbol, the market research begins to play a more vital role in finding the target group. When planning to promote a product or company into a new culture or society that is completely different and in some instances opposite of the familiar culture, it is imperative to have data to lead the creative design process.

A great example of how a simple fun image can create great issues with different cultures is when t-shirts created by Utah students for the game offended the American Indians. Although the students were using the T-shirts to mock the teams mascots (an Indian roasting a frog), American Indians found the image very offensive.

While the incident at Utah was just some students with a tee shirt, there are many sports teams with mascots that could be considered offensive to certain groups. Would you believe even Chief WaHoo for the Cleveland Indians has been questioned as a racist symbol? Today even some schools are rethinking their logos and mascots.

Taking an international look, many times as other cultures try to make their look more universal they fall into a dilemma of possibly miss representing their company. Here is an example of a logo that does exactly that.

In the end, designer must consider what is the best way to visually entice the target group to desire a product or company. Carefully implemented market research will aid in approaching the target group. As it was stated in the beginning of the Logo Design Workbook, “A logo is not a magic lantern. It can’t make a bad product successful or save a poorly managed corporation.” (morioka, 2004) This takes some of the pressure of the designer, but at the same time, the final branding needs to appeal different groups, and cultures and transcend language to be effective.

Adams Morioka; Logo Design Handbook, 2004
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