How 7up changed the opinion of their customers by simply changing the diagonal orientation of their logoRelevant topics Strategy, Archive
What does Snapple have in common with Perrier or 7up? Obviously, these companies all sell soft drinks, but there is another thing these brands have in common. All these three companies have changed their logo recently. Nothing special so far. Companies have to update their visual identity once in a while to keep up with the times.
However, what is quite unique about these logo changes is that all three companies changed the diagonal orientation of the logo, which does not happen that often. In the process of updating a brands visual identity, changes are often being made to the fonts, colors and elements that make up the logo. The diagonal orientation of the logo is changed far less often. In this list of recent logo changes, only two out of 50 companies altered the diagonal orientation of the logo.
Diagonal orientation conveys activity
This might seem like an arbitrary decision, but recent research by Schlosser, Rikhi & Dagogo-Jack (2016) has uncovered that there is more to this than meets the eye. In a series of experiments, they tested participants’ reactions to diagonally oriented design elements, such as brand logo’s, texts, and images. They did this by putting participants to in an active, passive, or control group and prime them accordingly. They then exposed the participants to several fictive brands, with varying diagonal orientations in the design of their products or brand identity. After this exposure, the researchers asked participants questions about their opinions about the brand or product.
What they found was that when the context favored activity, designs with upward diagonals where rated better by the participants. When the context favored passivity, downward diagonals scored better. Another interesting finding was that this effect was stronger for text than for images.
One of the fictive brands used by the researchers, with downward diagonal design elements.
The same fictive brand, but now with upward diagonal design elements.
The principle at work behind this finding has to do with the associations we connect to diagonal lines. For example, the use of ascending line graphs to describe progress or rising figures is commonplace in graphic design. The same is true for the use of descending line graphs to represent descending figures. In these cases, diagonals are used as visual metaphors for change.
These associations are then related to different degrees of activity. Regarding physical activity, most people would say that it takes more effort to move from a low point to a high point than the other way around. Therefore, upward diagonals, which run from lower left to upper right are associated with higher amounts of activity than downward diagonals.
The best implication for this finding depends on the context of your company or product. As previously described, upward diagonals tend to be associated with activity, while downward ones tend to be associated with passivity. So it all comes down to whether you want to trigger associations of activity or passivity.
If you own a company that is about activity, you might want to use upward diagonals. Obvious examples of such companies would be sports-related business, such as gyms and sport-clothing brands. You could also use upward diagonals for products that are meant to activate people, such as energy drinks or coffee.
On the other hand, if your company is all about relaxing and unwinding you might want to consider using downward diagonals. Examples of these companies could be holiday agents, lounge bars or wellness resorts. Downward diagonals can also be used for products that are meant to help people relax, such as tea, televisions or comfy furniture.
Of course, there are more implications for these findings then just for constructing effective brand identities. These findings can be used for every form of visual communication, like posters, billboards, packaging, photographs and you could even use them in movies or animations. For example, you might use downward diagonals in an ad to strengthen the message that using your product is easy and requires hardly any effort. To sum it up: if you want to activate people, use upward diagonals. If you want people to unwind and relax, use downward diagonals instead.
A limitation of this finding is the fact that the researchers used only Northern American participants as test subjects. This poses two challenges to the practical implications. The first one is that in western societies such as Northern America, text is being read from left to right. In other societies however, such as China for example, text is being read the other way. Therefore, a text running diagonally from bottom left to upper right would be seen as an upward diagonal in western societies, but as a downward one in China.
The other challenge is that these findings have to do with associations, which can differ between cultures. Upward diagonals tend to be associated with progress in western societies, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case in other societies. It is important to keep these cultural aspects in mind when using these findings for your graphic designs.
Take home points
- Use upward diagonals in your designs when your brand or product is all about activity, such as gyms, energy drinks and sports clothing.
- Use downward diagonals in your designs when your brand or product is about relaxation and unwinding, such as holiday agents, comfy furniture or tea.
In the last decade, psychologists have uncovered many fascinating spillover effects of television genres making people more susceptible to different forms of advertising. A block of commercials isn’t processed in isolation. Instead, it’s tightly connected to the thoughts and feelings activated by the previous show, movie, news story and surrounding ads. This knowledge is solid gold for advertisers, as it allows them give their commercials an extra edge when buying media time.