When Penguin books introduced their now-famous line of quality paperbacks in the 1930s, a simple, modernist cover design, with broad bands of color surrounding the title, was adopted. Originally, different colors were used for different genres, but this soon proved too complex for customers to remember, and Penguin settled on orange as its trademark shade. Even today, after a myriad variations through the intervening years, Penguin covers have a recognizable quality thanks to the style of their designs.
National Geographic magazine displays perhaps the most famous example of using a frame as an identity element. The yellow rectangle is versatile enough to function not only as a design element, but also as a logo, and in signage. The familiar “Golden Arches” of the McDonald’s logo began as an architectural element in a handful of roadside drive-in restaurants in California. The company later discovered that these arches—which, seen from an angle down the road, form a letter M—were a more recognizable feature to customers than the clown mascot or any other visual device. When Interbrand developed a new identity for the Mini, the frame became an integral part of the brand image. It was used on billboards, brochures, web pages, and as an architectural element in showrooms.
The use of a graphic element in a retail environment, what Interbrand likes to call a “supersign,” can create a powerful visual mnemonic for the brand in a cluttered shopping area, especially at street level, as well as making an otherwise generic-looking space something more memorable.
We absorb almost all the information we need in our daily lives through our eyes. This has been doubly true since the development of writing; and yet, even though vision is our primary sense, we use our other senses more often than we realize. Hunters do best when they can rely on their eyes, but they are able to track prey by sound and even by scent if necessary.
Even though we’re often unaware of it, our other senses contribute a significant amount of extra information and experience to our everyday lives.