To be or not to be incomplete, this is the question

In logo design as in art, designers are all looking for ideas which will strike the customers as original and powerful. A powerful logo is the first step forward in the advancement of a company, hence the efforts to create it in a way to attract and convince. One of the methods used in these artistic efforts is the incompleteness of the typeface. 

From Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, marketing professor Henrik Hagtvedt’s  research helps us understand what the consumers perceptions are regarding this kind of logo design.

Meant to make the corporate logo more captivating, the use of incomplete typeface logos can prove, though, a risky business for firms, according to the research. 

500 people viewed a series of logos with parts of the characters of the company name intentionally missing or blanked out. The findings show that these logos can have a double-edged effect on consumer perceptions. The perceptual ambiguity resulting from the applying of incompleteness to a logo sparked the viewers’ interest and caused the firm to be perceived as innovative. 

On the other hand incompleteness led to the perception that the firm is untrustworthy and that is because, in Hagtvedt’s opinion, it might be interpreted as unclear communication. Further, incomplete typeface logos have an adverse influence on the overall attitude toward the firm among consumers who are focused on preventing bad outcomes rather than on achieving good ones. So, even though such stylised logos might be a good idea for an entertainment firm, they might be a bad idea for an insurance company.

According to Hagtvedt, the findings suggest that firms should avoid incomplete typeface logos if perceptions of trustworthiness are critical, or if their customers are likely to have a prevention focus. However, such logos may be successfully employed with promotion-focused consumers, and they may be used as a tool to position a firm as innovative.

Hagtvedt, who had an international career as a visual artist before becoming a marketing scholar, believes "Aesthetic devices like incompleteness are tied to universal principles of human perception, and as such they are applicable to both art and marketing. However, while this device has been successfully used by artists for millennia, corporations attempting the same should be aware of both the risks and the rewards."