Do you have a swooshy logo, and what does it say about you?

Is this you?

Do you have a swooshy logo?

Maybe you’ve had it a long time and it has some brand equity (we can be a little more forgiving here), or maybe it is a recent development—something you’ve created within the last few years—in which case this post is probably aimed at you.

Let’s start by being clear what a swooshy logo is. There are lots of logos out there that have some swooshy-ness to them, like Nike, Speedo, Boeing or AAA. These logos have some energy, movement or dynamic quality that implies a sense of animation or purpose. We’re not really talking about those. No, we’re focused on logos whose sole point of being is the celebration of the swoosh. These logos embrace swooshy-ness at their core. They celebrate the idea that if it looks whizzy, it must be good. There are so many swooshy logos out there it’s almost too hard to know where to start, but we’ve illustrated some to give you an idea of what we are talking about.

Perhaps the classic is the dynamic, all encompassing swooshy circle. Brilliantly conceived by the Intel Inside campaign of the 90’s, the all-embracing swooshy circle is the most direct expression of swooshy-ness, and now widely used everywhere. A close second is probably the divided swoosh—a dynamic line above and below your name (often with arrows at the end to make sure we all know it’s about direction and not just going around in circles). Then there’s the single line swoosh. Usually applied over the name, this swoosh not only provides action and intent, but it often encapsulates the protecting arc concept as well; a two for one bargain. Finally, there is the swoosh within the word mark. Not fully convinced by the need for a big, gestural statement? Then perhaps just a small swooshy accent can really give you a bit of differentiation without the full commitment. Swooshes can be added almost anywhere within a logo, in any color, at any size to give your brand a more dynamic quality.

In fact, adding swooshy-ness is probably the easiest graphical trick in the book. Is your brand looking a little tired? Give the logo a swoosh. Even better, give it two, or maybe three. And swooshy-ness defies all categories. Admittedly, it is the go-to favorite of tech companies. “But the swooshy-ness makes us look innovative and exciting!” they say; yet it is widely found everywhere. Healthcare, pharmaceutical, financial services, manufacturing, consumer products, retail, travel, transportation (OK—it might have some credibility here), hospitality, telecommunications, and energy—it doesn’t matter—swooshy–ness makes things look better, faster, stronger! And remember, swooshy logos will always test well!

Maybe this criticism is too harsh. After all, it’s just a logo, isn’t it? It looks clean and well executed. People seem to like it; what’s wrong with that? And if that’s all that your logo means to you, then it probably doesn’t mean a whole lot. But if your logo means more than that, if your logo is a signal of what you do, the promise you make to your customers, your point of differentiation in the market or a reflection of the uniqueness or quality of your product, then it should mean a lot! A generic logo says we make generic things. It says maybe we don’t really care about what we do and how we do it. We all assess people by how they look, and first impressions matter. It’s the same with logos. A brand with a generic, swooshy logo clearly doesn’t seem to care that much about who they are and what they mean to you. If that’s the case, then just use simple typography to highlight your name. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some of the most powerful brands in the world are just word marks. But adding swooshy-ness to ‘jazz it up a bit’ is just plain wrong. It undermines what you do and the reputation you stand for. You don’t need to put flames on the side of your car to make it go faster, and you don’t need to add swooshes around your name to make it seem more interesting! Good design, whether simple or complex, should communicate a clear idea about your business. It should reflect values that are important to you. When you add unnecessary swooshes, you don’t just let design down, you let your customers down.

Swooshy-ness is the lowest common denominator of design. We’ve all probably been guilty of using them (us included), but if we all (clients and agencies) try a bit harder and push ourselves just a bit more, then maybe we can kick the swooshy-ness addiction and really start to create things that are unique.