Remember watching Wizard of Oz after hearing the amplified sound of MGM’s Leo the lion’s roar? It surely gave me goosebumps as a kid! At the time, I didn’t understand the purpose of this dramatic opening. In fact, I didn’t even know what this unusual imagery meant.
The lion, moon, and castle were part of logos of the production houses, which finance and manage films. What an enlightenment.
These animated logos still delight us at the front of all movies – one’s that we love or hate, find interesting or gruesome, and funny or scary. So what is it that makes these images, symbols or words powerful enough to be remembered for decades?
These logos are a blockbuster! In the sense that they each have a fanfare. If you’re a film production startup, I’m sure you want your corporate logo to shine among the stars of this industry – make it a box office hit. Right?
Before we dig into the psychology of film production logos, remember these words.
“There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.” – Frank Capra
Same goes for “logo-making”. There are no rules, only sins. Whether you are an entrepreneur creating a DIY logo for your company or a graphic designer with a project at hand – don’t make a logo for a production house that is:
- Derivative, as in a replica of someone else’s work
- Uninteresting with absolutely no element of attraction
- Meaningless – one that’s unprovocative or too simple
Also Explore: How Not Copy Designs and Protect Your Work
Common Traits In Film Production Logos
Production house logos are catchy not only because they’re attractive, memorable and repeatedly marketed. But they use symbols and design styles that are commonly understood and recognized. Nevertheless, each logo design looks unique.
Prior to the invention and usage of television, production logos (in the cinema or theaters) were as simple as their print counterparts. But with the advancement in design and technology, large production houses adopted cel animation technique where every different frame is drawn by hand and repeated to create an illusion of movement.
By the late 1900s, production companies computerized their logo with 2D and 3D graphics. This was an eye-candy for the audience at the time. Production houses began investing in digital animation, and Walt Disney was the last to upgrade its on-screen logo in 2006.
The style of the logo design depends on the kind of brand image the company wants to portray. There are endless possibilities for graphic designers to experiment with when making logos. A production logo can be a wordmark, a combination mark or a lettermark.
The color schemes of on-screen production house logos depend on the genre of movies it produces. For example, production companies that make thriller movies have “killer” shades rather than “soft and sweet” tints in their logos. The color palette is usually developed by combining tones such as emerald or neon green, jet black, smoky gray, electric blue, orange-yellow, grayed-white and bloody red.
Also Explore: Meaning and Uses of Colors in Logo Design
Still silver and golden are common because they give a sheen to the text and symbols in a logo design. A gradient or mesh helps the shapes to stand out as 3D or realistic objects – what designers also call skeuomorphic.
Other than color, typography has the ability to make a production company logo a socko (thumbs up) or a sucko (thumbs down). As a startup or small business, don’t jeopardize your image by selecting a typeface that is not unique, eye-catching or befitting.
Something like the usual Helvetica, the nerve-wrecking Comic Sans or the basic Arial will not be a good choice. However, companies like Strada Films, Marvel Studios, and Miramax Films have a simplistic typeface without a grunge or swirl. There are two reasons for this: a) they focus on color and symbols rather than text, and b) they make on-screen versions striking instead.
Even then, production companies don’t simply select a typeface from Microsoft Word for instance. If you want a typeface that’s identifiable then you must add some points of interest in it.
- Make it 3D
- Use stark colors
- Add texture
You should do what most film production houses do! Get a custom typeface design for your logo.
Perhaps the most intriguing graphic element of production company logos are the symbols used in them. Kenneth Burke, a 20th century critic and theorist described a human being as “symbol-using, symbol making, and symbol misusing animal”.Thus we can conclude that we do not only make symbols but we have a habit of being around them. They’re closer to reality. For example, Columbia Pictures will not look as impactful without the statue of liberty as it does with it.
In Decoding Design: Understanding and Using Symbols in Visual Communication Maggie Macnab describes symbols as “visual metaphors” that contain expressions, meanings and at times illusions.
I’ve seen a ton of production house logos and found some common symbols. If you’re starting your company, you should include some or one of these symbols in your logo.
One of the most important aspects of a movie is a film strip, on which every frame is stored. In production logos, film strips instantly convey the message sans the slogan or if the name of the company doesn’t convey the brand story.
There are several ways to use a film strip or reel in a logo.
Another essential element of a film is a video camera which production startups incorporate in their logos. Whenever I see this symbol, I think of “lights, camera, and action”. It captures moments and film makers also do the same thing. Then they present it to people. Makes sense.
If you want to use a camera in your logo, you can make it realistic or abstract.
As you’ve seen above, light is used in on-screen versions of production logos and in many ways. You can add sparks, sparkles, glare, spot lights and glows for a cinematic look.
A logo maker will not give you the same lighting effects as a professional designer will by using design software such as Adobe After Effects, Adobe Photoshop, and plugins.
Mountains are magnificent and that is the impression we get from corporate logos of Summit Entertainment, and Paramount. One is abstract (with a single continuous line) and the other is realistic or sketchy. Your logo is an essential part of your film. Would the Twilight Saga Series be the same without the Summit logo? I don’t think so.
In Nubes Cum Figuris: The Interpretation of Clouds as a Modern Paradigm of Artistic Perception and Creation, Dario Gamboni shares that many would think that the “ambiguous contours of clouds make of them ‘weak forms’” but they’re more than that. They depict “constant motion and change”.
Famous logos of production houses use clouds, moon and the sky to signify a deeper meaning. Clouds appear soft and transparent yet in a bunch they’re powerful. They also suggest freedom and purity.
Each animal has its strengths and weaknesses and so does your company. Kaylie Moore of Berlin Startup Girl suggests to “choose an animal people can relate to” and one that embodies your company culture or products. Do you agree with her?
Another reason why production logos have animals is that they give a sense of movement and life. They create excitement as Anthony Goldschmidt wanted for the Tristar logo by showing a white horse with Pegasus’s wings, emerging from clouds and stark light.
Film production companies around the world use the imagery of a globe or earth to signify life and universality. If used with the correct special effects, it looks stunning and grandeur.
The moment I see a globe in a logo, words like ‘united’, ‘we’re all one’ and ‘home’ pop up. What do you think?