Rob Walker: Swoosh. Repeat.

Rob Walker: Swoosh. Repeat. : Observers Room: Design Observer:

The other thought is maybe a little less upbeat: It involves a paper (PDF) published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2007, titled “Inferring the popularity of an opinion from its familiarity.” The underlying study built on the intuitive and well-established notion that if a lot of people express belief in some idea or point of view, we tend to figure there is likely some legitimacy to it. In this set of experiments, researchers presented subjects with homeowners’ opinions about a land-use proposal. As expected, those exposed to more positive opinions had a more positive assessment. More surprisingly, that turned out to be true even when the positive bias came by way of the same homeowner expressing the same favorable opinion multiple times. And it wasn’t a case of mistaking the source of the repetitive voice; indeed, the effect even held up when a statement was repeated merely by way of what looked to subjects like a software glitch. The paper’s subtitle sums up the implication: “A repetitive voice can sound like a chorus.”

Obviously I don’t mean to suggest that either of these comparison points can be carried directly into the realm of a repeated graphic mark. But something about the success of the Swoosh, and the way the brain apparently relates to repetition, does seem relevant to logo design. After all, we’re constantly hearing about this or that brand hoping to boost “awareness,” thus sales, by freshening up, tweaking, or flat-out re-inventing its logo. Maybe they lesson of the mighty Swoosh is: Just don’t do it.

[It’s been around for 40 years? Sheesh.]

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