In 1986, Huey Lewis and the News proclaimed, “It’s hip to be square”. Clearly the bods behind the internet’s biggest social networks agreed, because from Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest we are all represented by an image confined to a small square box. For social profiles of real people, it’s easy to crop a favourite photo to a loose ‘head and shoulders’ shot. But how do you make your company’s logo look its best within square confines? Here are our top tips.
Option 1: If your logo’s almost square, add a little padding
The reason why some logos look great as social media icons with almost no effort is down to their ‘aspect ratio’. Basically, this is the ratio of their width to their height. Where your logo is close to a square anyway, it’s generally perfectly acceptable to use it straight out of the box, with just a little padding added to the top or sides to make the social media version of your logo exactly square. This is one of the techniques we use at fifty6: for our Facebook channel icon, our standard white logo sits on a square of orange. Because our logo isn’t that much wider than it is tall, it looks fine with no need for additional tweaking. Importantly, it doesn’t compromise our branding.
Option 2: If your logo’s a bit wider, use a single letter or design element
If your logo has a wider or taller aspect ratio—a ratio of 2:1 or higher, say—simply padding it to fit will result in your logo being small to the point of unreadability. One of the most popular workarounds in this instance is to take a single letter from your textual logo, or alternatively a striking design element, and turn this into your social media icon. (If you’re worried this might dilute your brand, you can always supplement the social media icon with a customised ‘header’ graphic at the top of your Facebook profile or Twitter feed. These spaces offer a far larger canvas, and are perfect for a photo of your bustling office with a superimposed copy of your full logo.)
Two of my favourite examples of this technique are: fifty6 client fashion boutique Berties, which uses the lowercase “b” from its main logo as a social media icon; and the Britain’s Got Talent Twitter feed, which uses the revolving star graphic from the TV programme’s title sequence.
— Berties (@BertiesClothing) May 15, 2013
— Britain’s Got Talent (@GotTalent) May 17, 2013
Option 3: Put your logo elsewhere and use a photo instead
The most daring alternative is to eschew your company’s social media icons as a space for your logo and branding, and instead to use them for (ultimately) what they were actually designed for: a photo! The most striking example that comes to mind is technology blog Mashable; despite growing exponentially since it’s inception, the Mashable Twitter page uses as its icon a photograph of CEO and founder Pete Cashmore. (It helps that he is surely the most handsome geek in cyberspace!) Don’t be afraid of using a photo of your company founder or mascot; again, the header of your social profile can be used to reinforce your branding.
Galaxy S4 Is Samsung’s Fastest-Selling Smartphone Ever on.mash.to/12A39aE
— Pete Cashmore (@mashable) May 17, 2013
In the future (and I suspect the present), this will be less of an issue as design trends evolve to reflect the need for a logo to work as well on screen as it does in print. But for the time being, hopefully this will help you export your branding to the social web.