I am currently involved in a project focusing on the re-design of a logo for a health and wellness organization. I’m not the one directly creating the visual in this case, rather, I am helping guide the process. As a participant and someone who has been asked to create this type of imagery in the past, I have been reflecting upon what it means to simplify “health and wellness” into a logo.
The concepts of “health” and “wellness” evoke a very particular type of imagery in the health sector. I find that there is homogeneity across logo designs in this space, which tells you something about the visual vocabulary we’ve created around these concepts. Some of my personal observations of common practices in logo/visual design for health centres and clinics:
- Shapes: Circles are often used to illustrate concepts of holism, continuity, and systems. Curvy, flowing and overlapping shapes help illustrate fluidity, breadth and complex interactions between concepts.
- People: Humans, the end users of health services, are often represented in logos using stick figures or swooshes/broad brush strokes/”Y” shapes. There is a certain level of ambiguity often associated with human figures. This is largely an intentional effort to be inclusive with respect to ethnicity, gender, ability, and physical appearance. Hands, heads, and hearts are also meaningful and commonly used body parts.
- Humanitarian and Medical Symbols: The red cross, a symbol of humanitarian aid/protection and neutrality, the Rod of Asclepius, medical devices, and heart monitor signs are recognizable medical symbols that are universally, and sometimes incorrectly, used.
- Nature: Foliage, flowers, trees, sunshine, water, and animals (e.g., hummingbird, eagle) are prominent in health logos. Nature parallels human development in many ways, and offers multiple meanings of life, death, growth, vibrance, and fragility. There is a particularly dominant connection between symbols within nature and traditional Aboriginal medicine.
- Color: Certain “Earthly” colors, including soft blues and greens, tend to dominate logo design. These tend to be viewed as calming and ‘organic’ colors.
If you Google “health logo design” you can start to see what I mean. While this isn’t necessarily the best indicator of the current landscape of logo design, it gives you a sense of the state of visuals in this space, particularly among smaller health organizations.
So, how do you differentiate your logo so that it is unique, memorable yet conveys health focused messaging that people can relate to and create shared meaning around?
This is a question that I have been grappling with throughout this design project. Each aspect of the logo we are creating aims to help articulate the value proposition of the organization. At the same time, the logo needs to be small, versatile and simple. The logo serves as a connection to its user audience, and a symbol through which people can find relevance and meaning. Our interest is in designing this visual gateway, so users can identify themselves in and build a relationship with the organization.
What we tend not to appreciate about health logos is the complexity of the very ambiguous concepts they intend to convey. Health and wellness, unpacked, can refer to physical health, mental health, emotional health, support, accessibility, diversity, inclusion, wellness, holism, care, compassion, spiritual health, social health, community, medicine, counselling, treatment, help, etc. This is a lot of meaning and messiness to compress into a simple visual.
For this project, the mind-body connection (brain, heart, body) came up as strong themes that practitioners of the organization wished to see in the logo. This, plus a desire to communicate a sense of holistic care, support and health promotion, while maintaining a modern, professional yet youth-targeted look, were priorities. Easy, no? The challenge we’ve encountered through our process lies in creating imagery that is not overly ambiguous and consequently unclear, or, at the other end of the spectrum, extremely literal and thus inflexible. I can see see how the conceptual and visual challenges that come with designing a health logo, coupled with a lack of resources to invest in this process from many health organizations (particularly community-based organizations and smaller clinics), leads to designs without a lot of personality, difference or depth of meaning. However, in this case we are quite fortunate to have some resources and time to put into logo and brand development.
The design process is still ongoing, but I felt inspired by this design challenge and thought I’d give it a go myself. There are many parameters to work around, but I ended creating a series of visuals, with the image at the top of this post being the one I felt most strongly about. I went for a mind (person-focus) and body (heart) connection that demonstrated support/compassion through an embrace. My aim in creating a simple visual came through the creation of one object (heart) through two people. Admittedly, it feels a bit cartoonish and may be individually (person to person) focused, but I think it works and could be used within professional and casual contexts. I also feel it stands a part from imagery that is currently out there. It would be interesting to bring this back to the organization and the user audience and see how this could serve as a starting point for co-creating a visual that speaks to both. That’s just one idea though, and I don’t necessarily think it’s the right fit.
As we continue designing, I am on the lookout for creative and unique health-focused logos that you find memorable and evoke a response from and/or connection with you. If you’ve been inspired by a particular logo, please share in the comments below.