You’re scrolling through Instagram and you pause to look at a new pic of your friend’s baby. You decide to run down the workday clock looking at gifs of baby elephants on Reddit. Why? Because they’re cute. And because you’re a human, you love cute things. Cute things—like babies—automatically jump to the front of our mental queues because this ensures their survival. But our sense of cuteness doesn’t just cover babies of our own species, or even just sentient beings. We love all things cute, whether that’s cute animals, cute drawings or even cute objects because they grab onto our brains and demand that we pay attention to them.
So how do you get your logo to demand attention? Make it cute. Cute might be the norm for your field or you might be the first one to try it. Using a cute logo in an industry that typically doesn’t use cute logos can be a way to set yourself apart or to target a demographic that industry doesn’t usually target.
Keep in mind that you can take cute too far. In most industries, opting for a cute logo means giving up some of your position as an authority in your industry. Notable exceptions are industries that literally run on cute, like baby products. But if you’re going cute to advertise a line of office furniture or gardening items, there is absolutely such a thing as too cute. Recognizing too cute is a know-it-when-you-see-it kind of situation that happens when a cute image undermines the product it’s representing.
Take a look at these different ways to do cute logos. Cute can be somewhat subjective, but because our sense of cuteness is rooted in psychology, it’s not as purely subjective as our senses of what’s cool or what’s beautiful. You can use elements that trigger our cute senses to build a cute logo, and here’s a few ways to do it:
Cute n’ cuddly logos
We all love cute animals. Otherwise, they wouldn’t make up most of the internet. As a species, there are few things we love as universally as other animals… especially baby animals. We love imagining what animals think about and giving them voices to speak their minds. If we didn’t, talking animal movies wouldn’t be some of the highest grossing films we create.
We love our pets. We love wild animals. We love animals so much that we created new ones to populate our folklore and inspire our imaginations. A cute animal logo is a great way to connect with pet owners or really, anyone, even if your product doesn’t directly have anything to do with animals. The Car Fox is one example of a product that has nothing to do with animals cementing itself in our minds with a cute animal mascot. Geico is another.
You really can’t go wrong with a cute animal logo, and if you’re marketing to pet owners, nature lovers or kids, it’s one way to guarantee you go right.
Deliciously adorable logos
You ever see something that’s so cute, you just wanna eat it up? Like a baby’s squishy thighs or a big-eyed baby bunny? You can thank your brain for that—research shows that the smell of a newborn triggers the same reward center in the brain as biting into a delicious piece of food. Cuteness is already intricately linked with chowing down in our brains, so capitalize on these crossed wires by choosing a cute logo for your food brand.
Keep in mind that cute probably won’t work for something you’re branding as high-end or artisan. When somebody’s shopping for caviar, they don’t want to see packaging with adorable baby fish looking back at them. Choose cute for sweets, snacks, inexpensive foods and anything aimed at kids because cute is fun and youthful, not established and authoritative.
Nonthreateningly neoteenie-weeny logos
In evolutionary biology, neoteny is the retention of juvenile traits into adulthood, like a proportionally larger head, shorter limbs, and larger eyes. Humans are attracted to animals with more juvenile traits, pushing them to protect and eventually, domesticate them.
In design, neoteny refers to characters drawn with purposefully exaggerated, youthful features. Logos that make use of exaggeratedly cute “baby” characters are great choices for baby products, toys, products for little kids, and products aimed at parents-to-be and parents of babies and little kids. These characters are non-threatening and friendly. They’re the perfect ambassadors for connecting with new audiences, especially when you’re connecting across language barriers. Cute is cute, no matter what language you speak.
Kawaii logo design
Cuteness as a concept, known as kawaii, is prominent in Japanese culture. It has its roots in the 1970s, when high school girls using mechanical pencils popularized a childlike handwriting style known as marui ji, or round writing, also known as koneko ji, or kitten writing. Now, kawaii is everywhere, even at dinner theaters.
Hello Kitty is kawaii. Many pokemon are kawaii. But what sets kawaii apart from Western interpretations of cuteness? Kawaii is simple. Although it’s deliberately childlike, kawaii aesthetics have found their way onto a wide, wide range of products and carved a special niche among adult women. Lots of different things can be kawaii, but everything that’s kawaii shares a few key characteristics:
- Rounded edges
- Minimal details
- When kawaii means anthropomorphization—and it often does—it means big eyes
When you go kawaii, you go specific. You’re not just targeting an audience that’s drawn to cute things, you’re targeting an audience that’s drawn to things that are cute in a distinctly Japanese-inspired way. This can be an important distinction for you if you’re in the video games or comics field.
One of the easiest ways to make something cute it to make it small. Yes, there’s more to cuteness than size, and as we mentioned above, shrinking something to cuteify it generally involves changing its proportions, but don’t underestimate how important size is to cuteness.
When somebody says “I want a cute car,” what kind of car comes to mind? Probably a Smart Car, a Mini Cooper or a Volkswagen Beetle, not a full-size SUV or a pickup truck. Now think of a cute house. You’re probably envisioning some kind of cottage or cabin, not a sprawling mansion with multiple wings. The fact is, humans love little things because little things are cute. They’re unintimidating. Compare regular golf to mini golf—one of them’s typically reserved for serious business types and real sports enthusiasts and the other one’s for families and teenagers on dates looking to drive fun-colored balls through clowns’ mouths and under rotating windmills. Little things are fun and make us feel like kids again. They make us feel safe and in control.
If you’re looking to capture cuteness without getting too big-eyed or babyish, try simply scaling down the elements in your logo. Playing around with scale can take it from cookie-cutter to cute enough to capture the audience you want to capture (in a cute net!)
Calling all the cuties
There are a lot of things a cute logo can do for your brand. It can carve you a permanent spot in your core demographic’s heart or it can be a signal to new audiences outside your core demographic who might not otherwise notice your brand or know that there’s a place for them in your consumer base. How a cute logo works for you depends largely on the product it’s representing.
And sometimes, that means a cute logo won’t work. Maybe your business is about banking or law. Cute and the law can mix in an abstract, ironic cartoon way, but using a cute logo for your inheritance law firm might just make people uncomfortable. No matter how big the eyes you draw on your lawyer mascot are, there’s a chance it ends up looking forced.
Cute also doesn’t work when it crosses the line into cutesy. Cute makes an automatic connection, cutesy tries to force a connection by being overly sentimental. Think a nauseatingly, sickeningly sweet feeling like you just finished a cotton candy the size of your head, then translate that feeling to an image. That’s cutesy. Basically, if the cute is forced, it’s not cute. It’s cutesy.
When you’re not sure how a cute logo will work for you, sketch out some of your brand’s core values. If your aim is to make viewers comfortable with your product without taking it too seriously, cute is for you.