3 types of bird imagery you can use for unstoppable branding

Branding

Stuck drawing the first line, designers?

Maybe you got a pencil, or mouse, in hand?

Or maybe you’re browsing through the endless offerings of bland and uncreative logo templates online…

If you’re the rockstar designer that comes up with logo gold every time, hats off to you!

However…

If you’re struggling with your logo idea generation

Or…

The logos for sale on other sites just don’t feel right… Doing a little research can solve a lot of these headaches.

But you don’t have to this time, cause we did the research here :) In this case it’s with the ever transcendent, timeless, and currently popular bird logo. There is such a deep history with this animal’s artistic depiction through time, and who knew looking at it would be the key to designing the perfect bird logo today?

We’re proud to show you our findings. Writing this article actually piqued a serious interest in ancient art for us. It’s not so boring, at all! Especially when you find the startling connections across time and culture…

So let’s dive in! Here’s a video to get you started from number one logo designer Artsigma showing the sketch process for a basic bird logo:

What Should I Base My Bird Logo On?

In today’s corporate world, birds are insanely popular in logo designs.

And you have a massive array of inspiration.

But what inspired these designs?

As you browse through today’s options, you may notice your brain is picking up on patterns, though you’re not able to quite put a finger on what they are…

These are ancient archetypes, lying deep within you, ready to be awoken through images.

You’ll understand exactly what we mean in the next section…

Let’s begin with the bird’s peculiar shape across time and culture.

Because…

There’s strong evidence that in looking at the historic iconography of birds, you understand why the popular ways of designing birds today are popular!

Contents

  • Primordial Images
    • Jung Has the Answers
  • Three Forms of Bird Imagery Through Time
    • The Crane
    • The Eagle
    • The Small Bird
  • Closing
    • You Shouldn’t Dismiss Old Design Concepts Immediately
    • Applying These Themes

Primordial Images

So why are logo designs based on birds so popular in the industry?

What makes the bird, throughout all of the animal kingdom, unique, is that they are definitely among the oldest depicted in artworks. They are absolutely ancient when it comes to human culture!

This is not just old news though:

There’s an advantage here…

Pictorial imagery of birds has divided into some core common forms over the millennia, so you don’t have to come up with something from scratch every time.

Most logo designers don’t anyway. As you’ll see, some of the biggest firms today heavily incorporate art history into their logo design. With this unique opportunity, we encourage you to take a detailed look over these templates before deciding on your image.

Let’s see how this works!

 

We have four images. Each separated by hundreds of years and thousands of kilometers.

Do you see the resemblance?

This is a primordial image, an image repeatedly used through time with little known origin other than the beginning of mankind. I think anyone can agree that what these ancients were trying to show us is a bird!

Don’t ask us how several groups of people hundreds of years apart thought to draw it so similar, but somehow they were united in their thinking:

  • Horizontal lines through wings set at a 90 degree angle
  • A triangular tail
  • The body viewed from under (or over) the bird

I’m sure you have seen this pattern somewhere. It might really be the oldest pictorial pattern for a bird there is.

Thankfully…

In the modern age, you don’t have to sweat chipping your designs away into rock or wood, and you probably sit comfortably at a computer desk constructing most of them in Adobe Illustrator.

Keep an eye out for NewGlue’s edit tool coming in the next couple weeks!

But this doesn’t mean we can’t transform the features of a wood carving into a 2-D logo. Look above at these ancient concepts echoed in the bird logos of everything from multinational companies to your local mom-and-pop businesses today.

…and we like to think some of our favorite animated characters were inspired as well

 

This is a core design you can borrow from for your bird logo by the way! In fact, NewGlue pretty much has you covered with this specific theme

Jung Has the Answers

“A symbol is the best possible expression for an unconscious content who’s nature can only be guessed because it is still unknown” – Jung

Psychoanalytical pioneer, Carl Jung, intensively studied artworks across history and cultures to find common themes, calling these “archetypes”. It was how he argued there is a psychic unity amongst all of us.

The outward appearances of these images were stripped down to the symbols or “primordial images” of the human species.

However…

Jung will not address the meaning, or “nature”, of the image because he figures the meaning to be of simply unknown origin. He said, “The representations themselves are not inherited, only the forms”.

In other words!

You and everybody else instinctively knows what these images look like design wise, but your guess to their meaning is as good as anybody else’s.

And it’s not your responsibility to do so, especially as a brand designer!

Take a look at everyone else’s guesses and reassure them they’re correct! If these patterns are really buried in all of our psyches, then you should be able to create a worldwide success of a logo.

So relax, you’re not responsible for explaining to anybody what your image means. You just have to know the design patterns that work! And be sure it works, in the branding world…

Three Forms of Bird Imagery Through Time

Now while Jung refused to address the meanings of images, it is important to your company to choose an image that is congruous with its meaning. So we will explore what past civilizations had to say about these primordial images, the ones they were all drawing at the same time! And give meaning to these forms…

We scanned through history for you!

And we looked for some of the most frequently drawn, painted, sculpted, and forged symbols and discovered what meaning our ancestors attached to them.

Let’s look at three core imagery themes that you can always fall back on when designing or buying logos or branding with birds.

 

The Crane

A large and majestic looking bird.

And hence…

Cranes have repeatedly taken the role of a deity.

Ancient Egyptians thought it was able to rebirth itself infinitely, considering it as descended from heaven.

In ancient China it was also held to near immortal ideals, becoming the common symbol for longevity. Because of its high flying nature, its image was worn as a pendant on high ranking civil officials.

This physical distance in its high flight from us on the ground has also resulted in a psychological distance from the human. It’s no wonder they were seen as gods.

 

The ancient Egyptian representation of the crane god Bennu can be observed on the walls in ancient ruins sprawled across the country.

Of course, they considered the crane a deity, to where it even gets its own hieroglyph in their alphabet. In fact, a now extinct very large species of heron that could be found around the Arabian Peninsula at the time was what ancient Egyptians were basing this creature on.

Bennu’s worship was targeted in the ancient city of Heliopolis, as they imagined the crane was birthed from the sun.

The element in this art that seems to uniquely distinguish the crane from other birds is the straight line coming from the back of, and parallel to the head. This of course represents the head feathers of the crane, and is always portrayed in ancient Egypt as hovering long over the body. With the legs drawn as mere lines and the tail a point, the body of the crane is presented as very angular.

 

This ancient greek painted vase (430 B.C.) depicts the constant battles between the crane and the Pygmies in a scene from the Iliad. This rendition reveals the often vertical positioning of the crane’s body parts in pictorial imagery, with the wings, neck, or head feathers above the main body, and rarely overlapping one another.

This Qing Dynasty vase from the 1600s with a crane painted up top is done in the same very flat 2-D portrayal. It seems cranes are rarely given a 3-dimensional appearance. As before, the neck or head almost always bends back over the body. The very large wings not overlapping the body are stacked on top of it instead.

 

Modern logos built a simplified symbolism based on the crane representations of the past. One of the first things you’ll notice about Lufthansa’s logo is the head feather. This seems like a pretty clear reference to those ancient portraits of Bennu. It is drawn the same way, as a simple straight line parallel to the neck and body.

Blue Bird’s logo, while not obviously a crane, still borrows the habit of stacking and not overlapping the wings. The wings are unnaturally raised perfectly parallel above the body. This is not the shape of a bird you would ever see in real life, but it is not aesthetically displeasing and makes sense.

Aerolíneas Argentinas’s take on this splits the wings triangularly, while still keeping the same sharp points for wing tips. It also shows some unmistakable head feathers perfectly parallel to its elongated exact horizontal line of a body.

Each logo keeps with the angular crane motif by presenting the bird as linear, and inflexible. The narrow points of the wings and tails give the impression that these simplified bird symbol logos are in motion. The completely flat 2-D designs suggest moving at such incredible speed in one direction the viewer can only see them from the side.

Crane Form: Long linear lines, 2-D flat perspective from one side, little to no overlap between body parts, line drawn back from the head

 

The Eagle

The eagle has frequently been associated with gazing at the sun, rather than flying close to it or being birthed from it. 2nd-century writer Lucian wrote:

“the eagle is far the strongest-eyed of all living things, the only one that can look straight at the sun, meeting its rays without blinking”

This has been extrapolated across various cultures as it looking directly at the gods, and receiving their messages. And such, the eagle has come to symbolize staring at the truth, strong and unflinching. The eagle is a communicator with or confidant of the divine, rather than divine itself.

Many centuries old European cathedrals, especially French and Spanish such as the Notre Dame above, feature gargoyles adorned on their high ledges. Gargoyles were originally meant to be eagles (if you didn’t know), though they were later envisioned as dragons and hybrid creatures on their own.

The eagle lectern, another very common item in cathedrals, also frequently showed eagles standing on a dragon or a bible, such as the 13th century piece on the right. The outside stone ledges, or metal dragons featured the perfect opportunity to portray the perched stance we almost always see the eagle in, and not the flying image of other artistic birds.

 

We see ancient eagle Garuda with god Vishnu on his shoulders in Hindu mythology. Displayed by an 8th century sculpture here it reveals a common positioning of the eagle: frontally facing the audience. This means that both eyes are almost always visible, and the eyes are big and layered on this statue, perhaps staring into the aforementioned sun. Or your soul. Open wings, as if in mid takeoff or landing, have too become so ubiquitous in eagle imagery.

And the eagle is represented in insignia, flags, currencies, and badges across the world. Whether the flag of Kazakhstan, numerous ancient Roman coins, the Russian military coat of arms, or the US passport carried around the world, the eagle’s wings are raised in a circular arch upwards or downwards. One noticeable distinctive feature of eagle portrayal is the feet are always visible.

 

The Mozilla Thunderbird logo borrows the arched wing stance, with what looks like a hawk. They hug a mail letter, resembling the common eagle iconography of placing something between the wings. The eagle cradling the sun on the Kazakhstan flag, or the US Seal on the US Passport shows this.

Clothes company Lyle & Scott opts for a more triangular positioning of the wings, but emphasizes the claw filled talons, undoubtedly identifying it as an eagle. In its logo, it is suggested the eagle is seconds away from landing or perching upon something to resume its classical form in historical imagery.

The motif is distilled to its absolutely basic star shape in the American Republic Life Insurance company logo, accounting for wings and feet with a pointed tip, but making the eagle head just identifiable.

It is difficult with 2-D logos for the artist to depict a full frontal perspective showing both eyes, as it was easy in the sculpture medium often used by early societies.

However…

These logos show a tilt toward the audience. You rarely if ever see a 100% flat side view of the eagle in modern logos.

Eagle Form: Frontal perspective where both eyes show, arched wings up or downwards, perched stance with claws showing

 

The Small Bird

Although not species specific like other bird symbols, the smallish birds of many different types (but often something like bluebirds, doves, and hummingbirds) have been adapted into one character archetype as well as drawn in a general form.

These birds talk a lot!

Rather than the stony silence of the eagle for example. They are often portrayed as flying close to humans or the ground.

Through this minimized physical distance, they do not become superior over the human.

Instead…

The small bird is a sidekick to their human counterparts, able to communicate in human terms. When seeing images of these birds, one often hears them, and not just imagines their motion.

This allows them to be playfully personified, both in meaning and shape.

Huginn and Muninn might be one of the earliest examples. These two birds delivered messages into Odin’s ear. Their lines are rounded, as represented in this 18th-century tapestry. This gives way to softer bodies The beaks of these mythic communicators are opened, to indicate talking and noise, at least in a language Odin would understand.

These Tang Dynasty silver boxes were found in at the bottom of the sea in the wreck of a 9th-century ship on a return trip to China.

The birds’ backs are arched upwards, suggesting flexibility.

The body design was not meant to be strong and rigid, but rather fluid. To move quickly and change direction within short spaces. The choice to include two birds instead of one on the multiple artifacts recovered from this wreck is an important point, small birds were rarely depicted alone, but rather in groups on old art.

 

Disney’s 20th century films have further had a major impact in solidifying this archetype into the collective conscious through multiple works.

A very similar group of small birds are in direct communication with a damsel, aiding her along. It furthers the idea of them as a helper, fluttering around their main human. Their colors are softer, tending towards light pastel, and accompany their soft forms.

This no doubt has had a massive impact on the lens the worldwide public views small birds through in designs and logos today. Through Disney they have become characterized as cartoonish.

 

It would not be a stretch to think that the success of the Twitter logo has been fostered along by Disney’s cultural imprint.

The cartoonish blue bird logo takes the light pastel colors of its animated ancestors, as well as being full of personality in general. The upward arch’s similarity to those artifacts discovered on the sunken ship a thousand years ago is striking! Its open beak suggests it is flying up to your ear to say (tweet) something.

With the 2008 Beijing Olympics red bird logo, you see the choice to show multiple birds instead of one. Although the dragon isn’t technically a person, it perhaps personifies China, with the swarm of birds around it being the various nations coming to China to compete.

The Halcyon Group, a European organization that facilitates conferences and summits for groups worldwide, depicts the namesake halcyon bird in its logo, which most likely reminds viewers of its close relative the hummingbird. It uses curvy lines along which to draw its wings and mid-flight body, giving it light colors as well.

The small bird archetype includes many species, from the long lifespan lovebird to the half insect hummingbird! Check out NewGlue’s assortment of lovebird logos or hummingbird logos to get on your products.

One of the top logo designers right now Artsigma even takes you through the steps of his signature hummingbird logo in this video. It was created purely out of circles! Small bird design doesn’t get more curvy than that.

Small Bird Form: Rounded lines, arched back and stomach, body/torso-centric, open beak

 

Closing

You Shouldn’t Dismiss Old Design Concepts Immediately

Some people may think it’s tedious to look at old art or say you remind them of their grandpa.

“It’s 2019, why are you into that stuff?”

Yet we guarantee that almost any artwork they’ve made borrows from some ancient theme. Yes, we can now give our modern logos that glossy look in Illustrator through toggling the gradients, opacities, and bevel and emboss. But the geometry and content remain the same.

The reason why people choose a specific bird species and the lines they draw is that they are familiar with those past styles. In this case, the cohabitation of human and bird has formed archetypes upon which all art sprawls out. Check out this graphic plus other variations in this article for more ideas to play with!

You don’t have to stay only within the basic shapes.

You can borrow from them, and go wild with your logo! Having mere elements of these archetypes will serve to boost your bird logo by multitudes!

Everyone instinctively responds to these images so how can you lose?

Applying These Themes

When deciding on representation vs. form, you now have a solid template to base a bird logo on.

You must consider your company’s meaning and mission first!

Then decide on…

Which type of bird suits you?

If you are in the business of truth and straightforwardness, consider branding yourself with an eagle. Though we all probably like to think our companies have these traits, a law firm would be the most stereotypical example for this theme.


Jonas

by Jonas

Favorite Branding: Preem

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