As a graphic designer, I am often plagued with the affliction of critiquing designed things everywhere I look. Every menu, billboard and sign I see is dissected and reworked to a point where I’ve ruined date nights with my wife. I have learned to keep such critiques internalized for that very reason. Great designers are perfectionists – we can’t help it.
As a creative director active on social media, I notice myself sometimes following Twitter users with the best avatars, like picking wines based solely on the label. Of course, as the saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Yet, I find myself making such judgements on Twitter. Perhaps that little avatar is more important that its size would indicate.
When creating a Twitter avatar, clarity and simplicity are key. These square little files range in size from 48px to 128px, so you don’t have much room with which to work. Your logo or a snippet of visual language from your brand identity should be used to clearly and quickly identify yourself to the end user. A few best practices to keep in mind:
1) A Twitter avatar should be a clear indication of the brand visual language in a simple graphic image.
2) The avatar does not need to be the corporate signature locked up with the logo mark.
3) The avatar should be a symbol-only logo supportive of the Twitter username (i.e. @FalkHarrison or @Target)
4) Items 2 and 3 above work hand-in-hand. Why double your effort by having the company name in both the Twitter avatar and Twitter username?
5) The Twitter avatar should rarely change.
I spent countless eyes-glazed-over hours scouring Twitter for my favorite corporate Twitter avatars, and below are my 25 favorite examples. These are displayed at their smallest size (48×48 px) with comments that explain my appreciation.
The Allstate Insurance logo is already simple and iconic, and lends itself to avatar usage. Some logos, as you will see, can utilize the entire logo mark. The signature (company name in the logo) is usually not necessary.
Amazon keys in on just the most recognizable feature of the Amazon.com logo. You don’t need the entire logo if you allow your brand vocabulary some freedom to express itself in different ways in different situations.
Here, Ameren presents themselves with their iconic mark. Every Ameren customer knows who provides their power due to that monthly bill we get in the mail. No need to clutter it up the avatar with too much information.
Booz Allen Hamilton has a very sophisticated, simple palette to utilize. You know who they are when you need them, and you know where to find them in case you need them in the future. Thats why you follow them. They take advantage of their name’s ability to be truncated into two short syllables, and they lay it out for you. Yes, they repeat their name in the avatar and the Twitter handle, but it’s clean and they do not have a distinguishable visual – only their simple yet powerful name.
Full disclosure: I am a fan of the Chicago Bulls, and of their iconic bull’s head logo. The bold red avatar is simple and perfectly exciting to use as their Twitter avatar. Now, if they could just get steam to blow out his nostrils.
I agree! I can’t read the type on the label either. But you don’t need to, thanks to the shape of the proprietary design of the bottle, and the color of the soda and label. I understand the argument that this could just be the shape of the bottle on red, but when I imagine that … I don’t get as thirsty. Excuse me for a moment, while I run and get an ice-cold Coca-Cola Classic.
I rate the Consumer Reports Twitter avatar as my number 1 favorite in this blog post. If you are fan of the ratings giant, you instantly get it.
It’s two big, fat yummy Ds, one orange the other pink. Who else could this be? Dunkin Donuts keeps the fun alive on Twitter with these unmistakable letterforms.
Fast Company Magazine takes their masthead and shakes it up a bit. Here they play up the FAST and simply fill out the remaining avatar space with COMPANY. I like how they took the logo and, not without reason, broke it in two. Besides, nothing’s FASTer than the buzz of Twitter.
HBR is another business magazine that is relying on the simplicity of three things: color, consistent use of typography and their domain name (www.HBR.org). Pair that with “Harvard Biz Review” as their Twitter name and you know you have solid content you can rely on.
The logos of companies like Instagram were designed to be small … for the smartphone app environment. That alone makes the creation of a Twitter avatar a pretty easy task for Instagram and app developers like them. This particular one a favorite of mine.
Johnson & Johnson corporate media relations team use the “keep it simple, keep it on brand and keep it updated” approach. The script signature of the company’s historic trademark carries the visual brand voice through very clearly. Again, this mirrors the company’s simple URL (www.jnj.com).
When your Twitter handle is @kfc_colonel, whose picture do you think you’re gonna get!? That happy, smiling face from YUM Brands can’t be ignored, and its graphic nature stands apart from the rest of the feed (pun intended).
The McDonald’s golden arches are unmistakable. Already simple in form. No words needed. Ok. Ok. “I’m lovin’ it!”
Microsoft just launched their new logo. A VERY simplified grid of their trademark colors form the symbol. It really doesn’t need anything more than that. Try and fit the entire logo (symbol plus logotype) together in the same little square, and it would get diminished.
Look at that “N!” It just pops right off the red. This avatar says “Action!” And, it’s just an “N,” with a drop shadow, and a field of curtain red. You really don’t need to overwork it. If you inspect your logo really closely, you will find the element that grabs you.
The New York Times was introduced to the people of New York City in 1851 as the New-York Daily Times. Since day one, The Times has utilized a gothic script, and the T in Times has been the most recognizable letterform.
Pinterest is the latest social media platform to catch fire. The script P avatar and blazing red are instantly recognizable. If only the Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) Twitter account would take note of this design.
By now, I think you are getting the idea. If you have an iconic brand symbol that’s tattooed on society’s brain (or tush), like the Playboy Bunny, you really need to use it. And in such cases, you can get away with the simplest presentation.
This may be one of my favorite magazines for content and design. But, I’m a foodie and love great photography. So I know the Saveur publication brand as a consumer. Seeing the big tasty “S” popping up in my feed reinforces the brand for a fan like me.
If anyone knows how to brand oneself on Twitter, my guess is that the founder of Twitter has a good grasp. @Jack Dorsey’s newest company, Square, does it very simply with, well, a square – their logo (and it’s the shape of their payment-taking product.)
I selected this because its recognizably Taco Bell. Even though I am a little dismayed it’s not in color, I can still hear the bell ring when it pops up in the feed (see what I did there?).
Target. Again, an unmistakable mark. They wear it well. Even the use of the ® under the bullseye works to keep the brand officially on [ fill in the blank ].
I must be drawn to red logos, but this use of Walgreens script “W” is clear and is “on brand.”
The Wall Street Journal uses their classic masthead font, simplified to their online URL (www.WSJ.com) with their sophisticated color “cream newsprint” color palette.
These are my favorites – what did I miss? Leave a comment below and let me know.