Can You Draw the Starbucks Logo Without Cheating? Probably Not.

Logos are what companies use to help customers identify the brand, and choices like design, color and font are “critical,” Mr. James said. “Having these logos where you can’t correctly recall details means something.”

In an age of digital saturation, perhaps many of these carefully constructed logos are not as memorable as we think. A study conducted in 2014 by psychologists at the University of California, Los Angeles similarly asked 85 participants if they could draw the familiar Apple logo from memory. More than half the subjects even identified themselves as strictly Apple users. Yet only one could draw the icon perfectly, as scored by a 14-point rubric.

Should Apple be worried? Not necessarily. Dr. Alan Castel, a psychology professor who was one of the authors of the study, said that the inability to accurately recall such daily ephemera as a brand logo really might be a beneficial quirk of our memory system.

“We don’t burden our memory with things we don’t need to know,” Dr. Castel said. He referred to a famous study in 1979 by the psychologists Raymond Nickerson and Marilyn Jager Adams, in which participants were asked to draw the face of a penny. Most struggled.

“It’s rare that you really need to recall something from memory,” Dr. Castel said. “You simply recognize it, you see it on an item or a computer. You like it, you buy it.”

Still, in recent years, brands like Uber, YouTube, and Dropbox have redesigned their logos, trying to make them more simple, more intuitive or more easily recognizable. In 2014, Airbnb announced its new logo, which it calls the Bélo, in a video that noted that the design was easy for customers to draw.


Airbnb redesigned its logo to be easy to draw, in hopes that customers would use it in their own homes.

Matthew Millman for The New York Times

Paul Stafford, co-founder of DesignStudio, the…

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