Why we can't remember ubiquitous logos, even Apple's

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As I said when this was posted a while back… maybe they might not remember exactly what Apple’s logo looks like, but drawing something that looks even remotely like, you know, an apple might be a good attempt. Maybe the failing isn’t memory so much as drawing skill.

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Yeah, with the logo in front of me I’d struggle to draw a decent looking copy.

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I’m sticking with “apathy.”

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Donald Norman described that penny scenario in one of his design books, along with this illustrative multiple choice.


I would venture this is also why dreams are so surreal and why Inception felt cool, but not dream like. In dreams our mind has to either fuzz over or randomly decide any details we put into it because we just don’t commit those sorts of things to memory, but we have great recognition systems that tell us everything looks a little off…

Look at those apples again. I think it’s obvious who has more practice drawing penises than apples.

The bottom right Apple should be considered close enough.

Good luck drawing a Starbucks logo [new or old] from memory!

From taking various art and design classes in college and then taking an intensive Mandarin Chinese class my final semester I became convinced that there are different degrees of visual memory.

Learning to recognize something takes the least amount of effort, but can still take quite a bit depending on complexity and familiarity.

Learning to draw something from memory - including Chinese characters, takes a lot more effort. My Chinese instructor, a full professor and head of the department, said that there were some characters that he could read easily but still had to double-check to write properly.

When I was living in Taiwan a friend of mine saw a street vendor sitting in his newsstand, practicing calligraphy with a brush and sheets of old newspaper. The vendor was fairly old and my friend asked him why he was practicing writing at his age. The man told him that he’d forget how if he didn’t.

As has already been mentioned it can take a fair amount of effort and experience to draw something accurately - “on model,” even when you have an example right in front of you. This includes making a line drawing copy of a corporate logo, a cartoon character, or writing a traditional Chinese character.


I was willing to bet a penny on M. Wow.

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