Often there is the mistaken assumption that there is a trade off between simplifying an image and getting a lot of ideas across. This does not have to be the case. In fact, you will get better results from your advertising and branding if you are able to achieve both at the same time.
Propositional density is the name given to the number of ideas relative to the number of elements making up an image. In general, the more that people can associate with an image the more meaning the image will have and therefore the stronger an impression that image will have.
This can be achieved in two different ways. One which I call physical propositional density, and the other which I call conceptual propositional density.
PHYSICAL PROPOSITIONAL DENSITY
This is the number of ideas that are contained in the actual physical image itself relative to the number of elements making up the image. If we take the example of a logo, we already associate various colours, shapes and symbols with different concepts: for example we associate red with danger, circles with unity, doves with peace and so on. By making use of these associations that people already have, you can add a greater deal of meaning to your design.
Take for example this logo:
In this example for a catering company, the initials are placed inside each other to form a plate and the knife and fork have been skewed slightly to create an overall picture of a figure with their hands up having fun. This is 3 main ideas in one logo.
CONCEPTUAL PROPOSITIONAL DENSITY
As a brand develops throughout its existence, more meaning can be built into what your brand itself means. Consider the following brands and consider the number of associations that there are with them.
Physical propositions: golden arches – welcoming; forming an M – for ‘McDonald’s’
Conceptual propositions: fast food, family restaurant, large company, employs young people
Physical propositions: tick – positivity; swoosh – speed
Conceptual propositions: sports, victory, style, athleticism
Physical propositions: Siren – seafaring, historical, welcoming, irresistible
Conceptual propositions: coffee, bohemian, fairtrade, ubiquitous, free wi fi.
Notice how the conceptual propositions can often be radically different from what is included in the logo, but are built into the minds of the observer through advertising, in house branding initiatives and also through the reputations of the companies themselves.
This is why a company like BP may choose to rebrand itself with a green flower to instill an image of environmental conscientiousness in the observer’s mind given the nature of what they do and the importance in giving an impression they are doing this properly.