Graphic Design is a bastadized culmination of many visual, linguistic, and in some cases auditory diciplines. Genre, in the way most people understand it, relates to music. Songs that exsits within the same genre share similar signifiers (tempo, instruments, melodies, etc). But genre also plays a big role in design.
The best way to understand genre, is to understand how our brain works.
Complicated to Simple
Our brains have a limited capacity. From an early age we begin to make sense of our world through similariy and difference (this shape is a square it fits in the square hole, but the circle doesn’t). The physical and social world is very complex and constantly changing. Catagorising things based on similarities and differences is how we can understand and, to some extent, control our environment. Genre is one term to describe that categorisation.
There is genre in social environments as well. Stereotypes are a result of categorisation. It is an over simplification and generally occurs when we have limited knowledge or experience.
In film we have the cliche. Cliches are an over-use of a particularly defining aspect of that genre (the cool guy didn’t look at the explosion wow he must be a bad-ass). In film the characteristics of a genre is called a motif or recurring motif.
Simple to Complicated
How does this relate to logo design? In a board sense genres of other disaplines influence graphic design. Over a period of time we learn that this type of design is associated with thise type of music / movie etc.
As a result of reccurring themes each genre developes a set of conventions (only use these fonts, these colours) which at first can appear very limiting or constricting. Check this out. However, this “learned” knowledge in the viewers mind allows us to predict how they are going to react. Playing with the conventions of genre is one of the best way to create tension and an engaging design.
Logo Design in Context
You can’t design in a vacuum. Understanding that the people looking at your logo have an exsisting visual literacy (even at a subconcious level) is key to designing well. Here are some basic stuctures in logo design:
These are over-arching categories that 99% of logos will fit into. There are also reccuring themes (trends) the occure each year or so. For example, the retro theme:
Signifiers of the genre:
Shields, banners, muted colours, textured background, framing, key lines, novelty fonts, etc. More here.
Another example is the particle theme:
As with anything design related, keeking up with trends can help keep your logos fresh. Here is a link to 2014 logo trends. Unless you want to google "logo" for inspiration and come back with something like this
It’s very rare that you will be expected to create a logo that fits entirely within a genre. However putting in more subtle elements can create depth and subtlety. Choosing to add elements of the retro theme for example might give you logo a handcrafted / boutique feel.
Experience versus Knowledge
In my opinion there is no substitute for experience, that’s why people with more experience deserve to charge more money. But if you are just starting out or you are new to logo design knowing why (and asking why) is the best way to get better. My hope is that armed with a rudimental understanding more people will appreciate the thought that goes into such a tiny graphic.