I’ve reached a big milestone in my academic career: my first published research paper.

Brand new: How visual context shapes initial response to logos and corporate visual identity systems has bene published in the Journal of Product and Brand Management. It’s available now online and will eventually be assigned to an issue. If you have access to journal articles through a university or public library, you can access the article.

If you can’t access the article, here’s the abstract:

When a new logo is released, it does not have an established meaning in the mind of the viewer. As logos have become more highly scrutinized by consumers and critics, it has become more important to understand viewers’ initial response to logos. While other studies have researched the impact of aesthetic choices on viewer reaction to logos, this study aims to understand the effect of the surrounding visual identity system when a new logo is introduced. This study combines a content analysis of 335 posts on the logo review website Brand New with the voting data from their polls to understand how visual context correlates with a viewer’s initial response. Increased amounts of visual context correlate to an improved response from viewers. Different types of context that can be presented – from logo variations and environmental examples to videos and animation – have varied effects.

Basically, my study finds that people respond better to new logos when they are shown more examples of the logo in use. This is one of those things that seems intuitive to designers, but hasn’t been researched or quantified. Because I’m a designer, most people are surprised that my research includes a fair amount of statistical analysis, but I’ve really taken to the quantitive side of things. This paper has been in review for over a year, working it’s way through the revision process.

It’s fitting that this is my first paper to be published. When I started grad school, I didn’t really know anything about scholarly research. In the spring of 2019 — my second semester as a grad student — I took a content analysis class with Carol Pardun. I was the only master’s level student in a class full of Ph.D. students. I felt so overwhelmed by the pressure to come up with an idea and learn methods and theories on the fly. The paper I wrote for that class was the first version of this paper. It was accepted to the AEJMC Conference that August and I presented in Toronto — my first academic conference presentation. I loved the concept for the study and got great feedback, but I was still learning and felt like I could improve it. I scrapped everything, started over with a larger sample and better methodology. After Dr. Pardun retired, I started working with Tara Mortensen on the next evolution of this work, which turned into my thesis. And that thesis eventually became this paper.

Thanks go out to so many people who’ve help me along the way:

  • Dr. Pardun for supporting my bizarre little project, especially in the early days when the project was taking shape.
  • All of the Ph.D. students in that content analysis class who helped me figure things out and took me under their wing.
  • Dr. Mortensen for taking over as my thesis director and helping guide me through the publication process.
  • Kevin Hull and Van Kornegay for serving on my committee and providing helpful feedback.
  • Robert McKeever and Jacob Long for giving me an appropriate foundation for analyzing data.
  • Editor Cleopatra Veloutsou who guided me through the process with the Journal of Product and Brand Management.
  • All of the reviewers and discussants at the conference level for AEJMC and in the peer review process whose feedback legitimately made this paper better.

And of course, this couldn’t have happened without the rest of Team Wertz. Liz and the kids have been so supportive and patient while I have embarked on this grad school journey. (And occasionally, Norah and Jill even joined me at Starbucks when I had to write.) I simply could not have done it without them.

I’ve still got a few years left until I finish my classwork and dissertation, but I’m exceptionally proud of this milestone and excited to see where my research goes next.

Bob Wertz is a creative director, type designer, Ph.D. student and researcher living in Columbia, South Carolina.