The Humane Society of the United States has a logo of animal silhouettes aggregated to form the shape of the United States.


It’s inclusive; when I think of humane societies, I think first of pitiful dogs and cats. I don’t think of pigs and beavers and cows and dolphins and monkeys. The dark navy is serious, and puts each species at equal visual weight. Emphasis on the word “humane” invites us to think twice about what it really means.

When scaled down, though, the logo no longer looks like an assemblage of silhouettes. See how it looks as a tab icon:


I expected an utter breakdown of the design scaled down, but interestingly, it looks immediately like a fat fish, with the (Texas) whale’s fin and bottom tail fin forming the bottom tips of this fish’s two fins, and Maine and Florida making its tail fins.

If the logo shape had been made to show the Great Lakes, or to include Alaska and Hawaii, it wouldn’t look like a fish at all…and scaled down it would flop entirely. And this same technique wouldn’t work well for the shape of most countries (and certainly not countries with multiple islands, like Indonesia, for example).

I wouldn’t call this logo design mindblowingly awesome, but when I try to think of alternative ideas, I can start to see why this was what the designer came up with. How else might you show a breadth of animal species, and in a way that shows they take their work very seriously?

If you Google image search for humane society logos, you’ll see how other organizations handle this challenge. They tended to feature only a few animals, typically dogs and cats. Hands add a caring human touch. These are are a few of my favorites, though all regional societies. Note how the cat’s tail pokes past the white baseline and points the eye to “compassion”:


The back of the hand on the right side here feels oddly angled to me, and the forearms feel a little heavy (a little heavy handed?), but the cat in the white space is done beautifully:


Not a big fan of the heart in “regional” here, but I do like the shape of the dog, cat, and hand supporting them both. Note that the dog is paying attention to the words, and the cat is totally ignoring us, as cats do.