Wait…what? When design trumps readability

Look at the photo and tell me the name of the company.

I asked my young-adult daughter to do the same, and she paused before hesitantly offering, “Northern & Machine Fab?” My son said:

At first glance, I read Northern Fab, LLC. Then I see & Machine, but Northern & Machine Fab, LLC, doesn’t make sense. So it must be Northern Fab & Machine, LLC. Is that right? I’m not sure; it’s not clear.

Is that your experience?

Today’s observation is about readability, an important element in sending out a clear message. At first glance, you may have seen “Northern Fab, LLC” because the typeface is attention-grabbing. After that, you may have noticed “& Machine” sandwiched in the middle. And that’s what is confusing. English is read from left to right, top to bottom. Therefore, we read, “Northern & Machine Fab, LLC.” Yet the font choices lead us to “Northern Fab.”

I can’t speak for the designer and the choices they made. Perhaps this arrangement fit their graphic better. Or they liked the compact size. Many decision choices go into designing a logo (see my process), but it’s important to blend both design and readability.