Can You Draw the Apple Logo From Memory?

New research shows you probably can’t

Liam Norris/cultura/Corbis

The Apple logo is one of the most-recognized logos in the world—but chances are you’re really, really bad at drawing it. How do we know? Science, of course.

In the 1970s, scientists showed that Americans were surprisingly bad at remembering visual details of pennies, one of the most common physical objects available for study. But a group of psychologists from the University of Los Angeles wondered if that weakness applied in today’s logo-saturated environment. So they put 85 students (only 11 percent of whom did not use Apple products regularly) in a logo-free room and asked them to draw the Apple logo and rate their confidence in the drawing on a scale of 1 to 10.

The results were underwhelming. Only one participant of 85 drew the logo accurately, though seven other participants drew it without major errors. And when they were asked to pick the real logo out of a lineup of eight options, only 47 percent of participants passed the test. Though Apple users were slightly more confident in their ability to spot the real logo, they were no more confident than PC users when it came to actually drawing it.

In another experiment, the team asked 26 undergrads (93 percent Apple users) to rate their confidence about how well they could recall the Apple logo before and after drawing it. Though they found no significant correlation in pre-drawing confidence and actual ability to draw the logo, the participants’ confidence in the logo they had drawn afterwards was strongly indicative of the logo’s accuracy (or lack thereof).

The confidence gap seems to point to the same thing shown in the penny study—though humans have a huge capacity for visual recall, they fall down on the job when it comes to accuracy. Research Digest explains why:

Blake and his team said one explanation is that the over-exposure to, and availability of, the Apple logo stops people attending to its details (this makes sense from a functional perspective – why bother remembering something that's ever present?). Consequently people form a "gist memory" for the logo (i.e. "it's an apple") and they end up drawing what it "should look like instead of what they remembered it to look like". The researchers predict the same might be true for the coloured letters of the ubiquitous Google logo, and other highly familiar logos.

Want to replicate the experiment at home? Grab a pencil and give it a whirl—before you tune into today’s highly-anticipated Apple Watch event, that is. For extra credit, see if you can spot the hidden messages in these 40 famous logos.