A COMMENT BECOMES A POST
This blog post started out as a comment on another blog post, Why Does A Company Need A Logo?, written by fellow Digital Brand Marketing Education Blog author, John Lasurdo. His article was published on June 21, 2011. As a fellow graphic designer, I have experienced that logos and their design are a favorite discipline of mine.
I found that the comment I started to write regarding John’s post wanted to be more and, thanks to his excellent, educational and thought provoking blog post, my comment quickly evolved into a blog post, acknowledging his thoughts and adding to this topic.
I have watched and continue to watch the evolution of logos and branding. Historically, it seems that the wordless icon has evolved from much more complex designs. In fact, many companies and situations that used to require both images (icons) and logotype as their ‘logo/brand’, have simplified and streamlined their visual and verbal brand down to their simplest forms. Pepsi, Air Jordan and, of course, Nike (Just Do It) come to mind both visually and verbally related to this.
There are even companies that have taken the logo/brand concept a step further and reduced their brand to a single word. This is particularly fascinating to me. For example, in the case of UPS, that word is a color and the color is ‘BROWN’. Mention ‘BROWN’, as UPS refers to itself in its commercials, or hear the reference to ‘brown’ and any marketing savvy person will know the reference is to none other than UPS.
Color and Type
In another case, although the color is not the ‘spoken brand’, it is the symbolic brand. Such is the example of Home Depot. Every time I see a large blur of orange signage along major road ways, I think and know it is none other than Home Depot. They have basically claimed the color orange, in a square shaped format, without ever saying a word about it. Was this meant to be sneaky? No, I believe it is part of subliminal and savvy logo/branding.
Speaking of orange, there exists what I consider to be one of the most outstanding, award winning quality examples of logo/branding executions of all times. It is FedEx, which is short for Federal Express. The brilliance of this logo/branding metamorphosis existed in several stages:
• Initially, there was the shortening of the two-worded name, a noun, into a ‘nickname’, a verb, ‘FedEx’.
• The ‘nickname’, ‘FedEx’ as a verb, then became synonymous with shipping. That is fantastic marketing when the product name becomes the generic noun or verb description. Such is also the case with Kleenex for tissues, Xerox for copy, and Google for search.
To get back to the use of orange (I wouldn’t forget, it’s my favorite color lately) and the variety of other colors FedEx has adopted, the brand continues to evolve. Quoted from FedEx on the LogoBlog.org site is the following, “In 1994, Lindon Leader of Landor Associates created the new FedEx ‘hidden logo design’ which has become a highly recognized corporate symbol of FedEx Corporation. Behind the FedEx logo’s simplicity, lays an arrow located in the negative space between the ‘E’ and ‘X’ pointing rightwards. While the arrow in the FedEx logo becomes quite obvious when pointed out, it sure is neglected by many. This arrow in the FedEx logo has been used as a form of subliminal advertising of the brand, symbolizing forward movement and thinking. ”
• The ‘hidden logo design’ results from the brilliant use of the lack of color in the white space between the letters E and x where the arrow pointing right appears. This is a subliminally superior graphic execution of a visual for the concept of movement since transportation, the movement of goods, service and even ideas is what Federal Express is all about.
• The next stage is the differentiation between their various divisions with the clever manipulation of color. The corporate logo as well as the services division uses gray with purple, express shipping uses orange with purple, ground shipping uses green with purple, freight uses red with purple, trade networks uses yellow with purple and their ‘partnership’ with Kinko’s uses blue with purple. It is the same logotype, FedEx. A simple, singular change of color clearly denotes each aspect of their company and their brand.
Another example of logo/branding transformation is British Petroleum.
• A shortening of the name to a ‘nickname’ consisting of merely two letters, BP, an affectionate simplification that occurred early on and served the company well with minor changes for many years. See the illustration below.
• But the recent transformation is more than meets the eye. It was a very shrewd action economically and politically because it further de-emphasized the country (British), the product (Petroleum) by minimizing the logotype to circular icon creating an entirely different story. A story from cars on roadways to a modern alternative energy age.
• This evolution of their logo was designed to prepare the public and the company culture for big changes. But who knew what they were up to underneath their sunny veneer of transformational branding suggesting company culture changes.
• Their long standing, classic shaped logo, was representative of a highway sign. It was turned into more of a logo by icon that looks like a stylized sun or circle of energy in yellow and green, implying a burst of eco-friendly energy, rather than gas and oil for cars on the highway.
The British Petroleum logo/brand transformation was a masterful and classic example of the kinds of changes companies have been making over the decades. It is also very much in keeping with the times of changing energy sources. The only problem is that one just does not know whether or not excellence in branding development implying positive changing of company values followed by actual bad deeds, is sufficient to save a company from economic and political suicide.
THE LOGO ICON
Here is a more upbeat story in the annals of logo design that must be included in a historically influenced post about this topic. It can also be viewed on a video of Steve Jobs discussing his choice of then, world famous designer, Paul Rand , for the task of creating Steve’s NEXT company logo. Steve questioned Paul Rand on the design process inquiring as to whether or not he would be given a variety of optional designs to choose from for the project. Mr. Rand simply said, “No”.
Paul then explained that he would provide Steve with his ‘solution to the problem’. Steve would pay for it and if he wanted other options, he was free to go to other designers for their ‘solutions’.
Clearly Mr. Rand was confident in his ability to solve Steve Job’s problem. Over the years, Paul Rand had solved the ‘problem’ of creating logos for most of the top corporations in America. View video at end of post.
In conclusion, I hope that both the original logo blog post writer, John Lasurdo, who was the catalyst for this post, and those who are reading it, will find my comment turned blog post an interesting addition in providing further insight into this topic. My words were inspired by John’s words and my ideas are flavored with historical references to the saga of logo design and branding.
AUTHOR’S AFTER THOUGHT
I had never considered graphic design and logo design, in particular, so political until I studied their history and evolution in depth preparing for this article. I am amazed by the power that simple icons and logotype can have. They are NOT just a matter of pretty designs.
Why Does A Company Need a Logo?
Air Jordan on Wikipedia
The History of Logos
The Home Depot Logo
The FedEx Logo
The World’s Best Logos: British Petroleum
The Redesign of the BP Logo After the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill
Steve Jobs on Paul Rand YouTube Video