Ah, February. It’s the symbolic month of love and passion — powerful words that apply to the heart and speak to what a designer must bring to the table when creating that powerful little visual beacon we call the logo.
To me, the most memorable logos suggest intrigue, discovery, wit, craft, and distinction.
B2B brands that get this right include venture capital firm 3i Group and Manpower. 3i’s blue and red logo with an eye over the “I,” is so unique, unexpected, and unlike any other company logo in private equity. And the brand mark for Manpower, an employment services company, is beautiful, sturdy, and rhythmic. One can almost feel the momentum of a workforce in action.
Much like people, logos are usually perceived and experienced in two very different ways: Visually and emotionally.
1.) The visual experience, or what I’ll call “the face” — is relative to what we see on the surface — the immediate take or read. Is it captivating, interesting, well designed, attention getting? Does it provoke intrigue and a desire to look deeper and to discover? Many logos are instantaneous in their visual read. Many beg for the viewer to look deeper to uncover hidden or embedded references. Consider the arrow between the “e” and the “x” in the FedEx symbol. (Some people miss it.) It’s in this area that smart design prevails.
2.) After a first, superficial impression, we get to know the personality and character of brands through the logos we recognize. The right or wrong experience can quickly determine how we think of the logo. Consider Paul Rand’s Enron logo, with its “slanted E” as a perfect case in point. With the company’s troubles, the logo quickly came to represent mistrust and failure. Now think of the brand powerhouse Dell and its logo with its “slanted E.” Thus, in this area, we visually connect a logo to how we associate and experience the brand, rather than judging it on its design merits.
How we come to experience “logo love” is extremely individual and personal. Some logos are magnetic in their appearance and reflect charismatic brand personalities. Think of the iconic brand marks for Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola, and Cirque du Soleil. Then there’s the “not so beautiful.” The Google logo is comprised of an esthetically mundane font selection and emphasized by a “play school” color palette. Yet the association of this logo conjures a brand personality that is enormously successful and intelligent. As bad as the Google logo “looks” to a trained eye, the brain renders the logo design as a statement of high quality. Strange, but true.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and on the subject of love and passion, I asked my design colleagues, Lindsey Blake and Dwight Touchberry, to call out a few logo designs that make their hearts flutter.
Lindsey loves the beautiful, elegant and lyrical Love Stamp, designed by Jessica Hische and art directed by Louise Fili. She also appreciates the logo for the Vrionis Music House saying, “not only does the purple tie to passion, but the simplicity of the grand piano shape reminded me of a heart. For the love of music!” And, lastly, she loves the typographic humor of Showtime’s suggestive Masters of Sex logo, saying “this caught my eye on several buses and other advertisements around here in NYC.” What’s not to like? The sideways “E” in sex is, well, reclining and the image inside appears to be a naked woman’s body.
Dwight loves Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture in midtown Manhattan and original painting, a successful execution to branding the idea of love in typographic form. With the “O” leaning towards the “V” — showing an attraction, along with iconic red letters, there is emotion to the letter forms. In its sculptural form, Indiana gave the letter forms depth — an effect that most typographers and designers try to avoid. In the presence of this sculpture, you almost “feel” the emotion that the word suggests.
Logo design is incredibly important to brand visibility. It’s the immediate face that one meets first, before experiencing the entirety of the brand. And unless your brand is the size of Google, with a budget to match, great design is the starting point for propelling a brand and its perception forward.
So what’s the perfect match? When highly memorable design and positive brand experience unite, it’s hard not to spark a bit of brand love.