by Art Chantry (email@example.com)
i’ve always considered logo design to be the single most difficult sort of project a graphic designer has to do for a client. look at it this way: to design a decent logo, you have to collaborate with a client, learn all his hopes and dreams, his business, his practice, his partnerships and markets, his personal goals and that of his competition and his partners and investors. you need to carefully suss out everything there is to know about the client and his/her life and philosophies and future potential and personal possibiiities. then you have to represent all of that information in a little black & white squiggle about the size of a dime. just how does one do such a thing, anyway? it’s magic.
the past few months, i’ve several times wasted everybody’s attention span complaining about particularly bad logos being designed in the current new design climate out there. it seems as if a large number of big established companies and corporations have decided to “modernize that sucker” and re-design their old trademarks. the ones that i whined about specifically were the jack-in-the-box logo and the new jc penny’s logo (and even the new ups logo popped up in comment threads). these are all classic examples of really bad design thought. the new marks are witless contemporary fashion concepts with no soul and certainly little design experience behind them.
it’s as if the youngest (therefore ‘hippest”) guy in the design firm was selected to design it because he was so ‘hip and young’ and so ‘good’ on a computer (probably the CG whiz bang they hired straight out of school for a fraction the salary after they laid off the old master who’d been with the firm for a few decades too long). what comes out of that mind is a piece of contemporary decoration, not a process-driven concept. these new logos have weak typography (almost ignorant of the classic rules, and even ignorant of technical understanding of good functional design) and tend to be riddled with all the bells and whistles of pop technology – drop shadows, screen tints, flexed everything, curved this and that, exotic prolific color schemes, enormous detail, crude metaphors, etc. etc. they just all look like they were designed by students in a ’101′ level classroom – not major league corporate design work. it’s embarrassing, really.
to counterbalance (fair and balanced???) my rant about the lousy logo work of today, want to show you guys a couple new fabulous great logos that have popped up in the last year. the first is the corporate logo for the new all-progressive “current tv” cable network. for years, i’ve been saying that the left needs to reclaim the american flag (after all those years of the 60′s where the left burned it regularly.) the left needs to take the concept of america back from it’s current role as solely the symbol of the extreme right. so, seeing this logo pop up was a wonderful sight to my sore and tired eyes.
the begin with, this thing is always shown actually animated. it looks like a b&w flag flapping the wind (designed by wolff olins & GHAVA). any version of this logo can be used in stable print form (i guess there is one selected as the ‘official’ still logo image). but, any variation of this thing is fine. i’ve been using this ‘waving flag’ idea in my own works for decades. and i’ve also experimented endlessly with the idea of multiple logos for a single company (logos seem so silly to me these days. do, why not a lot of them?) but, actually seeing this thinking show up on a nationally syndicated network ID is really cool. i love this logo.
the other logo is a total classic – the new comedy central corporate ID). this one is so good that it’ll go into the graphic design history textbooks for all the kiddies to learn from. the thinking and concepting behind this design reeks of old-school graphic design process and experience. it was designed by a couple of old (former) portland, oregon, pals – alicia johnson and hal wolverton (now called ‘TheLab’). the first time i saw the new logo i laugh out loud at how smart it was. the idea of usurping the ‘copyright’ mark into an irreverent slap at all thing sacred is brilliant. even the inverted ‘central’ in the caption line is a brilliant and simple gesture. this design rams the whole idea of irreverent comedy and boundary pushing commentary straight into your mind and it STAYS there. it’s the closest thing to an absolutely perfect logo design this side of the CBS eye (by william golden.) it’s even funny that the reaction to the new logo has been negative. PC idiots out there are offended that comedy central appears to be ridiculing the sanctity of copyright. even that’s hilarious – and oh, so perfect! touché, johnson/wolverton!
these two logo treatments are so refreshing that i have to cheer them out loud. real ideas, smartly and simply stated. total thought, completely great work. so unlike so much of the cr
stuff out there that is so often wrongly referred to as “logo design”. the work of these folks gives me hope that my art form, my craft, is actually not dying, but simply hiding.
AC:notice that on the comedy central logo, the unpaid down ‘central’ coincides with the upside-down “C” in the monogram. it’s a perfect echo that sez it all….
…i really blame the spread of design technology into the hands of the amateurs. in all honesty, no one really needs to hire a designer anymore – you can do it yourself just as well. the technology is that good these days. normally, i champion DIY design like this. but, along with all the great ideas coming out of the popular dialog, there comes a huge learning curve and a bazillion bad shitty ideas as well. the high-end professional design world has wrasseled with this problem for a long time. too often, the top end’s solution is to just ‘buy the fix’. basically, they hire ‘new young hip thinking’ and dispose of ‘old thinking’. in this climate, idiots get hired to replace masters. can’t help it. in time it will all settle down. but, for a very very long period of time this learning curve is going take, we’ll just have to assume the entire industry is full of practicing illiterate idiots in the language of design. for instance, when was the last time you were hired by an art director anywhere that had any idea how to work with a freelancer at all? i’ll bet you really have to wrack your memory. we have had at least one entire generation of kids who learned to design by DIY. they have no idea at all how to even hire an illustrator, for instance. they’ve never had to do it before. they just download and photoshop something. an entire branch of design thought tossed in the shitter – splash. so it goes. time will tell….