The Art of Logo Design | Off Book | PBS

Uploaded by PBSoffbook on 12.07.2012

A logo is an extension of who you are or what you do.
There has to be a reason for it. It should be something that someone is drawn to.
A successful logo can almost saying nothing.
We think of a logo as something that can hold everything. It's informed and reinforced by the
things that we see everyday and it's important to acknowledge that
entire invisible vocabulary.
Logos go back to
deep antiquity. It was a single image of
something that was used
as an expression of the individual. And they represented a thought, an idea, or even
a product perhaps.
Aristocracy, for example, would have shields and those are basically complex logos
and not everybody was literate so pictorial means were ways of getting around
that illiteracy.
In ancient Rome you'll find mosaics and those mosaics are pictures of tradesmen.
So you'd see an elephant which would mean somebody has been to Africa
or you'd see dolphins which means somebody's probably dealing in fish.
So all of these things indicated who
the merchant was
and i think that's the beginning of the logo.
Logos increased exponentially as commerce increased, industry increased, as
technology increased and there was more and more competition. Logos have gone
from being very Victorian looking to very modern looking,
meaning they're more economical.
So logo designers have to have a sense of what the company wants its
personality to be. And then it manufactures this mask and the logo is essentially a
mask. It's an identifier but it's also something that stands in for who you
A great logo is memorable, it's appropriate to the brand, and it's
simple so it can work everywhere and look the same
in every situation.
So the first thing is simplicity and
in today's media realities it means
if it could be as tiny as sixteen by sixteen pixels to work as a save icon and
for big signs and the sides of buildings, that's tremendous.
The second thing is that it would be appropriate, in character, in the feeling.
If you look at the Smithsonian sun and you say is that appropriate for an
institution that has all these different galleries and museums?
And then you start thinking okay does it look too corporate? No it doesn't. Does it look too
commercial? No it doesn't. That is kind of what
we ask ourselves when we look at a mark and say is this right first for them?
And then the last thing, it should be memorable.
And often it's something awkward, often something that throws off a balance. And a
good example is Mobil. It was done by Tom Geisman, my partner. He designed these
letters that are based on geometry and
the simple change of the O to red made it just burn into your mind.
When a design fulfills these parameters with time it will build equity and
will build recognition and we're looking for something that will look fresh for a long time.
Logo design is not like math. One plus one equals two but
new plus square.. you don't know what it's going to equal until you get in there and
start doing it.
I like to have one idea that I really believe in and the client really believes in and
I like to iterate the hell out of it.
For example in the Off Book Project we probably ended up making forty
different versions of the logo before we ended up with the final set. Starting out
I took all these little pieces of paper and I printed the words Off Book on it
and I just folded it into different shapes. It was interesting because you have this very
ordered system of type that's always in a grid. But then where you had the bend in the paper
it was this interesting little interruption.
And so I brought these printouts into my scanner and started emulating that little
interruption and sort of move it or wiggle it. And so the resulting image would have these
different lines and distortions in it. And once I had all these varieties of shapes we were able to
look at them and assess them and try to figure out which one seemed the most
interesting and pleasing. And then the process from there was just a process of choosing colors,
choosing different transparency levels and relationships between the different
elements and it was just a matter of refining it. And so this seemed like a perfect opportunity
to reference this larger metaphor that Off Book is creating about non-traditional and fringe culture and art.
The victory of getting the idea and then the victory of having something physical that represents
the idea, those are two very good moments.
Logo design should be timeless.
The classic thing is Coca-Cola. We know that script and that script really came
out of the 1890s but it's such a part of our culture that it probably will
always will be contemporary.
Back in 1975 I took Gutenberg bible lettering and made it
look like a car mark, put a bevel on it, and it looked very sinister with an album
I had done for Blue Oyster Cult. So when I was asked to do the ACDC logo, one of the
versions I came up with was based on that Blue Oyster Cult lettering and it
kind of became the cliche for the heavy metal thing.
When I use the word cliche I'm really thinking of it more in terms of
appropriateness. It could be just the obvious that is just the right thing.
There's nothing wrong with that. Now it just is part of our culture.
If a logo has been working and is recognizable and the company has spent millions of
dollars to promote it, there's probably very little reason to redesign that logo.
It is a fashion business. There are styles that change and typography that
changes and images that change but what you want is you want your audience to see
this and it will remind you of that entity.
That's when a logo works. That's when it becomes timeless.
We need the logo so that people will be
cued into who we are and what we do. The world has evolved, the technology has
evolved but in fact our approach has been constant. It should be simple, it
should be well drawn and should be interesting. A logo can't express everything
but it should definitely express the thing that's the most important,
the thing that needs to be expressed.