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Logo Design ...

a circle by any other name

NOTE THIS Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe once wrote:
      "Everything has been thought of before, but the problem is to think of it again. "

Logos in circles

Now, let's get back to the original question(s) ...
NOTE THIS When is a logo not a logo?
NOTE THIS "How long have they been putting stuff in circles?"

Take a look at the chart above. (Or, you can pop an enlargement open in this browser window.)

As you can see, logos have been put in circles for a long time. This collection was pulled from Trademarks & Symbols Volume 1, by Yasaburo Kuwayama, which was published in 1973. So you can understand that all the examples were designed and trademarked before 1973. I have several other volumes of this series, as well as the Trademark Registry books during the 1970s and early 1980s. These were all I could grab before I ran out of steam. But be assured, there are literally thousands of "similar" logos out there, all designed long before Obama was born. I know there's at least one out there with the waves, like the Pepsi and the Obama logos, but it's exhausting to search through those dusty tomes.

In the past, living through several minor and several major trademark infringement cases, I learned of the "parallel discovery" or "parallel creation" clause. Most infringement cases get off on those grounds. So, having said that, we can dispense with the who copied who argument. If you do a little Goggling, you'll see that lots and lots of logo owners claim to have been ripped off. It all boils down to trademark dates and who has the deepest pockets. Which brings me to the next -- and most important -- points.

Looking at the grid of round logos, can you guess what they stand for? Which ones send you a clear message of what the owner is all about, or what the symbol represents. Not much luck? I didn't think so.

Experts will say:
      A logo is not a logo unless it represents, illustrates, or sends a visual message of what the owner is all about.

In a perfect world, that would indeed be the case. However, neither the Pepsi Logo or the Obama Logo actually fulfill those requirements. If you never heard of either -- you'd be clueless as to what the symbols stand for. Oh, you could conjure all sorts of theoretic and philosophical meanings ... just as many of the blog posts suggest. But when the rubber meats the road, you would be hard pressed to identify either logo.

The point is A logo is a logo when you make your audience understand and recognize. With the millions in TV, print and signage budgets which were poured into the logos, they now actually do stand for their owners. It really doesn't matter when you have millions of bucks to put behind a product and its identity.

But for the purists in all of us -- let's say, they're actually not very good. Obama's is, IMHO, downright sophomoric. In fact, if one of my design students handed that logo in -- intending it to represent Obama, I'm afraid I would have to send them back to the drawing board.

My advice? When designing a logo -- try to capture the essence of the entity, just as if you didn't have a huge budget to put it across to a mass market. And make sure you do not miss this piece by the legendary graphic designer Paul Rand!

... and thanks for reading!

Fred Showker
Fred Showker, Editor / Publisher of DTG Magazine


Other web links mentioned in this article:
NOTE THIS New York Times Interview with Obama Logo Designer
NOTE THIS www.logoblog.org... is obama guilty of logo design theft
NOTE THIS www.adweek.com: Pepsi's Ode to Joy for '09, by Barbara Lippert
NOTE THIS typophile.com: New Pepsi Logo: What Grade Do You Give It?
NOTE THIS www.pepsigallery.com Pepsi Can Gallery


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