Articles by maggie Macnab
Icograda World Design Congress
Special guest author and designer, Maggie Macnab reports on the meeting of the Design World minds at the 2007 Icograda World Design Congress in La Habana, Cuba. Over 600 designers, teachers and related professionals gathered from 57 countries to discuss the current state of design ... Icograda World Design Congress
Creating Typography with Character
Special guest author and designer, Maggie Macnab takes a look at today's typography. She provides some thought provoking insights into taking the right approach when designing with typefaces. See samples from some of todays graphic design authorities -- so you can learn how to create Typography with Character
Guest editorial by Maggie Macnab
The Apple Core vs. Linear Logic
Humans have often been called the symbolizing animal. We use words, number, shape, and other deduced imagery to give context to the intangible. This is how we transport and anchor the imagination: Symbols can be both the exponential leap-point and the connection between the dots. They literally allow us to make sense with our senses -- by enhancing visual communication with immediate archetypes that inform our cognitive process. How we sense tells us how to respond or, in the current flood of information, if indeed there is reason to respond at all.
I've explored and implemented what I call the philosophy of visual communication for almost 25 years, and have presented it to design students and at conferences for the last eight. In my work as an identity designer I've rediscovered the obvious: It has to land in the gut before it has any chance of making it to the head. If you want your logo to be remembered and recognized, you've got to provide a pay-off to the viewer. The more immediate story you can tell, the more likely you are to create a relationship with the viewer. And when I say story I don't mean fable. I mean the more appropriate visual content you use to represent your client's message, the much higher the likelihood you have of creating a direct line from invitation to connection. This is information value, as opposed to information junk, which is in abundance today.
Humans love myth and symbol, as we should. There's a lot of knowledge in this synaptic bit, distilled through the experiences of millions of predecessors. A symbol is certainly a collapsed piece of information, but symbols also expand to fit any human in any culture in any time by linking to universal principles. These cues in turn inform choice: Is it good? What is in it for me? Do I trust? Taking the wrong turn into the jaws of a famished predator is as relevant a concern today in the concrete jungle as it was in the Savannah millennia ago. A composite that immediately tells the story without excessive processing is invaluable. It enhances our edge of appropriate response by giving us access to response-ability.
To get an idea of how symbols unfold information in a logo, let's look at two major contenders in the computer technology market, IBM and Apple. IBM is oriented to left-brain, structural tidiness, while Apple is all about right-brain aesthetic. We intuitively recognize the appropriateness of symbolic representation because we are human. Symbols are just like breathing. We rarely consciously register them, but they are essential to our being. We are ignorant of the essence of our existence, a very human trait.
A Direct Line to Success.
IBM's logo is linear-extreme -- a letterform that requires a secondary thought process to understand. It is a highly structured and edgy logo, originally designed by Paul Rand in 1956, based on a font called City. The Beat Generation was in full swing and headed toward a mutation known as the Love Generation. There was an undercurrent of dissent and irreverence beginning to touch the surface of culture, and advertising followed suit.
During this time, Rand modified his design to incorporate lines, further enhancing the linear aspect of the identity, but also integrating white and black (positive/negative), which in essential terms represent the duality of the human experience. It originally existed in a 13- and 8-line version (the latter is the current version). Let's look at the significance of these numbers.
In 1202, an Italian nicknamed Fibonacci penned what has come to be known as the Fibonacci sequence. In this very simple sequence, each number is the sum of the preceding two: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, and so on. This is a pi relationship. In and of itself, it is not remarkable until you consider that this sequence recurs with regularity in everything from the lengths of the finger bones (which curl into a spiral exactly like a nautilus), to the correlation of the distance between planets and their moons (when they have more than one moon), to the proportionate division of human facial and bodily structure, to the spirals in the head of a sunflower. This sequence actually speaks to the reproductive process of most life forms: It produces patterns that are appealing in our eyes because it speaks to the continuity of our experience. It is precisely about the regeneration of us.
Back to IBM. As you can see, Rand used two numbers from this sequence -- probably more intuitively than intentionally. I believe that to balance the weighty, machine-structured aspect of this design, Rand embedded nature information. The division of lines are proportionately appropriate and aesthetic, in exactly the same way we find an appropriately proportioned face attractive.
Time and again, when we see what we recognize as beauty, its proportion corresponds to this sequence. It has the quality of its own sort of linear beauty, appealing to both the left brain compartmentalizing-nature but also addressing right-brained expansive beauty-nature. This acknowledgment of the archetype -- inclusive opposites unified -- helped to establish the long life of this logotype and is a prerequisite to a true symbol.
About the Author
Specializing in symbol and logo design for 25 years, Maggie Macnab is known for her corporate identity design and graphics. She has been in business since 1981, is an instructor of logo design and symbolism as visual literacy for designers at the University of New Mexico, and is past president of the Communication Artists of New Mexico.
Do not miss a visit to Maggie's web site, macnabdesign.com -- and you must NOT miss her "Symbol Maker Logos and Symbols applied to products" website, in itself is an education in logo and symbol design...
Maggie writes articles on critical thinking in design and her work has been published in many magazines and books. She is currently developing a visual literacy resource with a focus on the origin, development and appropriate use of symbols in visual communication (www.eyeku.com) to enhance advertising by creating more value with effective graphics.
This article reprinted with permission, Copyright Maggie Macnab 2005
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