Why should every logo have One Joke at a Time
3 letters & 2 sounds
When I was a child, I bumped into 3 letters that put in a special order made a specific brand’s name. I began to conceive the corporate and institutional importance of logos ever since (though I still can’t put my finger on why.) It all began with my father, who’s worked there for nearly 45 years. You see, my childhood was memorable in part as the result of being a member of the IBM family. Back then in the ’80s, IBM Design was what people called a company for life. Employees would work there until they retired — different times from our own, in the hands of millennials. And everything was coated by those 3 letters that appeared on every computer, tool, book, and occasional stationery.
In the early 2000s, I discovered Paul Rand’s work and everything started to make sense. Aside from its visual impact, I began to understand the importance of logos. Behind every line in its typographic morphology was the unique personality of one of the oldest and largest brands in the world still today. That visual brand would also take a phonematic sense with the eye, the bee, and the “M” making IBM’s personality all the greater.
Already in university and extremely passionate about design, I was anxious to get my first job working at a branding agency. Back then I was required to design 30 logos per day. That’s right — 30 a day! Of course, most of them were lousy and were just done by applying a formula over and over again. How else could you possibly meet that number? So, what I was doing went against pretty much everything I believed in both artistically and in terms of what makes a great logo. I guess that’s why that agency was known among designers as the designers’ meat grinder. But despite all the cons, I was taking in all the knowledge and training I could to put it to better use later in my career as a designer and brand manager. Ironically, it was in that same company where I heard someone say “logos should only every have one joke at a time”. For some reason, that idea stuck with me subconsciously to that point that when I have to decide whether I like a logo or not, my brain still applies that criteria.
It’s not just the logo, it’s the graphic system
Although the logo is just one of the pieces that make the whole, as Gestalt would have put it, it’s one of the core components of brand identity. Graphic systems, visual systems, have nurtured and empowered logos making the variables of brands’ visual representation more flexible and open to innovation. Liquid brands, graphic systems, and the digitalization of information have extended the value of brand character and originality to a true asset. It’s up to designers to keep this evolving and growing company value.
Logos & how the world is changing
In an ever more populated and consumerist world, brand competition is growing faster than ever. Digital development is a fundamental pillar of the shift in the communication paradigm, and visual identity is no stranger to this exponential change. As communicators, we have to stop conceiving people as consumers and start seeing them as people. Digital media empowerment and information overload are forcing brands to be more honest and truthful. Brand design is no longer a commodity; it’s become a true primary communication and identity need in the face of so much competition.
However, as opposed to what’s happening with people, logos have become more and more alike, almost completely lacking personality. Brands have begun transforming their logos into sans serif typographies (mostly Helvetica, Gotham, Futura, and a few other grotesques) relying on the smallest array of colors.
“Less is more” was taken so literally that many of them don’t even use isotypes.
Nowadays, brands are mostly represented by their name written in a fancy type. That’s it. On the other hand, people are increasingly complex and unique; they feel more plural and open in their sense of belonging. There has never been a stronger sense of diversity in history, which is reflected by people pondering user experience (UX) over brand reputation. And that’s exactly why logos are in the spotlight again.
Companies such as Apple, Nike, and Adidas are examples of the immense value of brands and how their logos give people a sense of belonging. Even Google Design realized a few years ago they needed a brand and logo that linked the company to the paradigm they stand for.
In my opinion, it’s designers who are truly in charge of empowering brands with a distinct personality. We can’t allow this normalization of brand morphology to pave the way for automatic logo generating tools. Leaving artistic content up to a logo creating bot is a way of industrializing art and I’m afraid it will lead to the death of creativity soon if we don’t do anything about it. Designers still have a chance in the face of this new paradigm of consumption — we have to develop brands with stronger personalities and meet the challenge of making each of them unique, honest, and most importantly, good.
Thank you so much for reading my article about Logos.
If you ever want to speak about Logos, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org