Logos We Would Have Trouble Selling

August 5, 2008 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

I was enjoying my favorite hot beverage at the local Starbucks the other day when it dawned on me just how plain ugly their current logo is. I’m talking about the brown throw-back version that’s supposed to signify the company’s return to its organic and cool roots. It looks like something you’d be more likely to see on a salvage yard truck. The old green logo was much better, but even that logo wasn’t all that hot. That got me thinking about the Nike logo.

I’ve never been all that impressed with the swoosh design. No real reason for that except that it would be a tough client sell. In fact, I’d have trouble selling either of those logos to most clients. But no matter because both companies have done legendary jobs imbuing their badges with meaning. And that’s all that matters in the end.

Every symbol starts life the same way. They all mean absolutely nothing to anybody. It’s the process of building companies and brands that creates the distinction and the meaning. And more often than not, that occurs over decades.

But some logos start off life with a bit of a head start. They’re like baby geniuses that get to skip a grade or two when they enter school. Consider the Apple logo. It’s absolutely brilliant and so easy to like.

And what about the Monster Energy logo? Again, right on the money. Consider the brand Monster is, the target and their collective attitude, and the product’s attributes. The logo is a direct hit on all counts. And that leads me to one of my personal all-time favorites, the lesser known but equally excellent FOX logo.

Fox started in the 70s as an obscure motocross apparel company and today is quickly migrating into mainstream fashion brand for young and tragically hip types. The logo is dead-on and is a key design element in all of the company’s products. The cool looking fox face image couldn’t be better aligned with the brand.

So, are these companies more successful because their logos are great? No. There’s no cause and effect relationship here. In fact, the business world is littered with bankrupt companies that had cool logos and cash cows with God-awful emblems. After engaging in every conceivable iteration of logo discussion and debate I believe it all comes down to this: Picking logos is like picking wallpaper, and we all have our own definition of what looks good. Living rooms across America attest to that.

So, we can either put aside your personal preferences and take expert design advice, or over-rule that guidance and dictate design. Legitimate collaboration is something else altogether. If we exert too much influence on the design we aren’t likely to do irreparable harm to our brands. But we sure won’t find our mark in the Logo Hall of Fame, either.

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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