The hidden meanings behind logos

Last week, one of my French friends sent me a link to a PowerPoint presentation on the hidden meaning behind several corporate logos. I knew about the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo; the smiley face and lowercase letter “g” in the Goodwill logo; the smile and arrow from A to Z in the Amazon logo; and the hidden number 31 in the Baskin-Robbins logo. I read enough French to translate the captions on the slides.

Toyota brand mark
Toyota brand mark spells out the company name

Today, I came across an English version in a blog post by Onextrapixel. It is a pleasant and quick read. The biggest surprise is the meaning of Toyota’s oval icon—it combines strokes for each of the English letters in the company name!

Tour de France brand mark
Tour de France brand mark shows a bicycle rider and the sun

Another favorite is the Tour de France brand. The letter “R” depicts a bicycle rider and the letter “O” and the yellow circle represent two bicycle wheels and the sun; the ride takes place only during daylight hours.

Both of these brands have stood the test of time—they are crisp and memorable. Their hidden meanings make them more interesting.

Looking for design inspiration? Try these blogs…

Most designers do not just wake up in the morning, feeling inspired. Something they see or do gets their creative juices flowing. I often find my inspiration on the Internet, and I follow several design blogs. If you don’t know where to look, here is a compilation of 20 design and development blogs to follow. It includes several I have followed for years, plus some new ones I am eager to try… if only there were more hours in the day!

Branding lessons well worth learning

I just read a Fast Company Design article about how Steve Jobs worked with legendary designer Paul Rand to develop a logo for NeXT Computer.

NeXT_Computer Logo
NeXT_Computer Logo | Image: Wikimedia Commons

Whether you have millions of dollars or a more modest marketing budget, the takeaways ring true.

  • A logo must be distinctive, memorable and clear.
  • A logo derives meaning from the quality of the thing [product or service] it represents; brands [by themselves] don’t make companies successful.
  • The designer’s role is to solve a problem, not to suggest options.
  • Logomarks—symbols like the Nike swoosh—could take $100 million, plus years to become well-known.
  • Once a brand is designed, you must communicate standards and guidelines for its usage throughout your company.

The stories behind Paul Rand’s logo designs

The Envato blog had a post about the stories behind Paul Rand’s logo designs.

Born in Brooklyn in 1914, Paul Rand is responsible for some of the most iconic brand identities, including IBM, ABC, Westinghouse, UPS and Next Computer. Though he studied art at Pratt Institute, he claimed that he was self-taught. He was inspired by European commercial arts journals and European modern artists and started his career creating magazine spreads. Soon he created magazine covers, notably for Esquire. At 27, he headed an ad agency, incorporating art into what, in the past, was mostly copy.

By the 1950s Rand moved on to logo work. And the rest is history, as they say.

Good design is good business”  —Thomas Watson Jr., IBM

You can see some of the famous work here.

 

Experience imparts value

As a consultant, it is interesting when talking with prospective clients to see if they want a “second set of hands” or if they want advice to help them address a business need. In my past life, as a management consultant in the software business, I sought the second type of assignments. The more problem-solving, the better.

Camera lens with eye
An eye for, and the skills for, digital graphic design

In my role as a freelance creative professional, I still seek, and truly enjoy, “value-added” assignments where I can solve problems. I am still a consultant. The difference is, now I have lots of business and marketing expertise plus I have an eye for, and possess, Web and graphic design skills.

 

 

As Web design guru Jeffrey Zeldman so aptly says,

a beginning consultant brings skills, an experienced consultant brings value.”

He goes on to say that to survive as an independent consultant at any age, and to remain meaningful in the digital design world, you must bring something different to the table. You must bring value.

Pantone Color of the Year for 2018

Pantone 's 2018 Color of the Year, Ultra Violet
Pantone ‘s 2018 Color of the Year, Ultra Violet

Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2018 is Ultra Violet, aka Pantone 18-3838.

Upon introducing the color, Pantone said, “A dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade, PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future.”

You can find tools for designers, including color palettes for Adobe Creative Cloud and other programs, here.

Will bespoke typefaces replace Helvetica?

Bespoke typefaces are on the rise

Bespoke definition
Bespoke definition

More and more big companies commission their own typefaces, rather than relying upon the thousands of fonts readily available for marketing their goods and services.

Recent, notable bespoke typefaces

2018

This month, The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) introduced its bespoke Unity font.  Depending on who you ask, some designers love it, and others hate it. Coca-Cola has used a script logotype for decades, and a while back introduced a serif font with the word, “Coke.” Unity is a departure; it is a sans-serif typeface family with several weights.

The Coca-Cola Company's Unity typeface
The Coca-Cola Company’s Unity typeface

2017

In 2017, IBM rolled out its bespoke typeface families, named Plex, and YouTube introduced YouTube Sans.

IBM Plex typeface
IBM Plex typeface

 

YouTube Sans typeface
YouTube Sans typeface

2016

In 2016, Apple introduced San Francisco typefaces at its Worldwide Developer Conference. These fonts were inspired by Helvetica, and were developed for ease of reading on small screens like the Apple Watch and iPhone, as well as on iPads and Mac computers. The same year, CNN introduced CNN Sans—also modeled on Helvetica.

Apple's San Francisco typefaces
Apple’s San Francisco typefaces

 

CNN Sans typeface
CNN Sans typeface

2015

In 2015, Google rebranded its famous “G” using a proprietary font called Product Sans. Product Sans has a strong resemblance to Futura. Google rolled out Roboto In 2013 for the Android OS. Also in 2013, Mozilla rolled out typefaces for its Firefox OS, called Fira Sans and Fira Mono.

Google logo, 2015
Google logo, 2015

 

Google’s Roboto typeface

 

Fira Sans typeface
Fira Sans typeface

Why use a bespoke typeface?

It’s all about branding. We are bombarded by thousands of advertisements each day on smartphones and other computers. We may see an advertisement for a fraction of a second before engaging with the brand or discarding the ad. According to Envato, simply having a recognizable logo is not enough. Companies have to stand out, so branding today requires notable logos, colors, copy and typography. “Bespoke fonts offer brands more control over their identity, and in some cases can even save them money in the long run.”

Companies must stand out

Will bespoke typefaces result in the death of Helvetica?

Helvetica (Neue Haas Grotesk) was developed in 1957 by Swiss typographer Max Miedinger and became the de facto standard of international typeface design in the mid-20th Century. It remains popular today—Helvetica Neue is the default Mac font—because it is both readable and legible at many different sizes and weights.

It’s not likely that Helvetica is going away anytime soon. It is still the favorite of many designers because of its versatility and simplicity. Just make room for the new, bespoke typefaces to coexist with Helvetica.

Why the Internet is blue

Blue rules on the Internet

Envato’s blog post confirmed what many of us have known for a while… blue is the favorite color on the Internet. Just look at logos for social networking sites, and you will see a sea of blue, with some other colors sprinkled in. Facebook Twitter, LinkedIn and Google all use blue for logos and Web sites.

The sky is blue, and the atmosphere is blue. But why did Internet pioneers choose blue, or a specific blue?

  • Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the Internet, was shown blue links on early screen prototypes. The color stuck.
  • Mark Zuckerberg chose blue for FaceBook because he is (red/green) colorblind.
  • Google tested 41 shades of blue for Internet links, and today billions of people see the blue that won the user test.

Designer Paul Herbert’s 2016 analysis of the hues used on the ten most popular Internet sites shows that blue is by far the most popular color, with twice the usage of red or yellow, and four times the usage of green or purple(see my post, The colors of the Web). You can find an interactive version of the image below on his Web site.

Colors of the 10 most popular Web sites, 2016 (http://paulhebertdesigns.com/web_colors/)

Blue has many personalities

Blue is like a chameleon, with many hues and many personalities. Blue can convey professionalism, it can be warm and inviting, exciting, or cold and scientific. Which blues do you use?

Giving thanks: amateur chef meets graphic designer

Fall is in the air (finally) and we celebrate Thanksgiving this week. I am thankful for friends and family, our adopted dog, great professors, art & design mentors, and more.  I will illustrate my dinner menu, as I have done for many years, but this year I have Ninja Illustrator and Photoshop skills. Will it be comic book style, chalkboard style, or vintage style, or a mashup?

The origin of printed menus

The whole printed menu “thing” came from my Mom, who was a Registered Dietitian. She knew how to plan meals for the masses or for our family of six. She was a good cook and baker. Mom would scribble out her menu on a slip of scrap paper and stick it to the refrigerator, just to make sure that she did not forget to cook or serve one of the many dishes she had planned.

Amateur chef meets graphic designer

I love to cook and bake, and have done both since I was a young child. After I had a home of my own, I started to generate menus for various dinners and parties as soon as I could get my hands on a computer. At first, all I had at my disposal was a simple word processor. Later, I became very proficient at MS PowerPoint and Word, and used lots of clip art. Then I started an Art & Design degree program. What I used to do in Microsoft programs was primitive, compared to the capabilities of Adobe Creative Cloud apps, Snagit and online tools, plus a myriad of  free resources.

Here is the menu… more for practice than for show, since we are having dinner for two! I used a primary color palette and generated halftone patterns in my custom colors for the stars and the cloud backdrop. I used one of comic book fonts found at dafont.com.

Thanksgiving menu, 2016
Thanksgiving menu, 2016