Information Design Watch

February 20, 2012, 2:18 pm

Logo Evolution, the Forecast

By Henry Woodbury

A few years ago we posted  a history of technology company logos. Now, Stocklogos has taken a similar set of logos and created a future version of each. For fun. Here’s an example:

IBM Logo Trend

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Comments (3) | Filed under: Branding, Design

January 30, 2012, 10:49 am

“a tougher, more defined panther”

By Henry Woodbury

After 15+ years in the league, the NFL’s Carolina Panthers are changing their logo.

In a press release the team proclaims:

[The identity] has been designed to provide a more aggressive, contemporary look to the logo while making it more three-dimensional for ever-increasing digital use.

Carolina Panthers Logotype

I’m not sure how three-dimensionality relates to digital use, other than the fact that all the other kids are doing it.

Will Brinson at CBS Sports has some design review fun:

…this cat’s a little less hairy — the whiskers are significantly reduced from the old version, and the eyebrows (Panthers have eyebrows right?) are reduced as well.

It’s a more streamlined cat and, frankly, a little more ferocious and realistic looking of an animal. The team’s calling it “a tougher, more defined panther” and that’s an accurate assessment.

The Panthers typeface is also different: it’s no longer written in 80′s hair-metal font. Or cat scratch font. Or whatever.

Click through to the Brinson article to see the old logo for comparison.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Branding, Design, Marketing, Sports

December 7, 2011, 9:41 pm

Mitten State, or the Difference Between a Brand and an Ad Campaign

By Henry Woodbury

Which state is the mitten state? Michigan. Wisconsin is the fun state.

So says Wisconsin Department of Tourism spokeswoman Lisa Marshall.

“We’re not the Mitten State. Michigan, they can own that. We want to be known as the Fun State,” she said. The department used a leaf shaped like Wisconsin for its fall tourism campaign and will move onto something new for spring, but for now, the mitten stays.

For now, Wisconsin looks like this:

Travel Wisconsin Mitten

(via Ann Althouse)

 

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Comments (3) | Filed under: Branding, Design, Maps

January 6, 2011, 1:46 pm

They Aren’t in the Coffee Business, They’re in the Milk Business

By Henry Woodbury

I wish I could remember who came up with that jab. It stuck with me.

The new logo doesn’t say “milk,” but it doesn’t say “coffee” either.

New Starbucks Logo

Add this to the annals of Logo Evolution.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Branding, Business, Marketing

December 14, 2010, 2:02 pm

The Borrowed Brand, or How Not to Create a Logo

By Henry Woodbury

While U.S. political organization No Labels talks up a kind of vague newness, its design contractor quite concretely stole its look from the past. John Del Signore at Gothamist reports:

[The group's] slogan is “No Labels. Not Left. Not Right. Forward.” But considering how closely the group’s logo/design … resembles the work of graphic designer Thomas Porostocky, they might want to change the name to No Copyright.

Porostocky’s work, from his More Party Animals web site, is on the left. The now-expunged No Labels design, produced by Dave Warren, is on the right.

More Party Animals vs. No Labels (courtesy Gothamist)

After some ugly hyperventilating, Warren has apologized. An assistant is to blame. The assistant blames clip-art.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Branding, Current Events, Marketing

September 3, 2010, 8:55 pm

Requiem for a Signifier

By Henry Woodbury

Kate Howe designed this logo:

Cordoba Initiative Logo

In an article at The Design Observer Group she laments its invisibility in the face of a larger controversy:

I did my best to pack Cordoba Initiative’s symbol with positive significance, but It has failed to convey the group’s peaceful and progressive message. It has just stood for a Logo that identifies a Real Organization…

Howe writes in elegiac tones with real sincerity. But I think she confuses the design of a logo with the use of a logo. In the design process, finding and portraying meaning is the priority. In practice, identification comes first. One of her commenters, Matt, sums it up this way:

Great reminder that a logo (no matter how good it is) does not import value into an organization. Rather, the organization and its values and practices are reflected in the mark. Designers entrust an empty symbol to their clients and it’s the client who fills it with meaning.

Commenter Mathias Burton cuts to the chase:

Branding is at play in the situation and the logo is not the brand.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Branding, Current Events, Marketing

December 16, 2009, 9:35 am

Alphabet Makeover

By Kirsten Robinson

The Onion cleverly skewers design makeovers for the sake of newness and freshness AND over-reliance on focus groups in their hilarious article, “Alphabet Updated with 15 Exciting New Letters.

Skywriting with the new, improved alphabet. Source: The Onion

Skywriting with the new, improved alphabet. Source: The Onion

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Branding, Marketing, Typography

December 2, 2009, 3:31 pm

Highly Targeted Healthcare Marketing

By Matt DeMeis

These days health care is a slippery subject. This isn’t about politics or any of that. Today I came across (what I think to be) a brilliant way of marketing health care to an audience that usually forgoes coverage, Xtreme sports enthusiasts. Tonik Health Insurance has taken the daunting task of securing coverage for yourself and made it incredibly easy.

Tonik targets a finite demographic and gives them access to the information the need in a design they can relate to. In one or two clicks I was able to find all that I needed to know about purchasing a plan from them. Once you decide on a coverage level you simply fill out a form. For comparison I went to an undisclosed giant’s web site to try and find the same info (still pretending I was an Xtreme sports enthusiast of course). I gave up after some dead end digging and suggestions to download PDFs. It seemed more effort was put into the stock photography than the user experience. Ease of use is CRUCIAL for the audience Tonik is targeting. Their potential customer wants information fast. No digging. No downloading.

The design is great. Loud but very minimalist. It’s tailored for a younger, action sports lifestyle audience and it does that perfectly. Bold colors and lots of flash but these things don’t hide the information. Wonder what “$5000 deductible” means on the thrill-seeker plan? click the question mark next to the word. Easy.

Tonik Healthcare Screen

Now to be fair it must be noted that Tonik is a division of Blue Cross, an industry giant. They don’t serve every demographic, there is no “family thrill-seeker” package yet, but there is a lot to be learned by how smart and easy this site has made a somewhat complicated decision. Check it out at www.tonikhealth.com

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Branding, Information Design, Marketing, User Experience, Web Interface Design

May 18, 2009, 8:53 pm

Logo Fun

By Henry Woodbury

Designer Sean Farrell offers a gallery of logos that incorporate a visual pun or hidden image. Here’s an example:

Pakuy

Pakuy is a packaging company.

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Branding, Design, Marketing

March 11, 2009, 1:52 pm

Retrobrands, Part 2: The Meatball versus The Worm

By Lisa Agustin

Official Nasa Seal
Official NASA Seal
NASA Insignia (the Meatball)
NASA Insignia (“the Meatball”)
NASA Logotype (the Worm)
NASA Logotype (“the Worm”)

T Magazine’s recent writeup on the history of the logo for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an interesting counterpoint to Matt’s post on the rebranding of Howe Caverns. In 1959, a year after the agency was founded, James Modarelli of the NASA Lewis Research Center created the NASA Insignia, which was meant to serve as a less formal version of the official NASA seal. The Insignia, also known as “the Meatball,” is a composite of individual design elements — the sphere is a planet, the stars represent space, the vector represents aeronautics, and the orbit represents space travel–cast in a patriotic scheme of red, white, and blue. The result is a logo that looks, to some, too literal and amateurish, yet romantic and nostalgic to others.

The Meatball was used until 1975, when the agency unveiled the NASA Logotype, a subtler, more futuristic take on the agency logo that strips the name down to a single curving element to spell out the four letters. “The Worm” is sleek, serious, and more corporate– not a surprise given it was created by a corporate identity firm, Danne & Blackburn.

Given the history of its logo, one would assume that further work on the NASA brand would take the Worm further along in its progression — more forward-thinking, future-type approaches. Right? Wrong. Turns out that use of the Worm was discontinued in 1992 (although it may be used with permission for commercial purposes), and NASA returned to using the Meatball, which it still uses today as its official logo. Why the return to the earlier version? Columnist Alice Rawsthorn’s take:

The Meatball was revived in 1992 as part of the efforts to revitalize NASA after its traumas of the 1980s. NASA decided to bring back the symbol of its golden age and has stuck with it ever since. The Meatball still reminds us of the triumph of the Mercury and Apollo missions, even though NASA has never recaptured its former glory, as illustrated by its recent problems with the design of the Ares spacecraft system.

Unlike the Howe Caverns brand, in which the old identity was seen as an impediment to bringing in a new audience, the NASA Insignia represents big dreams and new frontiers, a transfusion that NASA’s image could really use right now.

For more on NASA’s logo, see:

http://history.nasa.gov/meatball.htm

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Branding, Marketing, Typography, User Experience

March 5, 2009, 1:51 pm

Howe Could They Do This!?

By Matt DeMeis

Today I was looking through the list of winners for ReBrand’s 2009 “100 Global Awards Winning Brands” contest, when a familiar name jumped out at me. Howe Caverns. For those of you (which is probably most) who don’t know about Howe Caverns, here’s a quick summary.

In upstate NY there is a HUGE underground cavern that was discovered by a bunch of cows trying to stay cool on a hot summer day. The cave remains 52°F consistently, year round. This makes it an ideal place for aging cheese, beer, getting married and giving tours for money through its long and winding passageways.

My mom grew up not far from Howe Caverns so I have known about it and its wacky, hand painted billboard advertising ever since I can remember. The billboards I remember most depicted a Huckleberry Finn-type character with what appears to be his little brother on his back, lantern in hand, exploring the cavern. The colors were day-glo on black and the fonts were meant to look super spooky!! POW! I was hooked. I had to go there.

My point is it had a memorable style. Like it or not, it got the job done. You would see one of those billboards a mile away and know it was for Howe Caverns. When I saw that Howe Caverns had re-branded itself I was curious, then disappointed.

New Howe Caverns Branding

They did away with the timeless hand painted illustrative style in favor of the “roughen” filter in Adobe Illustrator. The new branding looks like the packaging for a first-person shooter game, or an earthquake danger warning sign. The style is something we’ve seen a million other places these days. Solid color, distressed font, nice photos — done. I feel like the soul and history of the brand just got flushed away. It may have needed a makeover, but the essence could have been preserved.

I am by all means biased due to my personal childhood memories of the brand but I say bring back Huck Finn and his day-glo little brother!

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Branding, Illustration, Marketing

January 5, 2009, 12:18 pm

A Short History of the United Nations Logo

By Henry Woodbury

Top: Prototype for the United Nations' original logo. Bottom: The organization's current logo.An obituary for architect and designer Oliver Lincoln Lundquist highlights his leadership in the creation of the United Nations logo. The story, as summarized by reporter Steven Heller, highlights the role of serendipity and a shift in point of view:

After the Navy, Mr. Lundquist attended the San Francisco conference at which the United Nations Charter was signed. His team was responsible for designing all the graphics for the conference and an official delegate’s badge, which became the prototype for the United Nations logo. The team did not set out to design the logo for the United Nations, but the badge became the prototype. It was initially designed by Donald McLaughlin, who worked for Mr. Lundquist as the director of graphics for the conference.

The distinctive blue in the design, Mr. Lundquist explained, was “the opposite of red, the war color.” He continued, “It was a gray blue, a little different than the modern United Nations flag.”

The symbol of the globe was also slightly different in the original design, he said: “We had originally based it on what’s called an azimuthal north polar projection of the world, so that all the countries of the world were spun around this concentric circle, and we had limited it in the Southern sector to a parallel that cut off Argentina because Argentina was not to be a member of the United Nations. We centered the symbol on the United States as the host country. Subsequently, in England our design was adapted as the official symbol of the United Nations, centered on Europe as more the epicenter, I guess, of the East-West world, and took into account the whole Earth, including Antarctica. By then, of course, Argentina had been made a member.”

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Branding, Color, Marketing

October 23, 2008, 10:01 am

Don’t Eat the iPod Shuffle—Seven Years of iPod Design

By Kirsten Robinson

Wired has published a look back at iPod design, starting with this paper and foam core prototype from 2001:

one of the original iPod concepts

Check out the article to find out how the scroll wheel evolved over time, when color was first introduced (on the body and the screen), and where the title of this post came from.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Branding, Business, Color, Design, Prototyping, Technology, Usability

August 28, 2008, 11:28 am

Groovin’ with Some Energy

By Henry Woodbury

Areva Ad FrameHere’s an ad that actually caused me to click.

Areva, “the no. 1 nuclear energy products and services vendor in America,” has constructed a new print and Internet ad campaign around the birds-eye isometric view of its world. The Web animation shows energy production and use from mining to power generation to the disco.

It reminded me of the Royskopp video we linked here, but with a somewhat different rationale. Both animations were done by the French firm H5 (look under FILMS > CLIPS for Royskopp; under FILMS > PUBLICITE for Areva).

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Comments (1) | Filed under: 3D Modeling, Art, Branding, Business, Illustration, Infographics, Information Design, Marketing, Visual Explanation

February 8, 2008, 6:08 pm

Logo Evolution

By Henry Woodbury

From the Neatorama blog comes an interesting exhibit of tech company logos and their changes over time. The companies range from Apple to IBM to Nokia to Palm, offering an engaging contrast between start-ups professionalizing their brand and manufacturing firms reinventing their business. IBM, for example:

IBM Logos

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Branding, Business, Technology

October 16, 2007, 3:53 pm

(T)AXI

By Henry Woodbury

For those interested in logo design, the New York Times City Room blog is offering an extended design revew of the city’s new taxi logo.

New York City Taxi Logo

The first post describes the design process and features the comments of designers Michael Bierut and Michael Rock; additional posts provide additional designer and reader responses. From the second installment, here’s the take of designer Sam Potts:

The central T is obviously a reference to the subway — too obviously if you ask me — but that is strategically a mistake, as the T.L.C. is separate from the M.T.A. Why equate them visually?

To have the “NYC” touch is, to me, poor craftsmanship, especially with such a blocky typeface. Additionally, as this goes whizzing by, clumped-together letters just get clumpier.

Having said that, my first reaction to this was, “There’s a logo for the taxis?” In fact, the logo is a secondary element in the branding of the taxis — I imagine very few notice the logo but everyone knows what the yellow signifies. I’d even say that the Crown Vic is a more powerful brand identifier (in the parlance) than whatever logo they had or adopted.

Both Potts and fellow designer Oscar Bjarnason note the ill-conceived reference to the city subway logo, a legendary brand we have mentioned before.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Branding, Current Events, Design, Marketing