“Logos: where next?” review

“Logos: where next?” was a evening event (last wednesday) hosted by Declan Stone,(from The Stone Twins), in the context of their recently lunched book `Logo R.I.P.´, posted here some days ago.  Featured designers were Jacques Koeweiden, Maureen Mooren, Stefan Pangratz (VBAT) and Aad van Dommelen, that in some minutes showed some of their work in logotype design/ identities.

At the end, I got an empty feeling, the discussion doesn’t flow in a concise way and the unanswered questions were more than a deep reflection about the logo and graphic design. Is a fact that 2h is not enough to have this discussion, but I think that the guests could and should bring more to this discussion. Their experience for sure that gives them more knowledge to put on the table!
Was also with surprise that I heard for the first time, a graphic designer saying that avoids to make identity projects.
However, pertinent questions were raised, such as the responsibility of graphic designers to the world and society; who should discuss the design; the quality of certain logos and its re-design; what a logotype really says to the audience, etc…

For a couple of times, Declan Stone said, and well, that we (designers) are the professionals, so we are the right people to make a serious discussion about graphic design. The truth is that designers should be the ones to give the greatest contribution to this discussion, but the final success of an identity or logotyope doesn’t depend solely on designers. That evaluation belong to the intended audience of the project. The designer here is the mediator, the translator of the values, goals, identity of the project/company/client to the audience and surroundings. To be successful, the designer, should make a bunch of previous studies about the environment in which the project/company  is, or will be, involved and of course the specifics characteristics inherent to each project. This is why the design is closely linked with social studies, such as psychology, sociology or anthropology, and with technology and innovation as well.

Paul Rand was mentioned a couple of times, his logo for UPS (1961) re-branded in 2003 was one the examples that in the opinion of Declan Stone was a bad re-branding project. As Declan, I also appreciate the original logo (like the work) by Paul Rand, is a finest piece and still an icon, but this is not a matter of likes! For me, and probably for UPS, it wasn’t enough for compete in the new economy, with competitors like FedEx or DHL, and probably to represent new services and features that became with the evolution of the business, the technology and the company. Although beautiful, Paul Rand’s logo for UPS seems to be too much delicate. The questions are: was it enough to compete with FedEx or DHL? was it enough to works on a new economy, more competitive and feral? It still represents the company? And more important, it stills represent and have the meaning for the UPS audience that wants a safe and reliable service to ship their goods? I don’t think so! Summarising (it’s possible to make an extensive analysis about this re-brand, but it’s not a goal for this text) and making a quick parallel with an any font family, the UPS logo ceases to be regular and becomes bold and strong.

Another relevant point on the discussion, was the kind of project/client which designers can work for. For one side, the commercial/ advertisement work and for another side the cultural projects/clients. Seems that exist two different work lines. So, the question is: does it really influence the process of design and creation of identities and logos? A first approach, yes, it has influence just by the simple fact that each project has different basic characteristics, what will have influence on the graphic language implemented. But, a second approach, I don’t think that this difference is significant to change the methodological and creative process. In any project the designer should make the previous studies about the client and his necessities and goals, so the “logic line” of the creation is similar. Also because nowadays, any cultural project has needs and its success depends on the public that can achieve and raise, like any brand or commercial project.

Another question that was not properly answered was if the logos should work as monochromatic and in small scales, due the number of new logos that don’t really work in one colour or loose efficiency on small scales . On my opinion, they should, it’s a characteristic that each logo should have and that means that the logo has versatility to be used in different media and with different resources, without looses consistence. But with proliferation of the new business models with different requirements, it starts to have another sense. For instance, a logo for a business that just have presence on Facebook, that make all the sales through the Facebook page, and doesn’t have any other physical presence, needs to have all these characteristics? Or should the designer find the best solution that fits on the needs of the client for that media?

Finally, responsibility of the designer to the world and society was also a question not too much developed. The responsibility of the designer to make the world a better and more beautiful. Although I agree with that, I think that we should go further and effectively create good and beautiful visual communications for good products/services. Because not all the products/services that have been created are beneficial to the society and to the economy, it should also be a matter of studies an reflection by designers. If our support with visual communications is crucial for the organisations, the services/products provided by these organisations should be crucial as well for the wellness of the world and society. It is just something to think about!

As I said in the beginning, it was a 2 hours conference, what makes difficult to discuss all these subjects. I’m hoping for future similar initiatives. This is the way to bring designers together, share and discuss ideas, on a field of work that so many times there are too much “absolute truths”, what is not healthy for the evolution of these noble and beautiful field of work.

So, thanks and congrats to The Stone Twins for the initiative!

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