A Poorly Made Shoe
The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales seem to parallel some business transactions. Take the recent flood of new logos for companies who have defecated where they eat, like AIG. Much like a pig that's rolled in mud, the new logo gives a good scrub to a bad little piggie.
"Keep talking. History shows I can be convinced of a-n-y thing."
William Hurt as Ned Racine
in Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat
Sometimes, the pig's owner is the one who gets the bath. In our business in particular, where hot shot executives think they can do every job in the company, they may rely on the same know-how to select corporate symbols. Big mistake, especially when led by a helpful sales staff whose only wish is to convince the buyer his preferences are right on. This makes me weep. But I understand why the Texas Longhorns will love this version of the new AOL logo.
A Badly Decorated Cake
Hollywood suffers from that, too. The devilishly handsome Pierce Brosnan starred in a spunky remake of The Thomas Crowne Affair which really popped my fantasy balloon when the camera panned to a fictional corporate logo in the opening scene. Poof, back to reality; nobody in their right mind would saddle a major corporation with a shoddy piece of work like that. Props! My friend Scott at Earth Media said, "Did you catch that funky flip chart in [Star Trek VI] The Undiscovered Country? He's right, somebody in this universe dropped the ball in that universe where human beings are disassembled and reassembled to transport them from port to port. Paper flip charts for intergalactic meetings seem out of place not outer space. There were better props on Firefly where the 2-dimensional stuff is always moving and interactive. Say, that's a swell typeface, AOL.
A Tea bag Without Tea
Truly gifted sales people can sell bad design. One sales technique involves resurrecting the success of similar products to smooth the way for your client to accept complete rubbish. Google has taken a fairly distinctive logo and completely trashed it once in a while; usually only for a day, but still, it's enough to make a logo designer cringe. The amateurs destroy vital negative areas and violate every morsel of identity established over time on a regular basis. Hey, let's do that! Only the place remains the same, and since the Google logo is anchored to a place and not a product, they can get away with it. This is poor identity management but the business succeeds; success generated by continuing innovation, not vice versa. To those corporate powers who buy the butter-up, the suck-up and the fecked-up reassurance of a polished sales staff instead of doing the hard work necessary to develop a working identity: all I can say is vanity, vanity, vanity. For shame.
"The great thing's not to get out of your depth . . . what I can tell them's common knowledge! But now they've given money for it and everyone wants value for his money. They'll make a secret of it now to prove they've not been bilked . . . They'll make it a secret by making it dangerous . . . Mm . . . Oh, when I can't touch the bottom I'll go deaf, blind and dumb. (he holds out coins)"
Steward in A Man For All Seasons
by Sir Robert Bolt
Logos are wonderful things, but they rarely save businesses that are hanging on by athread. A face lift for a dinosaur won't change its impending obsolescence. All it takes to sell bad design is a good line of BS: the emperor's new clothes were reported as exceptionally well-tailored with stunning lines and if you couldn't see it, then you were unfit. Nobody wants to admit they can't see it. I will; you be buck naked (pronounced neck-ed). Same firm, same design team.
Jacob Cass wrote in Smashing Magazine Vital Tips for Effective Logo Design and quoted Paul Rand:
A logo derives its meaning and usefulness from the quality of that which it symbolizes. If a company is second rate, the logo will eventually be perceived as second rate.
I believe our job as artists and designers is to improve the world. Many fail and in fact, increase the debris in a world with way too much garbage. The 2012 logo above was found here on Andrew Nusca's blog, but there was no credit given that I could see. Now that's a great parody.
Whether it's logo design or advertising, if you're in the business you'll need the second edition of my book to survive out there. Available at bookstores and Amazon; it's been updated plus the resource guide has been completely revamped. Whether you are employed or freelancing, Start and Run a Creative Services Business will help you avoid the pitfalls of being a trusting creative in a dog-eat-dog world. I've shared mistakes and wild adventures both as an employee and freelance designer to help you avoid some of the pitfalls. I truly want you to succeed. My book prepares you for unscrupulous characters disguised as customers, vendors and professional peers and shows you how to protect yourself. You can read excerpts here and view my online portfolio, plus download my first promotional piece, Melon at the Plaza, NYC. Good luck and make great art!
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