There are some company logos which have burrowed their way into our collective subconscious, and are now instantly recognizable. You don’t need to have a graphic design degree, or any formal qualification, to know which companies they represent. In many cases, the logos themselves don’t feel the need to contain even a single word of text.
But for every super-cool Mercedes circle with a three-pointed star, there’s a boring and uninspiring logo which does what it says on the tin and absolutely nothing else. And you don’t even have to leave the car industry to find some of the blandest examples of corporate dull-think, because some firms are represented by the logo equivalent of a brown paper bag.
Kia Motors have become increasingly successful in many parts of the world in recent years, thanks to some excellent cars sold at relatively reasonable prices. For many observers, however, they dropped the ball with their logo design. A bland red oval containing the word ‘Kia’ surely doesn’t manage to do them any favours in this highly competitive industry.
Great event, terrible logo
Needless to say, it’s not just commercial companies which rely on an innovative logo to give them a sense of identity. One of the most heavily criticized designs in recent times was that of London’s 2012 Olympics. The event itself was a huge success, rightly praised for its organization and its sense of fun. The logo, however, was a different thing altogether.
In 2008, we had a dancing Beijing figure, in 2004 it was an arty wreath from an olive tree while in 2000 we had an innovative image of an athlete created by a combination of boomerang, rocks and the Sydney skyline. These were all highly impressive examples of branding which were eye-catching, artistic and in some way referencing the host city.
Not to put too fine a point on it, in London 2012 we had a logo that looked like Lisa Simpson performing a sex act. Widely criticized from the moment it was unveiled in 2007, to this day many observers feel the logo was the biggest negative of all about the event. There was even talk at the time of an Iranian boycott because it appeared to spell the word ‘Zion’.
Like art, logo design’s beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. Some wonderful designs will appeal to many, but there will always be a few who find them disagreeable. For designers, setting the right tone is often a difficult balancing act.