16: Teaching Support | Design and Cultural Studies
Week 3: Logos and Branding
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What is a logo?

A logo is an icon, image or arrangement of text that represents the important values and qualities of a company or a product.

ogos have been in use for as long as merchants and traders have existed. Historically, their use can be traced back for many hundreds of years.

A logo should be distinctive and instantly recognisable, remaining in the mind of anyone who sees it.

eg potential customers and clients.

When we see a logo, ideally it should be aspirational, inspiring a number of responses in a viewer.

• Trust in the company/product it represents.
A feeling that the company/product is dynamic ie full of energy / moving forwards etc
• A feeling of loyalty towards that company/product
Admiration for the company/product and what it stands for

The sections below are from the logos/packaging of well known brands.

We can only see a small section of each one but it is very easy to tell which brand each represents as they are so distinctive.


Crunchie logo >>

Mars logo

Designing a Logo

Graphic Designers are very often asked to create logos for companies and products. Logo design is actually one of the most common kinds of project on which a graphic designer will be asked to work.

To design a commercially
effective logo you need to have a thorough understanding of the company or product that the logo is to represent. If you do not do enough research at the beginning you will find it hard to create an appropriate design. You could end up making a logo that looks nice but which is entirely wrong for its subject.

If you were designing a logo for a company it would be helpful to first ask the following questions -

• Who is the company?

• What is significant about the company?

• What makes the company stand out from its competitors?

• What are its core values and messages?

• What service is being offered by the company and what cost is involved?

• Who is the company's audience and what is important to them?

The answers to these questions help to establish the right 'language' and 'tone of voice' to use when developing a design.

1 Word Marks (also known as 'Logo Types.')
The Word Mark could make use of an existing typeface with letters adjusted or developed so that it looks more interesting or expresses a particular meaning.

A few examples of companies with Logo Word Marks are below.

• Microsoft
The Microsoft logo is displayed in a font called Helvetica Italic.
The space between the letters 'o' and 's' are intended to emphasize the "soft" part of the name as well as suggesting speed and movement.

• Canon
Canon were originally called 'Kwanon.'
However, in the 1930s they decided to update their image. The name 'Canon' has an association with precision and the company wanted to convey this about their products .(Canon also sounds similar to Kwanon so possibly this would have been a relatively small leap for consumers to become accustomed.)

Sometimes a designer will draw new and original letterforms to create a Word Mark, instead of relying on preexisting fonts. Symbolic shapes (sometimes called 'accents') can replace or appear alongside letterforms.

• Fed Ex

The FedEx logo word mark incorporates a 'hidden' visual accent and it is possibly 'fun' for the viewer to realise there is a hidden meaning. Elements like this make a logo more memorable.

• Sony Vaio
The Sony Vaio logo symbolises the analogue and digital capabiilities of Vaio products. The 'V' and 'A' represent a Cosine wave and the 'I' and 'O' represent the numbers 1 and 0. This logo is good in that it goes beyond merely looking nice - the shapes within the logo relate to functions of the Vaio product and suggest society's movement from analogue to digital technology.

Some years ago, the Robert Gordon University commissioned a design studio based in Glasgow called Graven Images to redesign its corporate identity.

The studio created a typeface called 'Gordon' which was incorporated into various different RGU Word Marks.



eg RGU
Logo Word Mark using the Gordon typeface.

RGU logo word mark

eg Gray's School of Art
Logo Word Mark variation involving the Gordon typeface.
The shape is intended to represent the North East of Scotland.

Gray's School of Art logo

eg School of Computing / The Robert Gordon University
Logo Word Mark - another variation involving the Gordon typeface.

School of Computing Word Mark

The RGU identity is applied to branded materials ( eg brochures, prospectuses etc) produced by all the different Schools within the University. When a design studio creates a logo they normally provide details (known as style guidelines) which indicate how the logo and other parts of the identity should be used.

These style guidelines show how the RGU identity is intended to be used.

2 Logos based on symbols
A symbolic logo is a shape which represents a company or product. Symbolic logos tend to be simple but at the same time also bold and dynamic. Vey often they use a single flat colour as opposed to a number of colours and so are easier to remember.

• The Nike 'Swoosh' is a famous example and was originally designed in the 1970s.

The early designs incorporated the word 'Nike' along with the curved shape below it. This shape was originally referred to as the 'Stripe' but later became known as the Nike 'Swoosh.'

Older Nike logo

The 'Swoosh' shape is a very powerful symbol for Nike.
Nowadays, Nike recognise that when people see it, they immediately think of the word 'Nike' anyway, and so now do not always need to include the word 'Nike' as part of their branding.

After thirty years the 'Swoosh' symbol = Nike!
This is only possible because Nike have been in business for so long and their products, advertising and branding have made such a strong impact on the public. When we see the distinctive symbolic 'Swoosh' shape, we immediately think of the name of the company.

Nike 'Swoosh'


• Apple (or Apple Computer Inc as it was known until 2007) was named after the story of Sir Isaac Newton as he sat underneath an apple tree. (An apple falls on his head and this gives rise to his theory of gravity.)

The original logo was originally meant to suggest knowledge, understanding and perhaps also to symbolise new ideas and creativity. It references the Biblical story of Adam and Eve who took a bite (byte!) from an apple which fell from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden.

It looks similar to a woodcut and has a very individual 'home grown feel.' It somehow seems very suitable for a small computer company which began in a garage with just 3 employees.

Original Apple logo

By logo design standards today the design above looks busy and complicated - very different to the more corporate versions Apple used in later years.

Apple logo - multicoloured

The version above was used from 1976 to 1999. Apple was the first computer company not to make use of its name as part of its logo. This link shows an early Apple advertisement making use of the multicoloured Apple branding. http://www.fizbang.com/i/apple/a-for-apple.jpg


As part of its brand identity, Apple tries to promote itself as being about creativity, informality and individuality.

This is a famous Apple television advertisement inspired by George Orwell's '1984' a story about the life of its central character Winston Smith and his life in the totalitarian country of Oceania.

Sometimes the logo or brand identity of one company will be 'subverted' or parodied by another.
This is an advert for the US Senator Barack Obama as part of his US Presidential campaign. It replaces the face of authority with Hilary Clinton and adapts a previous version of the Apple logo to appear as an 'O' for 'Obama.'


The link below shows a few examples of Apple's 'Think Different' advertising campaign, used in the late 1990s.
(This campaign was in response to a previous slogan used by Apple's competitor IBM - 'Think.')





Apple logo - present dayBackground Apple logo - on screen - OSX

The logos above show two present day incarnations of the Apple logo which reflect the appearance of the Apple OS X Operating System.

The link below shows examples of Apple's current US television adverts.

This advertising campaign has been adapted to fit different regions and nationalities.
Below is a link to the similar advertisements but for a UK audience.

Brands can become so successful they affect our culture in unexpected ways.

People have become so accustomed to Apple's iPod brand that it is now almost impossible to think of the word 'pod' without thinking of Apple's iPod product. In this sense, Apple have unintentionally 'annexed' the word 'pod' so that its dictionary definition has now become almost secondary to their product.

3 Logos based on initials

Logos are sometimes based on the initials of a company's
This can have the effect of making the company's name easier to remember, reinforcing the brand in people's minds.

• McDonald's
The McDonald's 'double arches' logo immediately makes us think of the name 'McDonald's.'
This shape is based on the letter 'm' but is now also a powerful symbolic initial which represents McDonald's and the fast food they sell.

McDonald's - I'm Lovin' It

A company feels confident of its status as a well known brand when it is willing to remove its name from its logo
eg on the McDonald's website.

McDonald's feel so sure of its brand's impact that they are comfortable using the phrase 'I'm lovin' it' in place of the name 'McDonald's.'


• BP
Landor Associates were responsible for creating the most recent version of the BP identity.http://www.landor.com/?do=cPortfolio.getCase&caseid=322

BP originally stood for British Petroleum. This is how the BP logo looked between 1989 and 2000.

In previous years, the words 'British Petroleum' also appeared beneath the crest.
However, by 1989, BP was confident that everyone understood what the initials stood for and so these could be removed without the brand itself being weakened.

Older BP logo

BP now want to appear more environmentally friendly and in 2000 they underwent a significant rebranding exercise. The green colour of their previous logo, combined with the use of the Helios shape supports this because it has an appearance which makes us think of a sunburst or a flower. BP also announced a new slogan in 2000 - 'Beyond Petroleum' in an effort to suggest the forward thinking nature of their organisation.

Present day BP logo


IBM stands for International Business Machines Corporation and its history can be traced back as far as the 1800s!

The letters 'IBM' were first used as the company's logo in 1947 and their blue colour may have led to the company nickname 'Big Blue.'

In 1956, the logo was updated by a graphic designer called Paul Rand, and then again in 1972.
The 1972 version avoids solid colour so it would reproduce well on 1970s photocopiers.

An early IBM poster using pictograms from the early 80s by Paul Rand

Paul Rand in an Apple Think Different advert


4 Channel Four

The original Channel 4 logo was created by a design studio called Lambie-Nairn.
(who also designed the BBC News 24 and O2 identities)

The logo was made of nine three dimensional coloured blocks and was used between 1982 and 1996.
It represented the idea of Channel 4 uniting different strands as a publisher and broadcaster.

Between 1982 and 1996, the logo was animated in a variety of different ways.


Over the years, the Channel Four logo became very well established and at one point was parodied by Hamlet cigars.


The company changed its broadcasting style in the early 1990s, concentrating on a fringe mainstream audience. It updated its 'look' accordingly but retained the original structure of the number four made from blocks.

The current series of Channel 4 stings appearing between programs continue to use the original number four constructed from blocks. However the use of the identity has evolved significantly since 1982 but still refers back to the original design.


BBC TV identies

5 Cif / Jif / Vim

Cif is a brand of cleaning products owned by Unilever.

At different times and in different countries it has been known as Cif, Jif and Vim.
This difference is due to ease of pronunciation for people in different countres speaking different languages.

6 Branding for food

Store brands (also known as 'Own brands')
Supermarkets sometimes sell cheaper versions of big name brands.
These sometimes take visual 'cues' from established, related brands.

The store brand bottle of cola below refers visually to the Coca-Cola brand by using red and white colours on its label and top.

Store Brand Cola

Walkers crisps
Colours can have strong associations for certain products.

Salt and Vinegar crisps have traditionally been blue.
Cheese and Onion crisps have traditionally been green.

However, Walkers do the reverse.

Walkers Crisps

Innocent Fruit Drinks

Innocent Drinks are based in the UK and make smoothie fruit drinks. Their drinks are sold internationally and the brand currently dominates the UK smoothie market. Innocent maintain their drinks will always be healthy and make use of pure ingredients.

Innocent say "...anything Innocent will always taste good and do you good. We promise we'll never use concentrates, preservatives, stabilisers, or any weird stuff in our drinks." Labels on the reverse of the bottles tend to be humorous and cleverly written and help to reinforce the 'story' behind the brand.

They were founded in 1999 and the 'legend' surrounding the brand is that the founders developed recipes for smoothies and then sold drinks from a stall at a London music festival. They asked people whether they should leave their jobs to start their drinks business and asked people to put the empty bottles in 'yes' and 'no' bins as indication of their answer. By the end of the festival the 'yes' bin had many more bottles in it than the 'no' bin and so Innocent fruit drinks was founded.

Innocent give 10% of their profits to charity and the company itself is also registered as a charity.



7 Road Signs

Road signage in the UK is technically not a brand in itself.

However it has achieved a level of 'brand' recognition through the use of large scale signage at roadsides which incorporate certain colours and typefaces.

The 'Transport' typeface was designed between 1957 and 1963 by two graphic designers called Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir.

The shape of the letter forms within the typeface was designed to be easily read by motorists driving at high speeds on Britain's new motorways.



8 A logo will normally be placed in numerous different environments.
Ideally, it should be clear and easy to interpret in any situation.


• at a large scale
eg on a billboard poster or on the side of a van.

• at a small scale
eg on a business card or as part of a letter head.

• in situations where detail could be lost or broken up
eg on a tv or computer screen, or as a piece of embroidery on a shirt.

• in situations where a logo must be reproduced at 'second hand'
eg a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of a company document with a company logo at the top!
Detail will no doubt be degraded but the essence of the logo should remain intact and it should stay easy to recognise.
A shape which is complex and is made up of many subtle and small components / photographic elements / colours / soft edges etc probably would not.

One school of thought is that ideally, a logo should be so identifiable that even if it was quickly drawn in sand on a beach, it would still be recognised!

However, in recent times - perhaps with the advent of companies which are entirely web based, and certainly because of the ease with which computer effects can be applied - the above 'rules' associated with logo design are followed less than they once were. In such cases it can be necessary to design different versions of a logo for use in different situations.

Examples of soft edges and gradients, along with subtle, layered colour combinations -

Example Soft Edges Colour Logo 1bgExample Soft Edges Colour Logo 2bgExample Soft Edges Colour Logo 3

Motion in logo design is not a new idea. Cartoon 'streaks' were once our only way of conveying motion within a logo. However, nowadays our imaging technologies allow us to create the effect of movement in ways which are more subtle.

Example Motion Logo 1 bgExample Motion Logo 2

Another, more general guideline is that a logo should present its subject in a positive, potentially dynamic light. If you are trying - for example - to promote a company it makes sense to make that company's logo look as worthwhile and exciting as possible.

9 Good resources

Books -

• Los Logos


• Dos Logos

• Tres Logos

Websites -

• Logopond.com

• Goodlogo.com

• Logolounge.com

10 Gestalt Principles

Gestalt Psychology involves theories about visual perception which were developed in Germany in the 1920s.

The fundamental theory is that the mind attempts to organise and make sense of visual information when it is presented to us. A familiarity with these ideas can be helpful to a designer in producing logos which will be visually effective.

• This is known as 'Pragnanz' (the German word for 'consciousness') and is fundamental to Gestalt perception.

• The four key principles of Gestalt theory are emergence, reification, multistability and invariance.

Preparation for next week (Wednesday 17th October 2007)

Please familiarise yourself with the website beside your name.
Try to analyse the site you have been allocated.

• What is the purpose of the website ?
• What functions/features does it have ?
• Why do you like it / not like it ?
• Who is the intended audience ?
• Why is it suitable / unsuitable for its intended audience ?
• Are there any regional variations for different countries ?

• Melissa Aitkenhead

• Claire Allan

• Sarah Clarke

• Ryan Cowie

• Kenneth Dannfald

• Greig Douglas

• Callum Duncan

• Gordon Esslemont

• Emma Fedo

• Fiona Finlayson

• Amanda Geddes

• Claire Greig

• Andrew Grosvenor

• Simon King

• Findlay MacDonald

• Eilidh McKay

• Colin McRae

• Reza Movasat

• Laura Murray

• Alistair Nicol

• Barry Parker

• Anastasia Pavlova

• Amanda Ross

• Jake Warden


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