Cultural differences in logo design

Sagi Haviv, partner at renowned Manhattan-based Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, kindly shared a few thoughts on working with clients from different cultural backgrounds. His upcoming keynote at HOW Design Live will expand upon this topic.

On the significance of colour

“We worked with Steff Geissbuhler on a logo for Radio Free Europe — a news outlet that broadcasts to the entire Middle East and parts of Asia and Europe where freedom of information has not yet taken firm hold. The importance of colour in culture and politics presented challenges for us as logo designers. We did extensive research on the relevance of colours in different cultures, and it turned out that every colour had a negative connotation in one country or another — all except orange. So, we made the logo orange.”

Radio Free Europe logoRadio Free Europe symbol

On transferring design rights to the client

Prague Zoo came to us because its previous logo could no longer be used. The designer who created it had maintained the copyright to the logo, as is the common business practice in that part of the world, and wanted to ratchet up the price of his royalties.”

Prague Zoo logo, oldOld Prague Zoo logo

“The zoo wanted an ownable logo, and had already conducted several rounds of public competition that didn’t work out.

Prague Zoo logo competitionA few of the competition results

“It’s our usual practice to transfer rights upon payment, so we were astonished at how long and convoluted the negotiations became, when all we wanted to do was assure our client that they would own the logo.”

Prague Zoo logoNew Prague Zoo logo

Prague Zoo logo

On internationalising a Japanese brand

“Founded in Japan in 1899, the Yoshinoya brand is known in that country for its beef bowls and tradition of efficient service — with more than 1,500 restuarants across Japan, and 106 locations in California. As Yoshinoya has expanded into international markets, however, it had some difficulty establishing recognition. The complex, traditional seal posed a challenge — particularly in American markets, where signage is very important.

Yoshinoya logo before afterYoshinoya logo before and after

“Rather than simplifying the existing logo, which contained many elements that were irrelevant or incomprehensible to American audiences, we focused on the distinctive lettering style of the name, extracted the recognisable Y, and set it in a bowl shape. This revised visual identity now works effectively in all applications, from signs to app icons. The new lettermark, in the Yoshinoya orange, will be adopted in both the US and Japanese markets — alongside the original seal that will continue to represent the long tradition of the brand.”

Yoshinoya logo

Yoshinoya logo

Yoshinoya logo

Yoshinoya logo

On designing for a university

“We were surprised to find that, even in a foreign country and in a very different culture, the experience of working with a university would present remarkably similar challenges to working with universities in the United States. Tec de Monterrey is a major private university in Mexico with more than 100,000 students and 31 campuses. It traditionally used a seal that presented significant challenges in application — yet it was beloved by alumni, faculty, and students alike.

Tec de Monterrey sealTec de Monterrey seal

Tec de Monterrey logo sketchesVarious sketches for the new symbol

“Creating a new identity system for Tec was less of a challenge than getting it accepted. When the logo was first launched, there was an immediate public outcry, with more than 52 million Facebook impressions over the first couple days. Illustrations of the logo burning the university down were common — which we actually thought were great.

Tec de Monterrey new logo burning oldNew Tec de Monterrey symbol burning the seal

“Eventually, people settled down and realised that the university wasn’t getting rid of the historic seal but rather adding an element that would be easier to use everyday. It seems to be gaining acceptance now after a year or so.”

Tec de Monterrey logo

For more of a design insight, see this Sagi Haviv interview from the archives. And view more work from Sagi and his colleagues on the Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv website.

One response

  1. The Prague Zoo incident really looks like a US company doing the usual zero diligence on their part. Also looks like designers in Prague maintain an amazing level of control over their work!
    I wonder how that affects the commercial environment for both clients and the artists.

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