Logo Design Love

For graphic designers and all who love logos.

Thoughts about similar-looking logos

A recent blog post, Your Logo is Not Hardcore, got Bucharest-based designer Andrei Tache thinking. He shared a few of his comments in this guest piece.

Nike VCXC logo
Nike VCXC branding by Jon Contino

Context

We’re able to see those X-based logos together because the Internet connects everything, making it look like the world is one big box, but to each of us, life still takes its course in a limited area. Maybe all of those logos do their job for a small area and stand-out just as they are. Regardless, it’s no longer possible to have perfectly distinct logos for every business. You can hardly have that within a specific domain, much less cross-domain as it’s depicted in the case of Your Logo is Not Hardcore. Just because there are so many similar-looking logos doesn’t mean they’re not distinct.

Template

Although this particular design direction looks like a fashionable decision to make, I’d argue that the form is quite generic. Maybe just as generic as a square or a circle. The X looks like the new square, and it feels rather natural for designers to make more use of a new geometric form. Even looking at the examples in this collection, you know that it’s a route that leaves room for innovation. Its versatility creates its own place in graphic design, representative of our period.

Fashion

Fashion is a taboo subject for designers but maybe it should be looked at more closely. Fashion is about mass adoption of a certain mentality or a certain way of doing things. This means that fashion is a statement about the times in which we live — a statement that will be of value in 30 or 50 years from now. Just as we like motifs from other recent periods, this might grow into a classic of our time.

The downsides come through two means: one is that if you adopt ways that are fashionable today, you are already behind the flock. You’d be better off shaping the next best thing, but not everyone’s an innovator, and that’s fine. The second problem one might encounter is using fashionable shapes without having an understanding about what they mean. This can result in poor design that lacks coherence and intellectual content. But because the X stands for so many things, it’s difficult to mishandle.

Immortality

We design symbols to last, but nothing lasts forever, really. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try, I’m saying that thinking about something with a life cycle seems more natural and might offer a different perspective within the process.

Old ways

The form of these X-based logos can conjure thoughts of heraldry. So maybe it’s just an old habit with contemporary ways. But there’s one small glitch to this…

New ways

Similar-looking designs don’t work for us because we glance over them so quickly that we only grasp the main features. Crests come from a time where this just wasn’t the case. But maybe, just maybe we should consider slowing down a bit. It’s clear to us that logos won’t get more distinctive, so perhaps it’s us. Perhaps we should slow down and go into more detail, enjoy nicely crafted things, despite their vague resemblance to tons of other stuff. This calls for peace, thoughtful analysis, and a slower pace.

But it goes to show that maybe hardcore is not what a good logo should strive for.

You can view some of Andrei’s work on his website: Fabrica de Design.

Related, from the archives: When logos look alike.

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities

7 appreciated comments

  1. jw

    How many of the ‘logos’ on Your Logo Is Not Hardcore are real—actually in use outside of flexing trend muscles? The reason something like this folk vernacular can become trendy is because it has no real world application, and can just be posted on the internet simply because it looks cool. A lot of work on the internet isn’t solving any design problem other than that of it’s creator, and as such, is not design. Those ‘logos’ are the equivalent of: your photograph is not vintage. If you got an X past a client, good for you.

  2. There’s one point sadly being missed in this discussion – the role of design within a business context. The bottom line is that brand identity is to distinguish and differentiate within its native market; to make me want to buy one brand of jeans over the next, or trust this insurer to protect me better than the next one.

    So, to reference the example given, fashion trends do indeed occur because we want to dress like our peers and fit in with the crowd. But we design brand identities to be distinct from the next, otherwise there is no commercial value to what we do.

    Be brave, stand out and have a purpose. Nobody respects a brand that tries to mimic something else.

  3. A few words on Twitter from Miles Newlyn as a reply to this post (quoted here so the thoughts aren’t lost in the tweet deluge).

    “The purpose of trends in design is to communicate with a common reference. Without reference we cannot communicate.

    “Most designers start with a reference and make different, I tend to start with different and make reference.”

  4. Miles Newlyn has a very good point I think, because visual communication is precisely about reference. But reference usually goes back in time a very long way. There is a heritage of sings, symbols and shapes you need to work with to bring out new things. Making reference to more recent things is risky I think.
    The thing you make reference to must have a well established meaning or value behind it. If it’s young, you know little about what it will become.
    What usually goes well is handling old reference in a contemporary manner.

    Matt Robinson, thanks for your comment. I think adding value is what everyone should try to do, whatever field they work in. Obviously designers even more so, but what concerns me are the details of that. You don’t start your day thinking you’re going to mimic the competition or something else. But one might ask what is more important: designing a logo that describes the values of the company well, although it resembles a logo of a small company in a different economy sector OR doing something that is completely unseen, but does not fit its purpose as well. There must be hundreds of thousands of businesses out there so one might need to reconsider the hierarchy for these design parameters.
    My call is to consider the state of things right now and reconsider the criteria to which a logo is good or bad.
    Also this article poses a relevant question regarding our position as designers: http://www.logodesignlove.com/do-good-logos-need-to-look-good

  5. I like to suggest that one day a computer program will change and adjust a logo depending on many factors. The logo would be changed with time as the computer sees fit to do so. The changes show the latest trends, decade and time it is used, location, growth of the company etc… The original design is possibly done by a human but all future changes are watched and evaluated by the computer and presented for approval.

    No seriously, I think we get caught up in all the red tape which is mostly designer ego and we start laying down rules to stop the flow of creativity. This article simply confuses that creativity.

  6. GKerth

    I selected Axis as the name of my company because of the appeal to “engineering folk”, now I realize there are a multitude of similar looking logos and all the logos I have received so far have not “popped”. Any inspirational suggestions out there?

  7. JQuirk

    In regard to the appreciated comments argument about trendy logos not being sufficient/not solving a design problem only that of its creator:

    I am a merely weeks away from graduation so do pity my lack of experience in the trade, but I think more and more designers are branching into fashion design/apparel/wearable tech and so on and the need for keeping with trends is now relevant. Like Jon Contino who has collaborated with many clothing companies, I too want to start my own clothing line, which I am currently working on and I am trying to find the right balance between an endless design and a trendy style that is desirable to my target market.

    Another point I would like to add is that although design for function is very important I think that these sites filled with designers’ own concepts that don’t satisfy a function is just an example that there are design conscious designers out there who are providing an aesthetic medium.


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