Logo Design Love

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Stretching the Virgin logo

“You can’t expect a man, who’s successful business-philosophy is, “Screw it, let’s do it” to really care much about this inconsistency in the visual identity of the Virgin brands. And after all, isn’t he himself the consistent identity of the Virgin brand?”

VIBE shows us just how many Virgin sub-brands there are, and how different the identities look.

Virgin logos

Virgin logos

I gotta admit, some of these look plain tacky, but it’s a good reminder that your logo is not your brand. It might be one small part of it, and an important visual part nonetheless, but there’s so much more to a company than brand identity.

The handwritten Virgin mark, white on red or vice versa, is undoubtedly one of the most recognisable logos in the world, but it’s Richard Branson who I see as the real force behind the empire.

Even more Virgin logos on VIBE.

Via Quipsologies.

Along similar lines: 10 handwritten logo designs.

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities, second edition

41 appreciated comments

  1. David, great post – I do agree some of these logos are tacky. I do think it is ok to make offshoots of the logo mark and in Richard Branson’s case however tacky the design atleast he kept the handwritten “Virgin” for the most part for consistencies sake :) Richard is definitely the brand. Do you think other companies can pull that off or just in certain cases?

  2. Wow, you don’t really notice just how many there are until you see something like this. Crazy!

  3. Wow, some of them deviate so far from the original… I must agree that “your logo is not your brand”… I’ve actually read Richard’s book “Losing My Virginity” and was a great insight into his life and business philosophy. Highly recommend it. Have you read it David?

  4. wow, that is really a stretch. I never knew he had so many sub brands.

  5. So many versions yet they are all sickiningly ugly. Actually, Virgin is quite consistent with their actual logo they just play very fast and use with its useage. But minus the Earth Challenge, everyone would know that its the same Virgin company so he uses actually work.I think most logos are too hampered with rules that restrict creative use. In this case however it show that loosening the restrictions doesn’t always lead to a more creative design.

  6. As far as some of the designs may deviate, you can still tell instantly that they all belong to Virgin brand. I assume that the majority have all been adapted by various agencies over the years, each with their own take on how to replicate the base design.

  7. I used to run the Virgin Radio website in the UK.

    Top-left is the “proper” up to date Virgin script (VIrgin Atlantic). Note the “g” and the top of the “V”. (I privately called this “Will”, though it has no official Virgin name.)

    Just below that (Virgin Books) is the older version, which I think was called “blob”. Note the sloping “g” and the blob on the top of the “V”. You’ve used this older version on the Virgin Radio logo; in fact, we changed it to the newest one in the UK a few years back (before Virgin Radio ceased).

    The one used by Virgin Records (or Virgin Classics) is the original logo, known internally as “tick” – note the tick at the top right of the V. This shouldn’t be used anywhere now, but since Virgin Management no longer look after Virgin Records at all, they can’t tell EMI what to do!

    You -should- see the new version (“Will”) on most Virgin things now; it was tweaked to work better online, among other things. The older “blob” is still used by some non-Virgin-company companies, notably Virgin Wines; you’ll also see “blob” and “tick” on some Virgin Megastores (if you can still find any).

    There was also “son of tick” and “bastard son of tick” which really do exist as other versions of the Virgin script… both shouldn’t be used…

    Hope that’s of interest.

  8. The Virgin brand is instantly recognisable, and the amount of areas they are involved shows the vast nature of the business – a true global brand.

    I’m interested to see if the money they’ve invested in the Brawn GP F1 team will see them eventually take over the branding of the car. At the moment there is just a logo on the front and side. It seems Branson has done it again.

    Having had some experience of working with Virgin on some promotional material they are very picky about how the logo is used, no matter how trashy and cheesy you may think some of the logos above look.

  9. @James Cridland, please explain the Earth Challenge atrocity! Either the designer was home with bird flu and an intern was called upon to make a deadline. Or the entire design dept was drunk on yummy Virgin Wine(tm) and decided to knock something out before 9:30 so they could go to the pub and continue drinking.

    The website contains not one, but THREE lens flares! With $25,000,000 up for grabs, you’d think the design budget would be larger.

    I don’t mean to sound harsh…some of the others are very well done.

  10. Lens flares should be illegal in logo design. Punished by the death penalty.

  11. When I see all the logos together I get the feeling that the inconsistency IS the visual brand. I know it’s an accident, but it works. It works because it’s consistent with the core brand – Richard Branson’s approach to business.

  12. Hi everyone. Thanks for the great responses.

    I’ve fractured my big toe playing football, so am spending more time with my feet up than at the computer. I hope you’ll excuse the group response, and that you’re faring better than me when it comes to sporting injuries!

  13. Yes, many of them are brash but I actually like the many sub-brands of Virgin.

    I think they all echo the original umbrella brand well and the sea of sub-brands in my opinion have been executed very well when you consider the difficulty in maintaining consistency for the many extensions to Virgin products/services.

    David, don’t make excuses about your man foot, we all well know you can put your foot up and still work on your laptop ;)

  14. Amanda,

    I should’ve just waited until taking to the sofa before replying ;) Can you guess the cost of a global rebrand for Virgin? £50M, £100M? £500M? Scary money.

    Adelle,

    You’re spot on. The consistency of the scripted Virgin mark is vital here. Could other companies work through a similar variation? Definitely, but probably not without a lot of marketing spend and public awareness.

    Jacob,

    I borrowed that book off a friend back in uni, but didn’t get too far. I have a bad habit of doing that — starting books, but never finishing them. There was a recent television interview with Branson where he spoke about the illegal business dealings he was doing in his early years. Intriguing.

    James,

    That was indeed of interest. Thanks for taking the time and pointing out the differences.

    Abbas,

    It does look like Branson has done it again with the Brawn GP team. Not many people saw them leading the pack after a few races. Seems to have really backed a winner (for now).

    John,

    Right there with you about the Earth Challenge atrocity.

    Jim,

    Interesting take, but is Branson’s approach to business actually inconsistent? I’d like to know more about your thoughts.

  15. You folks are giving these logos waaaaaaaaaaaay too much credit. I think they all look quite crappy. I’ll give the Virgin Drink one a pass because the logo will have to be seen on what was probably a ridiculous bright can but the rest??? Sheesh. Especially the web-button ones which reek of early 90s design. Corporate should have AT LEAST nixed the use of double keylines around the logo. They completely engulf the Virgin text logo.

  16. Flor

    I have to say, I’m a little flabbergasted with this gaggle of logos. I’m an avid reader of comic books and when I saw that Virgin had its own comic line on the shelves I almost had a heart attack. Seeing all the sub-brands simultaneously only reemerges that feeling. It makes me wonder how much is enough. Does the Virgin name have meaning anymore when it’s everywhere promoting every product all the time? It’s to the point where the Virgin name is borderline oppressive.

    Although, some of these logos are fairly attractive. The Virgin America & Atlantic logos seem to be the most polished of the bunch. They look nice in their new ad campaign too, except for the fact that it references communist China(not necessarily a negative in some regards, but is it the right thing to say in a democracy?). Which takes me back to my original point, what the hell are they trying to say?

  17. Thing is with large scale brand exposure, how many different companies are involved? Each large company who lands a Virgin account will immediately justify the amount of money they charge by producing a ‘brand essence’ pack, what they as a company believe makes Virgin the brand they are. This will differ from company to company, which is something I have a real issue with as I’ve witnessed this time and time again when I worked at Nike. As a brand I think YOU should issue the brand essence, not the other way around, that way at least you know you (the brand) should be getting something that resembles what you’re intention and attitude is.

    I also, as much as some of the designs are a bit ugly, like the fact that they aren’t all the same design with different coloured lozenges relative to the sub brand. Brands can also get carried away with the brand guideline mentality and take away any potential for attitude that is relevant to that particular market, resulting in boring logo and slug/lozenge/secondary text/colour options.

    I think it all needs reigning in a bit and controlling but the fact that the actual Virgin logo is in pretty much all options shows good brand consistency.

  18. Thanks James for the inside look. I thought initially “at least the logo is consistent”… wrong.

    > Interesting take, but is Branson’s approach to business actually inconsistent?

    David, sorry for me pointing you at TED.com again, but there’s an interview with Branson
    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/richard_branson_s_life_at_30_000_feet.html

    Somewhere in this interview he sais in the lines of “if you can start one company, you can start any company”. Besides, he urged more than once that people and enterpreneurs should follow their passions and try to make money out of that.

  19. Altough, sorry… it kills time while you’re recovering. And the way, maybe it’s a good time to finish some books now. (reading I mean, not writing yours ;))

  20. Jenniferalyse

    Virgin Bingo???? I had no idea about half of these. Though I will say…..off topic… I love flying Virgin America.

    Interesting post. Thanks.

  21. tazzy

    I think they didn’t include an Australian low-cost airlines – Virgin Blue http://www.virginblue.com.au/

  22. It is interesting how some logos are used, when I use others logo’s I try and at least keep it looking like the company and would definitely bastardize it as much as above example.

  23. Well, that’s a brand that surely has lost its virginity. This is crazy. Well, like I mentioned in reply to another blog somewhere in cyberspace that good designs can be contagious, this is really stretching things to death. But then again, with a logo as popular as this, I guess, you can really afford to stretch things a bit far. Well, Sir Richard doesn’t mind surely.

  24. I can’t say I really like any of those logo designs to be totally honest. You are correct in saying there is more to a company brand than just it’s logo, but it makes me wonder if their sales would increase with a really cool logo design.

    I would like to see a chart showing the sales revenue of some of these larger companies, before and after a new logo. Example: UPS. Hey, maybe I will have to do some research and write up a post on the subject.

  25. True, your logo is not your brand, but this brand certainly has a good amount of variety according to the logo. Some of them even look like other logos, but that Virgin – V is still easily recognisable.

  26. Looks pretty awful but I supposed they’ve kept the Virgin font along the way.

    Company like Easyjet probably set out with the intention to diverse into different sectors and design the logo/branding with that in mind. Where maybe old Sir Richard didn’t have that in mind or did it on the cheap and didn’t get advice from a graphic designer!

    Jamie

  27. Decades of graphic design standards have been imprinted on all these little divisions and subsidiaries. Clean up, Virgins! Why can’t you be like Google/Yahoo? The corporate logo and the service name – all of them in the same plain typeface – so the logo can be the main focus.

  28. Great discussion, and thanks for that link, Tjeerd. I’ll take a look.

    Jamie, been ages! I hope you’re well. Plenty of reasons for the reds fans to be happy, even without any silverware.

  29. I have to say I think the group of logos provided proves your logo IS your brand. The Virgin logo is represented in some recognizable fashion in each layout except one (top right corner). And therefore that one doesn’t look like it has anything to do with Virgin at all. By simply adding the Virgin logo, no matter what the main though of the design, it is branded first and foremost Virgin.

  30. I agree with Trish to a certain point but think what image your brand conveys needs to ALSO to be consistent. The problem I have with these logos besides many being extremely ugly is that they all push the Virgin brand into diff’t directions, cheapening and confusing the Brand. While Virgin might not need to have as singular a Brand image as say Fred Perry or Bank of America for instance, I do think these Virgin logos don’t convey any image of what Virgin stands for. To someone who doesn’t know Virgin, I would see any of these and think Soda Pop packaging and/or Cheap. I always felt Virgins image included such keywords as Hip, Fun, and On-the-edge/Risky. Some of these logos do convey fun but not in the right way (Virgin being Epcot Center, these logos being Blackpool Amusement Center).
    David

  31. Trish,

    I disagree. Your logo isn’t your brand. Here’s an excellent article from Andy Rutledge to help explain my stance, detailing what makes a brand a brand:

    Of Brands and Commodities

  32. Virgin should take a hint from Google, who recently decided to rebrand all of their product logos in order to improve brand consistency.

  33. Ash

    “your logo is not your brand”

    I won’t completely agree to that. The logo is usually the strongest (and sadly, sometimes the only) pillar that your brand stands on. It’s just that with Branson’s semi-celeb personality and lifestyle, and Virgin doing everything everywhere all the time (wow, that so did not sound wrong. not at all), the combination of media exposure and sheer business volume has crafted new pillars to stand on.

  34. Ash, you left out the part where I say your logo is a part of the brand. For me, the product or service being offered is the “pillar that your brand stands on”. No logo, no matter how good, will rescue a poor product.

  35. I don’t like the new ‘Virgin media’ logo, the glowing edge seems tacky although I think it is meant to reflect the new ‘fiberoptic broadband’ they are offering.

    The shape also reminds me of a pringle!

  36. Clare Balmer

    I know this is post hasn’t been touched in a while but I had to comment. I just got back from a flight on Virgin Pacific and Virgin Blue airlines and I really noticed how badly the Virgin logo is treated! The blue and red with a white outlined logo (bad by itself) clashed so much slapped on a green emergency safety form! But you are right the brand is not harmed by this as Richards personality and attitude are what holds this iconic empire together. I do have to cringe that even simple steps can make massive improvements if a fraction more thought were put into it!

  37. Absolutely agree! I ve read the book by Richard Branson “Business stripped bare” …..interesting ideas in there. Of course lots of self promotion, but he openly admits it. He is probably one of the few people who really know how to build a brand and what a brand stands for and how it needs to be conveyed in colors, events etc. you name it.

    Love the idea of giving a particular name to each plane to personalize it for both the crew and the airport staff. This also builds the brand, makes people remember.

  38. Dan

    How did Roger Dean’s Virgin gemini logo not end up on here? It was the record company’s original logo back when Virgin was a single shop specializing in imports.


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