tombstone

Simon Manchipp, one of three partners at London-based SomeOne, said on Twitter: “Logos are dead. Yet we have been featured in the new book Logo Design Love as an example of how to do logos. They are a hangover from old-school thinking about branding. There is no desire by the public for a new logo. They are simply an old-fashioned approach to differentiating products or services.”

Upon questioning, Manchipp explicitly meant that: “Symbols invented to accompany brand names are a waste of time, money and effort.”

I asked David Law, Manchipp’s partner at SomeOne (and the man who kindly submitted SomeOne’s designs for inclusion in my book), what he thought of his partner’s statement:

“It’s something we have been debating internally for quite a while. When you look at brands like O2, its success lies in the richness and depth of its brand world (bubbles, blue gradient, etc.). This forms a flexible branded platform that is instantly recognisable — you could remove the logo and still know the brand. The logo in itself is not the ‘hero’.

“In the past, brands like IBM and FedEx traded on the logo as the ‘hero’. We see it even today. So while we all acknowledge that the logo is not about to disappear — and that it is still an important part of any brand toolkit — there is a case for applying more emphasis on brand worlds.

“The ‘favicon’ or ‘twibbon’ is now the equivalent of the ‘black and white fax’ that we all learnt (years ago) was the minimum requirement for a logo to be recognisable as. These are much smaller applications than we have ever had to deal with, and ones where traditional logos are struggling.

“Brands now ‘move’ as standard — being ‘Apple‘ implies all sorts of physics that lend attributes to the brand and do not rely on the logo to do everything.

“Lastly, the amount of platforms, media, applications (and now ‘experiences’) that need to be branded has multiplied significantly with technology. People simply get bored quicker and brand worlds allow the conversation to ‘flow’.

“Yes, the logo is the ultimate ‘rechargeable battery’ of the brand and is the final distillation of all the brand’s attributes BUT what we are debating (and we haven’t reached any conclusion) is that if the brand world is powerful enough, could the ‘logo’ simply be the company name designed in a simple, ownable way? Possibly, dare I say it, with no symbol to sit alongside it?”

Symbol or no symbol is a valid question, and one I talk about in my book:

“Sometimes your clients just need a professional wordmark to identity their businesses. Use of a symbol can be an unnecessary addition.

“This is something you want to determine at the outset of the project. Ask your client if she has a preference one way or another. If the company is entertaining ideas about future expansion into other markets, it might be better to opt for a distinctive wordmark, because an identifying symbol might prove restrictive.”

Quoted from the Logo Design Love book.

So while Manchipp’s initial “Logos are dead” quote might be over the top, it still raises an interesting debate.

Tombstone photo from Flickr

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February 2, 2010

Comments

I totally agree with everything above.
Except I think it’s always been true.

Logo’s on their own don’t make much of a difference. But combined with product, service, personality they help create desire beyond reason. By that I mean brand B may be cheaper, better etc but you still use brand A because you ‘love’ it.

I think we expect a logo to do too much. Clients often state in their briefs that they want it to do this and that and include everyone. At the end of the day, an identity is just that: A flag that tells people who you are. Expecting a logo to do too much leads to bland solutions like ‘idiocycratic swirls’, ‘swooshes’ and all that other crap designers come up with to disguise the fact that they haven’t actually had an idea.

Wow – interesting comments there, here are my thoughts.

I don’t agree that the logo is dead, I do however believe that the logo is an instantly recognisable face for a company and that it’s up to the company to create and maintain a brand. By this I mean providing good service, or being known as the ones that come up with groundbreaking new concepts. Something that they reinforce as their reason for being – that’s their true brand. The logo provides an image that brings the brand to the forefront of peoples minds and establishes a link between who the company are and the marketing.

In my opinion, it is still very important to maintain consistancy with branding of actual items via the logo or colour scheme, to ensure the overall efectiveness.

Logotypes (or logos) are only a part of the visual brand experience. True. Claiming they’re dead, however, is a slippery slope at best. Not every client has the resources to ramp up their identity (system) to allow auxiliary elements-such as typography, color, image treatment etc…- to do the heavy lifting in brand recognition that logos have traditionally done. It would be designer’s folly to take this appoach globally with every client. I still consider identity design to be the pinnacle of our profession. The ability and skill required to develop a memorable, relevant and distinctive visual identity is still significant (and rare.) If we were to take statements like ” logos are dead” as canon, I fear that skill might be lost forever.

I completely agree here. Logo’s have had their day.

Manchipp is clearly well ahead of the curve here, it’s a smart insight into a cloudy world where there is more blag than brave intellectualism like this.

Manchipp’s company was also behind the hotly debated 2012 Pictograms — so you can see they know a thing or two about appropriate usage of symbols.

This is a monumentally huge topic, of which I’d suggest there is no right or wrong answer. I would however say I am in the camp that says the logo is far from dead.

David Law’s example above in talking about O2 is valid, absolutely, but for a brand like O2. Of course the brand look is instantly recognisable. But what of a brand like Nike, one of the biggest in the world? Their defined brand ‘look’ is so diverse, always changing to keep with, or more accurately set, trends in the sports/fashion world that without that little swoosh it could be any sportswear company. It’s very much horses for courses in that sense. Could work for some. Won’t work for others. In that sense, Lee (above) is absolutely correct in saying “it’s always been true”.

But to suggest the logo is dead is a bit premature, and possibly an attempt to sound like some sort of pioneer.

Wolff Olins have been bending the rules, with some controversy, of what the ‘brand’ is but there is still, at the heart of everything, a logo. I’m sure the news of the logo’s passing will come as quite a shock to the Pentagrams, Landors and Brand Unions of the world.

I completely understand what Simon Manchipp was saying although I believe it to be just a smidgen sensationalist.

Remember when print was dead 15 years ago when the web arrived?

I don’t doubt for 1 second that Mr Manchipp is a talented and astute designer, however, this to me sounds alot like making a bold statement for sake of making waves.

I can’t think of a company that WOULDN’T want some form of strong, clear recognisable ident that they can put anywhere.

Look how long it’s taken Nike to build up to not needing a name on their products. Same for McDonalds’ arches. If this thought above is true, what’s Nike’s colour? And Red and Yellow doesnt necessarily say McDonalds to everyone. Would either of them drop their idents? I doubt it.

Logos are part of the mix

“When you look at brands like O2, its success lies in the richness and depth of its brand world (bubbles, blue grad etc.). This forms a flexible branded platform that is instantly recognisable — you could remove the logo and still know the brand. The logo in itself is not the ‘hero’.”

Equally you could argue the reverse in the situation, remove the bubbles and gradient, use the logo and it is still recognisable.

The market values logos, so they are still relevant.

“…that symbols invented to accompany brand names are a waste of time, money and effort.”

could not disagree with this statement more. often times, a new logo is the catalyst behind not only the visual program, but it also embodies the hopes, dreams, attitude, and aspirations of the organization it stands for.

what would a country be without it’s flag? would it matter as much?

Nah, logos aren’t dead, I think they’re still very important. And a typeface alone IS still a logo.

I think branding is very important and companies from the past have sustained their image in their products through a simple symbol, or perhaps a typeface. To be instantly recognizable in terms of your service and quality of products is something that should be valued.

Frankly, I think Mr. Manchipp is just trying to push buttons and cause a stir for attention’s sake.

I think Paul Rand just rolled over in his grave.

I’d argue that logos are the one type of design that the public actually still cares about. The public barely stirred when IKEA switched Futura for Verdana, but were completely outraged over the London 2012 logo.

I tend to agree that logos are dead. At least they aren’t nearly as important as they once were. There are about 100 logo gallery blogs, but I’m always more interested in the news about a brand system, as is usually posted by Pentagram or the like (up for hearing about new venues for that, btw).

I can’t preach it enough: Being consistent is far more important than having a logo that designers think is good. That’s lucky, because-most of the time, anyway-we don’t agree.

Great article!

I still think that logos are a key ingredient to a brand’s identity and still very alive. But, I also think that putting more thought into an identity system that crosses over to all kinds of media is more crucial these days. I’m liking the term “brand worlds”. It eludes to an entire experience that is created across the entire spectrum of media.

I’d have to side with the idea that logos are alive and kicking! As you mentioned, some logos are so successful that we can recognize a brand simply by the mark without the type at all. Here is a quote from a blog that I think says it well:

“Many successful logos, for example, are done simply with type. This can convey a straightforward approach within the entire organization without having to shout, “Hey, we’re a pretty straightforward company!” On the other hand, by creating custom typography or manipulating classic typography, you can say a great deal about your company’s creativity and attitude.”

Creativity and attitude are key! Of course this is just one opinion, there is certainly no right or wrong answer to the great debate.

Here are some more great insights on the topic if you are interested:

http://www.microarts.com/culture/branding-insights/2008/01/logo-design-face-and-voice-of-your.php/?s=bl

I wouldn’t be as critical about logos.

Talking about O2 – I believe that almost every brand name that is less than four symbols becomes a logo itself by default. O2 logo, even though it may seem different, is still a stylized graphic, and I would rather treat it like a graphic, not a name written.
And the bubbles would be nothing without the logo, you can print bubbles on any media.

Even though I agree that

“..there is a case for applying more emphasis on brand worlds.”

there was no brand identity designed without a logo, just because the first item on the identity’s list is a logotype.

It’s just like building a brick wall without the mortar.

“Logos are dead” is way too broad of a statement. Every company has a logo whether they realize it or not. It’s a PART of there brand.

What we can take from Mr. Machipps ideas though is that in this day and age we could be a lot more effective if we were to pay more attention to the entire brand and brand identity and not just the logo.

Logos aren’t dead. Logos will never be dead. They are required for when differentiation amongst other logos is required (commercials, banner-ads, retail shelving).

Logos are, however, not nearly as important as a) they used to be, or b) we used to think they were. Branding is now so much more than a logo and a tagline. Branding is now experience and perception. The more the experience of a product or service is developed, the more positive perception is generated, the less necessary a logo becomes.

Ask 100 people who have used Zappos about the Zappos brand.
Ask those same 100 people to draw the Zappos logo/wordmark.
Then tell me what the Zappos identity is.

I urge you guys to read buyology. It talks about the death of the logo and the birth of new branding. It talks about companies that can’t advertise (cigarettes) and how they are earning more then they have in the past.

Anyways, I can’t wait to see new brands emerge.

I can see a big difference between the title and the explicitation. “The logo are dead” is not the words of a guy that said “[…]brands like IBM and FedEx traded on the logo as the ‘hero’. We see it even today”. But okay, i know some redactors and they have the power of create a striking title for our texts.

I dont think that logos are dead, but i agree with one true: today we have so many companies, so many business, so many little offices… and all they have the same right to make one logo and put it in a banner in your facade… that i say to my clients “dont think that your symbol is unique in the world, even in our city; the objective of your logo is translate your essence but it will not sell your product”, and why? Because like one symbol created by us designers, we can see a thousand simply giving a walk in the streets and looking to the shops, even the smallest of them; but our clients make the difference with all the way of work – from the logo to the post-sale – and not with a astonishing beveled elipse.

The logos without a symbol, just with letters is not more that the modern way to do; a fashion. But the fashion is temporary and one day we will have so many logos just with texts that the world of publicity will be a zero-one commercial (a trailer of Matrix?). And one guy will appear with a revolutional idea: “let´s design some symbols for our clients and the people will see a new world comming, the world of Astonishing Beveled Elipses”.

\o/o/

A strange article which starts with a bold statement and ends up in vague, loose and contradictory thoughts and arguments.
That’s a bit talking to say nothing… A lot of very well recognized designers do that from time to time.
Even if some of it is true, not convincing!

Thanks Johannes van Vliet for the advice (read buyology).

What’s dying isn’t the logo, what’s dying is the company that just wants to make money. Social media makes it possible for consumers to see through that.

Not that long ago, a company went out and got a logo. Very little went into discovering how that company connected emotionally with its clients and how it was different.

Today, the logo is one part of the branding movement. I do think it’s needed and as someone above pointed out typeface only logos have always been the most prevalent. They can take just as long to design as a symbol.

Think of logos as having undergone a rebirth. This time around they need to mean something because the company needs to mean something.

If we do not visually differentiate ourselves, how would we be identified as a different company? If the logo is dead, then everyone could have the same typeface, same corporate colors and same company name for that matter. If anything, it’s the opposite, companies need even more differentiation.

Thx! Giulietta, Being Fearless

I believe “Logos are dead” is more hyperbole than fact. The brand experience has always been more important than the logo mark. In fact logos never have given power to organizations or ideas. Rather the power comes from the organizations or the ideas themselves. Logos simply embody organizations and ideas in a differentiated and digestible form.

I don’t believe this is a new idea. What is new is using different elements to denote brands other than word type or symbols. And It takes money, time, and consistency to build any brand, whether they have a logo or not. But we are discussing the form, not the substance.

A title like “Logos are dead” instead of “Are logos dead” (for instance) gives a strong kick in the foundations and shakes everyone of us (even perhaps non designers!).
However, us logo makers and lovers are not the ones to decide of logos’ faith. The clients are and we know what matters to them and how trends dictates their decisions and consequently the directions of our work.
Logos, as a mark of identification of a profession or an institution, have come a long way but they are not dead or dying. They are evolving once again with their time, people’s sensibilities and perceptions along with the new approaches of marketing.
This is certainly true for the biggest businesses, otherwise called corporations, and even though the globalisation of the world economy is growing fast, there still are smaller size businesses which need a logo as a simple and efficient mark of recognition to sell their products or services rather than a whole brand identity kit.
The logo designer stays with the same challenges in front of those businesses, identifying their needs and working out the best compromises.
Logos are dead? They might be in the mouth of the designers who play in the “big league”…

Pondering the same question in India, where logos are very much alive, as a pictographic representation of a company in a country with a score of languages in a dozen scripts. And clearly the same is true on the Arabian Peninsula where a stack of brands have be launched on just a logo. And what about BP for that matter.
Let’s face it, have you ever heard ANYONE say “Adidas? Yeah, I really love the way that their secondary colour palette combined with their photography style enhances their brand reputation!”

Interesting article David, and like a lot of people here I agree and disagree.

The question here is more about the distinction between brands and companies. The two have different requirements when it comes to a visual representation. That said, the line is increasingly being blurred these days and all businesses are feeling the pressure to become brands.

This is a lot to take in at once.

Manchipp stated that “…[logos] are simply an old-fashioned approach to differentiating products or services”, then promoted the notion of wordmarks. I don’t get how a wordmark differs from a logo when it comes to differentiating products? In the end it is the company and the quality of products and services that personifies the brand, not the logo. I agree that now, with all the touch points available today, that designers need to consider the entire brand even at the infancy stage of an identity.

I am working on a new identity for my agency and had settled on a logo with a supporting wordmark. I’m glad I got to read this post and comments to support my decision. I love this site.

I love logos! I mean will they ever die? I don’t think so. I mean they may not be as big of a part of web sites some day as they are now, but businesses will always need branding and logo’s are at the heart of branding a product!

Great discussion here.

At last something interesting rather than just aesthetic debate.

Anyway.

I think some ofthe greatest branding comes from simple cohesive systems.

Easyjet has no logo. Just a typeface. A colour. An attitude.

Vogue just has a typeface.

Sony. Just a typeface.

Orange. Just the word. In orange. In a box.

These are all great brands. With great branding.

So…

It is possible for brands to operate without ‘symbols’ and that words and colour and images can work without the fluff that so many designers feel obligated to add to legitimize their work into logofication. After all. That’s what the client asked for. Right?

I think it’s just easier for the many to do ‘a logo’ than to stand up and question the status quo. I suspect many other designers just don’t have the balls to try something more interesting.

I thought that we, as designers, had a duty to question things. The brief included.

Adding to the raft of logos that already exist doesn’t feel like a particularly smart approach.

Perhaps the logo, if not dead, is being asked what it’s bringing to the party these days. For me, it’s certainly not the life and soul anymore.

Sounds like douchebag ad guy rhetoric. Twitter is inherently narcissistic, but declaring the end of an art form that is traced back 4000+ years takes the cake.

@ Simon – What, exactly, is the status quo?

I think you need to look at Ryan E’s post. You’re missing the point on what a logo is. A logo does not automatically mean a ‘symbol’, though I’m sure you must realise that, it can be typography-only; it does not make it any less of a logo. There is no ‘status quo’ – you will find, I’m sure, equal amounts of ‘symbol’-based logos as there are typography-only ones. And I’ll tell you what, it’s definitely not easier to do ‘a logo’ (by which I think you mean a symbol) than a wordmark.

I think to call Vogue and especially Sony ‘just a typeface’ is really rather ignorant. And if the Orange logo isn’t a ‘logo’ then I don’t think I know what a logo is.

Wow. Can of worms. lol

I agree and disagree.
The ‘logo’ (icon that goes with come companies’ combination marks), are sometimes effective, and sometimes not.

Example. Nike. More often than not, the Nike ‘swoosh’/checkmark is displayed without the word ‘Nike.’ Or Apple, same deal. The apple icon is displayed without the word ‘Apple.’
However, other companies simply have a lettermark and is very effective without an icon.

Logos (icons in a combination mark) are not dead. They never will be dead.
There is simply a trend/style becoming more common for an identity to not have an icon.

It all depends on the company, it’s needs, and whatever the creatives working for the company can come up with.

I have a simple test you can take to determine if words or images are more effective.

Step 1
Write the following on an A4 piece of paper

– Christianity
– Peace
– Fascism

Step 2
Draw the related symbol associated with each of the words



Step 3
Compare the two and ask the following questions:

– which was quicker to write/draw?

– which is more immediate in recognition?

– which transcends language?

– which conjures up more powerful emotions?

We have been creating images and abstractions for at least 40,000 years, the written word is more recent development.

Long live the logo!

So many view points and so many valid cases made for both sides of the argument. One thing Simon Manchipp has not addressed (at least in this post) is that brand experiences and brand worlds cannot be trademarked. Also a brand experience can be co-opted and compromised by a competitor. Compare the subpages of the O2 website and you’ll see they are not so different from that of AT&T, Tellus, BMW and JetBlue.

While a brand “world” and a logotype might suffice in some cases, its hard to ignore that the nike, apple, shell (oil) logos do one thing that logotypes cannot — they are universally identified and recognized by the public because they transcend language.

The logo will not die out anytime soon, so long as there are conflicts (in the real world or in sporting events) in which team members or combatants need to be able to discern whether oncoming hordes are friend or foe.

Last, the creative environment that Manchipp speaks of which utilizes a brand world to maintain its identity even as it evolves already exists — in the world of fashion/clothing design.

I think of logos as simply the face of a brand. Think of a person without a face, or body. It’s like the classic situation…”You know Julia Stanley right?” “That name sounds so familiar, what does she look like?.” It serves as an identification, especially when people aren’t currently familiar with a brand or a product or company. Obviously, brand goes beyond the logo, but the logo serves as a nice little container for the brand itself. I like Monirom S’s comment that logos are universally identified and recognized by the public because they transcend language.

Interesting views…

A lot of the project pages on Someone’s site appear to begin with the logo. And most of the these ‘dead’ logos are the designs of others. Two reasons that raise the question, why lead your case studies with the client’s logo then?

Sounds like Manchipp being incendiary, carving the niche and creating relevance for his company as opposed to making any valid predictions for the future of logo design.

Interesting insights. I am in the camp of “the logo is not dead”. However, I believe more strongly in developing a powerful brand. If the brand is really strong, a good logo simply makes you think about all the brand attributes.

PS – Just downloaded the first chapter of your book – psyched to take a look

I agree 100% with Andy Talbot as posted above.

When you visit Someone’s website the first page is nothing but logos! Most of which they didn’t even design!! Haha. Mr. Manchip has just gotten his firm plenty of exposure by stating something that is blatantly disingenuous. For shame.

IMHO, I think that Jerry Kuyper’s post settled this ‘debate’ as to whether a symbol/icon is more effective and transcendent. I’ve read, also, Tony Spaeth’s advice on when to use a word mark or logotype rather than a symbol.
The thing is, for every project, the designer advises the client who consults him/her, expecting nothing but the best that is applicable.
I also have to ask who appointed Mr. Manchipp to be the voice of the ‘public’? Did he not also cut his ‘design teeth’ on designing or inventing these symbols that helped his clients become identifiable? Or is it that he now seemingly thinks that only word marks are worthy of his time and effort?
And here I thought that designers had to be versatile and flexible in their creativity!
All the best to you, David, your contributors and readers.

The notion that the logo could ever die is laughable. As long as there are brands there will be logos. A logo is a part sub-conscience need humans have to mark themselves. Since the dawn of time humans have been marking themselves or their surroundings with symbols that have deep and personal meaning. Ancient and modern tribe people will place scars, tattoos, or brands on themselves to signify that they are a member of a certain culture. Our modern day consumer culture is no different. The logo is a mark that we place in magazines, on billboards, and ourselves to show that we are part of a certain culture. The Nike check is not only a little symbol found on our clothes. When a person wears something with that check on it, they are making a statement about the culture that they belong to. They also have an in-grained desire to see that logo in advertising. It reminds them that they are not alone and makes them feel that they belong to something that is so much bigger than they are.

The logo was born on the walls of caves in the form of ancient paintings and it will die only when the human race does.

I’ve been racking my brain over this one for some time now and I’ve come to this conclusion.
As corporations evolve and make the shift from communicating “product attributes” to “emotions” we’re confronted with a whole new world of brand touchpoints that go beyond “graphic” symbols.
Some of the many things which can be used to identify a brand include colour, texture, tone, sound, flavour and experiences. In fact, many of the big brands create culture itself. Apple does not sell computers anymore, it provides a “lifestyle” with brand extensions into popular music and entertainment.

With this in mind, it is fair to say that there are more effective ways of adding emotion to a brand “name” than by a simple “graphic” symbol. Perhaps this is what Simon Manchipp meant when he said “the logo is dead”.

Could the same argument be used to say the “name” is dead? (eg Apple, Nike). No it can’t. Because without a name, we could not talk, or write about a brand. What if, in the future Apple stopped selling physical devices to play music. Or what if the device they sold was so small, you couldn’t see it. Would there be a need for a “logo” then?

I think while we’re still living in the physical realm, graphic symbols will never die. They communicate more effectively than a word could ever do. Could you imagine a redback spider with a sign on on it’s back that read “stay away”? Or a peacock that had no feathers and instead held a sign which read “Get it here”?

No, we need logos. We need these visual symbols to entice us or repell us because we don’t always “experience” a brand. Maybe in the future, the brandlords will rule the world and we will have to experience them every second of everyday whether we like it or not.

But until then, long live the logo.

All the points seem valid and make sense in this discussion.

I believe that Logos ‘appear’ to be ‘dying’ because
our world is now reaching a CREATIVE SATURATION point.
Saturated in quality of Logos and the enormous quantities
they are produced in.

What we need is a fresh wave of thoughts & ideas to relook
at the EVERLASTING CONCEPT OF THE LOGO.
To meet the changing times we cannot remain monotonous.

The future of logos is the face of the future.

Martin Boath I believe has some light on this discussion…. – “But to suggest the logo is dead is a bit premature, and possibly an attempt to sound like some sort of pioneer.”

Then again, as a designer, consumer, and an average Joe living on planet Earth…I am overwhelmed with the MARKs in the world…..

And, at least in sounding like (or being) a pioneer it created a conversation that might actually be the spawn of a new direction we can all move towards.

Finally, no matter how awkward it feels to think about logos being dead it is obvious it’s own our minds. The challenge to create something new is so monumental that maybe some of us wish they were dead.

I completely disagree with Manchipp because for me symbols in logos convey the company’s vision. Thus, Paul Rand’s thoughts about trademark established symbols as the tool for translating ideas into visual communication.

Well it’s been a touchy subject with some good debate, so it’s a winning article no matter what you think. Made me look at the whole logo symbol in a fresh new way. I don’t think the logo will never go away, but I do see the “branding world” concept growing stronger and stronger. Take for instance the Vancouver Olympics. It had a nice brand world, the green and blue lines, swooshes etc, there were a million and one pamphlets, posters, tickets, maps etc that all had something different on it, but it all felt consistent and you knew exactly what it was the second you saw it. No logo there, just a branding. But the same can be said for the logo, like Apple, as soon as you see the apple symbol you know what it is, no need to put anything else on that piece of paper, plastic, metal, so distinct and recognizable, brilliant!
Some balance of both ideas will be around for many many years, you just have to pick the right one for your job.

“When you look at brands like O2, its success lies in the richness and depth of its brand world (bubbles, blue grad etc.). This forms a flexible branded platform that is instantly recognisable — you could remove the logo and still know the brand. The logo in itself is not the ‘hero’.

Okay, I get it. But what if O2 did have a logo? Would the brand be even more successful? Have they missed out on a valuable opportunity?

Vancouver Winter Olympics — perfect example of awesome brand world, crap logo. You don’t need that funny little man thing AT ALL.

Logos are dead!

To put a semantic perspective on the issue, the signifier is dead but the signified isn’t.

The term ‘logo’ has run its course, it cannot adequately describe the role of the primary mark of a brand. The primary mark of a brand cannot ‘carry’ the entire brand experience but can serve to ‘cue’ the entire experience.

A declaration of the death of the logo should be viewed against this idea and not against headline grabbing trickery. Logos are not dead. Instead, how we handle the underlying material of the ‘logo’ and what we expect of that material has changed, and this needs to be better reflected in the terms used to describe the value of this material. Logo are not so easily dismissed.

Every single mark of an identity is a symbol that assists in describing the experience of that identity. What varies between these symbols is the role they play and the extent to which they contribute to the overall experience. There will always be instances where there is limited space, where only a single representative of an experience can be accommodate. If the key idea of the experience is not sufficiently cued the opportunity is wasted and greater efforts are required elsewhere.

To have a discrete visual symbol in a primary brand mark makes sense if the ideas behind the brand warrant such a symbol. It is quite clear that Apple, Nike and Audi cue powerful experiences with their visual symbols. Other examples are not hard to find. A blanket statement stating that a symbol is a waste of time is itself a waste of time and undeserving of further contemplation.

The linguistic and conceptual contortions embedded in the thinking of brands in terms of logos demonstrates the limit of a type of language used to grasp brands. I believe the world is ripe for a new type of language that determines and coordinates identity experiences using ‘brand marks’.

A.

Simon is correct, but interpretations of his statement vary. Logos are merely symbols, they help us think and classify. If you feel the need to say that something is dead, then you are feeling the need to move on from something. Simon has done his fair share of logos and I suspect he sees the immediate future of his game elsewhere.
Logos always have been dead: they are not living things. Recently designers have misplaced the requirement for ‘more life’ in their work into attempts to make logos ‘living’, and ‘living logos’ are really the undead. I’m glad to see ‘more life’ on the agenda of designers, and glad to see designers seeing logos for what they are.
The need for symbols has been part of human culture for millennia, and it wont go away. We’ve developed symbols for things that don’t always need them, and there are things that need symbols but don’t have them.

@Miles

Simon is expressing an opinion. Opinions are always subject to interpretation. Every expression is an opinion and so Simon can only ever be ‘correct’ in the sense that that is what he and you believe.

Symbols evoke experiences beyond what can be classified or thought. A symbol is evocative when it enables people to intervene in the world more effectively. It evokes this ‘effectiveness’.

The world is made up of the things of life and so the symbols of these things have emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual and physical aspects to them. In this sense they can be seen to be ‘living’. What varies between symbols is the depth and richness of the experiences they evoke.

A ‘living logo’ doesn’t necessarily mean a literally animated logo, one that literally moves but one that moves ‘the world’ or ‘a world’ in other ways. A ‘living logo’ is a representative of a purposeful and animated brand, a brand that ‘lives’ and ‘animates’ through it’s various marks. All of these types of marks can be identified as symbols with various purposes, moving the world in different ways and to varying degrees.

To the extent that the brand is ‘animated’ the logo can be seen to be ‘full of life’. However, as I’ve been at pains to point out, the term ‘logo’ is not effective in evoking an entire experience of the sort expected of contemporary brands. Marks that describe an animated experience will themselves be animated, not literally but symbolically. In this sense the primary mark should be the most ‘animated’ symbol of the brand, it should be the most effective at cuing an experience.

A successful brandmark is a brandmark that ‘activates’ or ‘cues’ an experience in the hearts and minds of people without necessarily having immediate access to that experience. The term ‘brandmark’, on the other hand, provides a more effective way to cue how the primary brand mark relates to all the other marks of a brand experience. This ‘brand mark’-based language also ‘animates’ its own type of brand experience, one that is more likely to deliver on the expectations of contemporary consumers.

Logos are still not dead, they just aren’t enough anymore.

A.

Logos remain vital to the success of many brands (if you’re trying to sell something that is). As consumers are bombarded with ever increasing amounts of text across multiple media channels, the role of a visual shorthand for brands to cut through the clutter is more important than ever before. For example, if you want to re-post this thread (using the orange box above), on whatever social networking platform you use, do you patiently read through the names of all the platforms to find the one you want or just hone in on the logo you recognise? As someone whose job is all about attempting to understand the world of the consumer and translate all of this into some kind of marketing strategy, I can tell you now that the consequences of well established brands ditching logos and going for text has been dire. Logos are critical visual anchors for brand navigation. So I echo the comments above, logos are not dead, long live the logo!

I was in Shanghai last year for a few days, and because it was on short(ish) notice I was continuing along with my work as if I was at home, via laptop and phone, while trying to mix a little city-exploration into it.

I hit a point in my work where I really needed to print some stuff out. No printout, no further progress. Maybe I could find an internet cafe or one of those dodgy IT malls, I thought to myself. Then I remembered that near where I was staying I’d spotted the friendly purple and orange FedEx logo across the street… one of the brands listed in this article as being “in the past”.

So, flashdrive in pocket I scurried back to the spot, and sure enough they had all the services you’d expect in a Kinkos.

They only made $5 out of me that day… but I wonder how many $5 sales they’ve made, or how many coffees (Starbucks), burgers (McDonalds) or icy drinks (Coke) have been sold because we recognise the logo just when we need to.

The symbol might be unnecessary, but it’d be a brave business that set their name in black Arial-Regular.

Businesses need living identities, not dead logos.

A brand is an evolving story not an unchanging visual stamp.  
A logo can help to identify a brand, but in a fast-moving world it is just one of many elements a brand needs if it’s to connect and interact with people.
We’re much more interested in the many different ways a brand inspires people to think about – and contribute to – its story.
This could be anything from a colour to a sound, gesture, image, material or phrase. 
Think about Apple’s pinch or swipe.
Think about Intel’s sonic mnemonic.
Think about the brown delivery vehicles of UPS.
The way a brand’s different elements combine over time is what really brings it to life.
Logos only die when they are part of a fixed system that can’t respond to a changing world. 
The huge opportunity for designers is to create and express a great brand story using the array of media now available to us, from film to social media, music, environments, graphics and so on. 
Businesses need living identities, not dead logos.

This is a subject close to our hearts, we’ve just written a paper about it — Living Identity

Ben, there’s nothing ‘living’, or ‘more living’ or ‘less dead’ in Apple’s pinch or swipe (they aren’t Apple’s either), Intel’s sonic mnemonic or the colour brown.

Neither is the opportunity to use a variety of media a new thing. It’s what we’ve always done. 10 years have passed since I pitched the idea of doing a girl band instead of a logo to a triple play operator.

What is true is that people are surrounded by a lot of shit products and services with painful names, most of them desperate to appear relevant by using ivory tower attempts to get people inspired (inspired!) and contributing to their ‘story’.

Be honest, what businesses and organizations need is morality and accountability.

Ben Wolstenholme’s position may be slightly different to Simon Manchipp but he also doesn’t propose a compelling argument to validate the statement that ‘logos are dead’. By ‘dead’ Simon means logos are over and gone are the days when they were so important in understanding brands. Ben appears to be saying that logos cannot bear sufficient change to be relevant to a brand’s identity.

I agree with Ben that a brand is an evolving story. Brand stories evolve in the sense that all the marks of a brand experience are directed in such a way as to be relevant to people’s lives. However, this goes without saying. And, more importantly, in response, this does not mean the visual component of an identity has to move or change in a literal sense to indicate an evolving brand.

A brand can be seen to be living in the sense that it is responsive to the quality of the experience of the brand so that the brand remains relevant to the lives of people. There are always responsive elements of a brand that invite and process feedback to rework the overall brand experience and which affects the perceived reality of a brand identity. This is a basic mechanism by which all brands are validated, reinforced and shared.

However brands work to remain relevant and whether their visual identities are dynamic or static, all their various marks are directed to secure distinct identities in the minds (and hearts) of people. Brand marks work to hold stable single ideas or nested sets of ideas in a fluxing world of competing ideas. The more distinctive the brand idea the more discrete (ie. separate) and secure (or fixed) the perception of the identity.

A ‘living identity’ is an artificial proposition open to interpretation and, in my opinion, not as compelling as Ben would have us believe. A ‘living identity’ suggests that to a logical conclusion a brand can be sentient. A brand could be seen to be sentient in the sense that it is for and determined by sentient humans and so to some degree can be held to behave as humans do. Until artificial intelligence surpasses the level of consciousness of humans brands are unlikely ever to ‘live’ to the extent that they can be said to be alive and ‘living’. Such an argument becomes esoteric and is of little commercial value. Unless, of course, the brand is literally a person.

To say logos are dead is to also misrepresent the limitations of thinking of brands in terms of logos, as per Simon’s argument. At the very least a logo’s function is to carry a brand name (literally, or as a symbol and/or rebus) regardless of whether the design is static or changing. A brand name exists in an abstract space relatively free of context (other than linguistic). How the rest of the brand marks relate to this primary mark (aka logo) determines what the brand name or symbol means in the world. How the brand lives via all its marks gives meaning as well as a sense of purpose to its identity.

Ben appears to mean that a logo is dead because it does not literally move and/or its content is not conveyed via some sort of form change in real-time. He also suggests that whatever the brand idea in the logo, the mere fact that the idea is expressed as a logo means it cannot be alive. On this basis I believe his argument is invalid and grossly misleading to the uninitiated. An idea can live or be animated in a conceptual or symbolic sense without having to move or change in a literal sense. Brands need to evolve/change/upgrade but it is unlikely that the core components of an identity will ever need to change in real-time. Real-time movement or change causes a brand to repeat basic movements or, at the extreme, become too varied and indistinct.

Digital technology offers unprecedented opportunities to orchestrate various types of related marks to create distinctive brand experiences. It is in this type of brand experience that the creation of the marks of a brand should be determined, brand marks of which one will always be required to lead – one that will also always require a single static form for non-digital applications. To achieve this and at the same time meet the demands of contemporary consumers a new type of brand-handling language is required, one that doesn’t refer to primary brand marks as logos.

As I written before, logos aren’t dead but it has become necessary to understand that logos alone aren’t enough to capture the meaning and purpose of brands.

A.

Logos aren’t as such but more have evolved, a strong company brand is more than just a logo, look at O2, the logo is just a small fraction of the brand image that is instantly recognisable, the O2 blue and bubbles are arguably just as recognisable as the logo. But that doesn’t mean they should simply get rid.

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