Saturday, September 29, 2007

Book Review: Logos 01: an essential primer for today's competitive market, edited by Capsule



As anyone walking down Canal Street can attest, logos have both meaning and value. Somehow plastering two intertwined "G"s or an upside down black triangle on the side of a mundane bag can vault its price into the stratosphere. People accord a great deal of value to logos and brands, though as much of that worth is emotional as financial. Carolyn Davidson's Swoosh logo is now so pervasive that the name "Nike" is superfluous in its presence. Yet at the time she crafted it the three stripes of Adidas were far more evocative of running than her design. Even CEO Phil Knight was reportedly ambivalent about her stylized wing. Now, a once unrecognizable set of curves has become an asset for Nike to manage, just as carefully as a factory or a bank account.

Since corporate value and image are commingled with branding, it's virtually impossible to assess whether Nike would still be "Nike" if it had used a more literal representation of the goddess's wing instead. Capsule's Logos 01: an essential primer for today's competitive market tackles the many facets of this chicken and egg problem in its pretty pages. Since we're inundated with logos and branding on a daily basis, a book filled with more of them may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I felt that upon reading Capsule's book I had been provided with an insider's view of the thinking that goes into the iconography we see on a day to day basis.

The early sections of Logos address broad issues in logo design, such as: Planning, Creation, and Implementation. Each section is further divided into a variety of chapters that highlight issues and questions that logo designers may face, such as "How to Mange Your Research" or "Colors and Clients." These chapters can stand alone as essays or be absorbed in succession so that they add up to a cohesive whole. Each chapter is eminently readable and largely free of industry or typographic jargon.

Most of those chapters include sidebars and pictures of a variety of logos and case studies that provide support for their argument. Consequently, inclusion of a section called "Case Studies" at first seems surprising, since any reader who has examined the early portions of the text will feel as though he or she has been exposed to a lot of logos already. The case studies, however, are by far the most interesting part of the book. In the case studies, we finally get to see what designers call process. This section includes graphics of ideation, historical evolution, and the many logos that didn't make the cut. For a designer, the process is fascinating because the failures illustrate the thinking behind the design better than the crisp and perfect finished product ever can. I wished for more depth in this section, along with the inclusion of total misses and napkin sketches. With a book as polished as this one, I understand the urge to cut away all the rough edges, but I certainly miss them.

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Posted by: Robert Blinn |

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