Gary Ludwig RGD, Hark Ideas, shares his favourite logo designs
I love all the dimensions of branding, but I've always particularly been drawn to the challenge of designing a logo - a mark that has to stand alone or as part of a larger design, work in every analog and digital medium at almost any size, formed of almost any material, in colour or not, in positive or reverse, be tailored to a strategy and still be consistent, distinctive, attractive, and memorable. People don't always get all that, and I've seen a lot of bad logos because of it.
So, I really enjoy seeing them done very well. They say you never forget your first love and while I do love all sorts of more recent works, these five classic (some might say "old") logos hit me while I was still at my most impressionable and have probably had, for one reason or another, the most profound and lasting influence on my thinking about what constitutes the bedrock principles of good logo design.
The Monkees (Nick LoBianco)
I was just a kid of around 10 at the time and I loved to draw. I was reading something about The Monkees and it was first time I ever saw the word "logo" used to describe a graphic design. I thought this was the cleverest thing I'd ever seen and I think it must have marked me for life (no pun intended).
CN (Allan Fleming and James Valkus)
Aside from being the logo that more or less put Canada on the design map, if there was ever a logo that embodied the idea of "less is more" for me, it's this one. You could, arguably, change some of the style, but you really can't add to or subtract from it without ruining it. To me it looks just as great and meaningful and powerful now as it did when it was introduced in 1960.
Metric Commission (Stuart Ash)
This is a beautiful design, no question, but it's made even better by the story Stuart told of how he came to design it. He said when he first met the client he asked him what he might like to see in the logo and the client's answer was something like "I don't know… how about an 'M' and a maple leaf?". That sounds like a recipe for a dull, forgettable logo, but instead this mark is the exact opposite. I think it's a classic.
Apple (Rob Janoff)
One could argue there's nothing clever about using an apple for a company named Apple, but I think there's a bit of subtle brilliance to this. People have made up all sorts of stories about why there's a bite out of the apple. Some say it represents Adam and Eve's biblical apple and the beginning of knowledge, some think it's an homage to the ground-breaking computer scientist Alan Turing who allegedly died from eating a poison apple, etc. The real reason is not as poetic as either of these, but to me it's better. Designer Rob Janoff said he included the bite so the viewer would have a sense of scale, so when it was used small on a computer chassis, mouse, etc. they'd know it was an apple and not a cherry. Distinctive, attractive, and really practical.
AT&T (Saul Bass)
My love for this one - the Saul Bass original - is based on sheer admiration of the combination of a superior level of craft with a deep understanding of what really makes a logo tick. I have to confess I don't know how many times I'd seen this before I realized that the reverse version wasn't just a typical, mechanical reversal of colour from dark to light. The mark had been completely redrawn to ensure the highlight stayed bright (and didn't look like a dent) in reverse application, but it was done so elegantly and subtly that you'd never notice unless you really looked. Just great.
Published February 2018