Do people really ‘get’ logos? Do designers ‘get’ the public?

The new London Olympic logo has certainly provoked a strong reaction, not least among epileptics who have been suffering fits – although, it should be pointed out, these are triggered by a short passage in the promo video rather than the logo itself.

Still, it’s just another aspect of the London logo story people are using to justify their opinions that, well, the logo sucks. I’ve designed a logo or two in my time and I’m not going to discuss what makes a good one – there’s plenty about that on the web, such as here and here.

However, what I think this situation tells us is that there’s a lot more that goes into creating them than the public give designers credit for – and that’s probably because bad designers give them insufficient credit.

Let’s consider the logo first. Metro lampoons it and the BBC shows alternatives.

Now let’s not forget that lampooning is easy. It’s much easier to mock something than appreciate it.

So, on to the BBC’s alternatives. I’m not convinced by them. Some of them look pretty and some of them are colourful, but I’m not at all sure any of them are getting across the message of the London logo. To me, the logo is a message about not just the Olympics, or even sport, but about London and even the UK, now and into the future. That’s not an easy thing to represent properly.

How do you create a logo? Well you really should start off with what you’re trying to represent – your brand values – and then think of ways of representing them. The logic goes that, by following this process to end up with a graphic, then hopefully the reverse will happen in the minds of people who see that graphic – that at least one aspect of that messaging is triggered by the logo.

Where a lot of people go wrong in understanding logo design is that this process lies behind it. They claim they could do the same in five minutes. Well, yes, you could probably produce anything in five minutes, but there’s a big difference between producing anything, and producing something. The trick is in producing something that works with the messaging as well as something that works as a logo: in actually following that process and never losing focus. As George Harrison said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

This ties in with another criticism often levelled at logo designs: the cost. The London logo cost 400 grand and admittedly it’s a hefty sum. But obviously that sum isn’t just the cost of the time it took the designer to produce that actual version of the logo – very often the logo you end up with actually only takes a few minutes to knock together. I would like to think that there had been a good, comprehensive consultation process to make sure everyone was in agreement and clear about what they were going to do, and that dozens if not hundreds of alternatives were considered throughout this time.

Then the actual cost of the implementation needs to be taken into account – signage, stationary, everything. It really does mount up.

So what’s gone wrong with the London logo? Purely apart from the universal truth that people rarely like something new – I’ll wager people will get used to the London logo in time and wonder what all the fuss was about – I think the problem is that, having considered all the clever stuff, the designers did in fact make a mistake. They thought about every message, every design aspect, every ramification and implication, but forgot one critical stakeholder: the public.

The reaction of ordinary people is critical because they need to adopt it. A great design can only be a great design if people actually like it. It can tick all the classic design boxes, but if people just don’t like it, then it fails.

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3 thoughts on “Do people really ‘get’ logos? Do designers ‘get’ the public?

  1. Pingback: I like the London 2012 Olympics jigsaw logo at franck perrier

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