Logos are fine if they’re done well, but most importantly the application of a logo is best when on a letterhead or envelope or business card, or maybe a website. I came across a TV show this past week, Garage Rehab with host Richard Rawlings, a well-known TV personality in the automotive world.
Rawlings visits auto repair shops around the country in need of a revamp (usually from top to bottom). He invests a lot of money buy offering the owner of any shop he wants to rehab by telling him he’ll invest on the condition the shop is his until the owner pays him back—a kind of mortgage. And that’s all fine and good, because Rawlings does a remarkable job of revamping the garages, cleaning them up and installing new equipment inside the shop as well as redoing the outside of the establishment to make it more visible to potentially new customers.
But what got me about this particular episode was that Rawlings subcontracted the design of the garage’s signage in the form of a logo. And he said the word “logo”. As soon as I heard him say that, I became leery of the application of that design.
This particular auto repair shop, which also does motorcycle repair, is in the middle of Sturgis, South Dakota—a well-known mecca for bikers. Sturgis’ population is only around seven thousand residents, but during the summer’s motorcycle event, the place burgeons to over a million. I trust the revamp of the garage will increase at least the visibility of it, because during the show one of the residents was heard saying he’d driven past the place many times and wasn’t even aware of it.
So the logo, which Rawlings commissioned, looks like a mashup of an iron cross, a crescent wrench, and spiky gothic lettering. And that’s OK on the basic thought of it—after all, in the bikers’ world that iron cross and gothic type fit the motorcycle genre that includes studded black leather and tattoos. I get that. But in practice, the way the “logo” was designed, it looks like it was put together with construction paper and Elmer’s Glue. In application, that design falls way short because its shape hinders it from being well-read from the street (top right). The name of the place, Jacobs Auto Repair, reads way better in the old original version (top left).
Like I stated in this article’s title, a logo is not always appropriate. In this case, signage is, and it needs to be large enough in the space allotted to be read easily. That new logo on the gable of the shop does not work well with all the type crammed into that modified iron cross. A good designer would not hamper his/her own effort by drawing the shape first, leaving him/her handcuffed by having to fit the type into the shape.
I redesigned the logo (only as a design exercise) as signage to include imagery of a wrench and a gear, but kept the Jacobs name large, all the while knowing just where this sign would reside, hence the more horizontal shape.