(Above is the evolution of the IBM logo from its earliest inception as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company in 1911.)
I was going to title this article the “Development of a Logo”, but the “Freedom to Develop a Good Logo” is what this is all about.
I’ve raged for years why the design business has become so cumbersome, and that’s largely because in the last 40 years or so the journey of any design—be it a logo or a type design or even a package design—has too many hands in the development of it. Like the old adage, “there’s too many cooks in the kitchen” (or too many cooks stirring the soup), design-by-committee has taken over in the corporate world.
Because the design process starts with a need, that need is seldom explored in the right way. That circumstance needs to be examined by itself.
The thing about the need to have a new design is probably the seed of it. We’ll examine this process from a logo standpoint, because this format can easily extend to whatever design you have. Remember what I’ve often said, that the best designs are done by one person.
Let’s examine this from a possible conversation between the account executive (AE) and the designer (D):
AE: We need a new design for a logo for our client, Advanced Air Conditioning.
D: OK. When do I meet with the client?
AE: You don’t. We already did. There’s templates in the Logo Development folder on the server.
D: (Looking perplexed) I don’t understand. You want me to design a logo for Advanced Air and you want me to use templates?
AE: To save time. We need to show them twenty designs by Friday.
D: (Even further perplexed) Ms. Smith, can I say something? Advanced Air is a good client. Don’t you think they need a good logo? Something that reflects the actual business they do and the quality of their firm?
AE: I don’t know where you’re going with this. Just knock out a bunch of logos. Like I said, the templates—
D: Ms. Smith, may I just say that Advanced Air deserves better service than that, better attention to what they really need. They need a new logo to fully show their new capability, and I don’t want to slight them by doing a smattering of generic templated designs that don’t reflect what they are as a company.
AE: (Blinking) I—
D: Plus, I want to meet with them and get a good feel for what direction they have in mind for this, then do a little research and come up with a few sketches and develop this design from the ground up. Really do a nice presentation throughout. They’ll feel much better being given a custom design that no one else has. Unique to just them.
This conversation is just hypothetical, but it’s not far off the actual way a lot of design firms conduct the initial foray into a design project (I know from experience), and if I had my way, the designer in this would win the discussion every time.
Back in 1956, Paul Rand was given the opportunity to redesign the IBM logo. Paul Rand was a premier designer and pioneer in how the design business works, but he cut his chops doing good designs for smaller clients, much smaller than International Business Machines. His attention to detail and to the mindset of his clients with regard to the way they saw themselves in their respective business world brought him to the attention of larger corporations. IBM enlisted him once again to update their logo sixteen years later.
The thing is, they remembered him for his integrity. Then they gave him the freedom to do what they needed.