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More Logo Critiques


by Joseph Stephen Breese Morse

August 15, 2005

There are quite a few logos that have made a dramatic impression in the culture we live, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively.   Anytime we see a pattern of colors in a blue-red-yellow-blue-green-red order, we know that the world's best Internet search engine is probably behind it and we can probably trust it.   On the other hand, if we see a diagonal pattern of red-green-blue, we may associate it with Enron and apply thousand's of workers' grief to whatever those colors are representing.   Such is the impact of logos.  

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However, it doesn't mean that, since a logo is prominent in the cultural realm, it's a good logo.   In fact, often a great company gets to be a giant in the industry before they address their marketing and branding needs.   What results is a hideous logo that doesn't speak to all the potential customers, or worse, it tells them the wrong thing.   The company is left with the decision to keep alienating customers and turning others away or to redesign their brand and potentially confuse the market and consumers.

Based on the criteria for great logos, the team at Communication Design has added more logo critiques to our short list.   These logos are for major companies and reveal some interesting things about the company, some of which they might not like.   If you are in need of branding work to make your company stand out from the crowd and maintain a solid identity when your small business begins to perhaps grow exponentially, have a look at their logo/brand products.

The best products, but not so much for the logo.

Google (3/10)

Design: 2, Functionality: 3, Representation: 6, Uniqueness: 4

The world's best search engine is stuck with an average at best logo. This unfortunate result is probably due to a rush to get the brilliant concept to market. Another possibility is that it was designed by a programmer, which usually ends up looking like some of the 2s in our critique list. The name, Google, is perfect for the concept, though the word was originally spelled Googol. It is the word that represents the number 1 followed by 100 zeros. And the way they incorporated the pages of search results into the 'o's is genius, but the logo still suffers. The font is a basic Palatino-esque font called Catull, which has nothing altered to make it uniquely Google. It's just the font. The simplicity matches the website style, but it doesn't say much for the designer. The 3D effect is hideous as well, as is the drop-shadow. It's a shame to have such a great product weighed down by such a horrendous logo.

Really tough to reproduce.
Beautiful form and more.

USA Networks (7/10)

Design: 8, Functionality: 10, Representation: 3, Uniqueness: 6

In the cable network's redesign, they put together quite a website and re-branded themselves with a sleaker, stylish, yet not trendy logo. The old logo played of the patriotic theme of the flag, but was atrocious and couldn't be translated to that nice little watermark on the bottom right of your TV screen. The new logo plays with negative space and comes across well in two-color design. Any connection to television or America is lost, but the logo doesn't suffer.   With enough exposure, the logo could become iconic based on its sheer look.

Enron (3/10)

Some logos forshadow the downfall of their companies.

Design: 3, Functionality: 4, Representation: 5, Uniqueness: 3

I was shocked when I learned that one of the great American graphic designers had designed one of the worst logos ever. The designer of such instantly classical logos as the IBM and UPS logos, Paul Rand, also designed an instant stinker, the Enron tilted 'E' logo. The logo looks like a kindergartner put it together. It's amazing that it's so basic yet so horrifically awkward. The wire image could have been pushed more in which case it could have been good, but there are inconsistencies with the font and icon as well as uneasy juxtapositions of color. The logo seems like more of a cruel joke for a company led by cruel people than a logo designed by a legend.

What were they thinking?

Verizon (2/10)

Design: 1, Functionality: 2, Representation: 5, Uniqueness: 3

Another brand that demonstrates the lack of early marketing planning is one of the nation's leading cell phone service providers. This beastly logo throws a silly and awkward v-shaped icon that doesn't match any other angles in the logo and it and is forced on top of a bland font that is graced with a repulsive red 'z' that extends below the logo and ends in a pathetic fade, which is evidently meant to demonstrate a horizon of some sort and reflect the icon that teeters above the logotype like a company about to collapse. Verizon has a good name and really catchy marketing to work for its quality service, but the logo is unbearable.

Simple and meaningful.

Kaiser Permanente (6/10)

Design: 7, Functionality: 7, Representation: 8, Uniqueness: 4

The healthcare/insurance company is a case where the branding and marketing are perhaps better than the service. Their marketing campaign, which uses the slogan, "Thrive," is a positive, uplifting, and nontraditional campaign. It stresses prevention and health over medication and cures. The logo, which isn't quite as good as their marketing campaign shows a group of people exuding light rays, interpreted as good health. The color is fitting for health.

Close but no cigar.

Microsoft (4/10)

Design: 4, Functionality: 4, Representation: 7, Uniqueness: 3

There seems to be a trend in early personal computer/Internet companies of using multiple basic primary colors is tacky ways. I'm guessing that since computers could finally allow companies to use RGB instead of spot color, their designers got a little slap happy and forgot about design principles and taste. The Microsoft Windows logo is an example of bad design initially designated for good technology. The four colors are played out and irritating after a while, yet, the Microsoft logo is difficult to translate into a two-color (black and white) mode. In two-color, the logo would lose much of its uniqueness. This modern representation is a lot better than the original stink bomb, but it still lacks. Its one creative saving grace is the unique cut in the 'o.'   It's subtle and not really meaningful, but it makes the logo novel.

Great with effects and even better flat.

Apple (9/10)

Design: 8, Functionality: 10, Representation: 8, Uniqueness: 10

The other side of the computer landscape is a company that keeps design at a high priority.   The original Apple logo was multicolored, sure, but the apple shape is distinct and classic and can be translated easily into two-color presentation. The apple icon is also one of the few logos out there that don't need a logotype to explain what it is. The company distributes its white apple icon window stickers to its customers because it speaks for itself. The logo is successful on all fronts including representation. Though it doesn't have a computer connotation, the original concept of Apple was computers designed for education and the apple is a perfect embodiment of that.   

View the top ten logos of all time.
Have your logo critiqued here.
Have your own logo created here.

For more commentary on logos go to page 1 and page 2.
For commentary on design company logos go to page 4.


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