Thursday, August 20, 2009

What's in a name?

Blackwater, the American combination of the Roman Praetorians and the Nazi's Waffen SS, I think you might agree, was a company dedicated to practices that most who believe in the principles of the American constitution would find abhorrent. So, they did what companies do, they changed their name to the unprounceable Xe Services LLC. Of course they also developed a new logo.

As Shakespeare told us, "a rose by any other name still smells like a polyp on an asshole in Bayonne."

There's an advertising point here. Of late I have seen the ascent of "experts" creating brand systems and logos. More often than not, these systems and logi we are told will define a company, not just mark it.

This is bullshit of the very highest, or the very lowest, order.

The Nike swoosh is a great logo because Nike defined, messaged and acted as a great company. The same for Apple. If Apple acted like Dell or Sony, you'd hate their logo.

In other words, I think more often than many like to concede, a logo reflects a company rather than defines it. For instance, if I meet someone named "Ted" I decide whether to like him or not not based on his name and accoutrement, but on his actions and attitudes. Yes, I might in my head have some "Ted Detritus" because I knew an asshole from my childhood named "Ted," but there is no inherent "Tedness," just like there was no inherent "swooshness" until Weiden and some others defined it.

It's not enough to pull from a wide palette of "friendly" colors and "friendly" typefaces and say, "my company, who is in the government-sanctioned assasination business is friendly and likeable now."

You give me 22 minutes, I'll give you a philippic.


Teenie said...

Kinda like changing the KGB to Assassins 'R Us.

george tannenbaum said...

You got it, baby. (Now watch out for radioactive pellets slipped into your tea.)

newfriendjill said...

I take great offense at this post as my husband is an ass from Bayonne.

george tannenbaum said...

But, new friend, the distance between ass and asshole is vast.

Tore Claesson said...

The Nike "Swoosh" is a design created in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson, a graphic design student at Portland State University. She met Phil Knight while he was teaching accounting classes and she started doing some freelance work for his company, Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS).

BRS needed a new brand for a new line of athletic footwear it was preparing to introduce in 1972. Knight approached Davidson for design ideas, and she agreed to provide them, charging a rate of $2 per hour.

In June 1971, Davidson presented a number of design options to Knight and other BRS executives, and they ultimately selected the mark now known globally as the Swoosh. Davidson submitted a bill for $35 for her work. (In 1983, Knight gave Davidson a gold Swoosh ring and an envelope filled with Nike stock to express his gratitude.)

The logo represents the wing of the Greek Goddess.The Nike logo is a classic case of a company gradually simplifying its corporate identity as its frame increases. The company's first logo appeared in 1971, when the word "Nike," the Greek goddess of victory, was printed in orange over the outline of a checkmark, the sign of a positive mark. Used as a motif on sports shoes since the 1970s, this checkmark is now so recognizable that the company name itself has became superfluous.

The solid corporate logo design check was registered as a trademark in 1995. The Nike logo design is an abstract wing, designed by Carolyn Davidson, was an appropriate and meaningful symbol for a company that marketed running shoes. The "JUST DO IT" slogan and logo design campaign communicated such a strong point of view to their target market that the meaning for the logo design symbol evolved into a battle cry and the way of life for an entire generation. Isn't it amazing how a small symbol we call a logo design can make a company into a huge success.