Sunday, July 13, 2008

Logos that Don't "Read"

If there's one thing I can't stand in the visual landscape, it's a logo that substitutes a symbol for one of its letters, but the symbol doesn't "read" clearly as the letter-- or even if it does read somewhat, the viewer has to work too hard to make sense of it. In my opinion, if you want to substitute a symbol for a letter, it had better be just as clear as the letter it replaces.

Here are a couple that don't work, in my opinion.

code Ready logo where the R is a Minnesota state outline with two square holds cut out of it to make the middle and bottom of the RThis Code Ready logo, which is meant to urge the citizens of Minnesota to be ready in case of a terrorist attack or natural disaster, is itself a disaster. Okay, it kind of reads, but it's awkward. Don't you wonder what the people who live in the parts of the state that have been cut out to make the R think about it? And I know I am a bit of an oppositional reader, but I tend to see "code eady" rather "code ready." Also, I tend to see the negative space on the right side of the state outline, which looks a bit like a face silhouette.

Colorful logo that reads ese!!Here's another one, which is worse. I saw this logo yesterday in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Looking at it from down the street, I wondered to myself, What does that mean? How do you pronounce it? Is it Spanish? Maybe it's pronounced "essay"!!

Nope. It's Esell (as in Ebay), of course. Silly me for reading those exclamation points as exclamation points! I should have known they were excited letter Ls!

Another kind of logo that doesn't read is one where the designer uses just one large letter and shares it among two or more words. I remember one such logo -- it was for an organization called the African American AIDS Taskforce. But their logo was configured so that a large A was shared among the first three words in the name, and none of them read across from beginning to end. Basically, it seemed to read "frican merican ids taskforce." They've since changed the logo, so I can't show an example.

Logo for TRUBLU where TRU is stacked on top of BLU and there is one tall U shared by both wordsBut I did see this logo yesterday on a club in Fond du Lac. It's not as outrageously bad as the AAAT example, because the letter is at the ends of the words instead of the beginning. But it's still problematic. The top of the "u" doesn't quite read as "u" in the first word. At first glance, it could be two "i"s or two "1"s or maybe two lower case "L"s.

I'll be on the lookout for more of these. They're everywhere, unfortunately. It's just a matter of keeping your eyes open and your camera ready.

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