Sunday, September 14, 2008

More Logos that Don't "Read"

Before you send me a comment on my use of quotation marks in this title, let me explain. I believe this is definitely an example where the marks help the meaning, because I am using the word "read" in a sense that is out of the ordinary.

As I wrote back in July, I try to maintain a collection of logos whose design makes them unclear. Usually, this means the logo replaces one of its letters with artwork, and the letter is no longer readable as part of the whole word.

Small box labeled ODOR ZAPP where the Z's angled stroke is replaced by a red lightning bolt
For instance, this product's designer wanted to emphasize the lightning bolt so much that the Z doesn't read easily as a Z -- it looks like a couple of trapezoids with a lightning bolt. Because it's red, the lightning bolt seems to have more to do with the word ODOR than it does with ZAPP... which reads as APP. (No comment on the basic premise of the product, which is a flammable chemical you can add to paint so it won't stink... not that it does anything to address the volatile organic chemicals in the paint that cause it to stink in the first place.)

In other cases, the problem is more fundamental.

Sign on a truck door reading TOP COAT PAINTING. A little guy in a top coat is painting the last T in Coat
In this case, the readability problem comes from the fact that the little painter guy obscures the final T -- the letter appears to be part of the illustration, leaving the other letters standing on their own. And so, what I saw was TOP COA. This impression is more pronounced from a distance (I originally saw the truck across a parking lot).

Finally, here's one where it's not a problem with pictures at all -- just the letter shapes themselves.

Purple and green type reading blogher

I first saw this logo because it appears above the ads on the "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. On that site, the logo is a little smaller than the version shown at right. What do you read in that graphic? I read "blocher" -- kind of like blotcher, but without the "t." Blotcher, hmm, I thought, what the heck is that? I could tell it was a service providing ads (and ad revenue) to the blog, and out of curiosity, I clicked on it.

Darned if I didn't find out right away that it actually says "blog her," and it's a network of women bloggers (which I was eligible to to join, by the way). Not a bunch of blotchy people looking for their spotted fellows.

The same logo reset in different fonts and arrangementsWhat's wrong with the logo? Mostly, it's that capital G. You've got seven letters, six of which are lowercase, and then you throw in a capital letter, scaled to the size of a lowercase C... and you use a typeface whose G lacks a prominent crossbar.

Why not use a lowercase g instead? Maybe the blogher women didn't want to have the part of the letter that goes below the baseline (called a descender). Maybe they didn't like the shape of the serf g. But for whatever reason, it was a bad decision, because the lowercase g has a lot more information in it to tell the reader it's a g than the uppercase G does.

But why stop there? The designer also spaced the letters very tightly, making their shapes even harder to distinguish than they would already be in a pixel graphic. There's no excuse for this. When you've got a neologism, I think it's even more important than usual to make sure your logo is readable.

The reset versions shown at the small size used frequentlyMy reset versions are still tight but not touching, and I've shown it in the same base typeface (Baskerville, but without the jacked up lowercase x-height and the tilted letter e) and also in a sans serif, with and without the capital G. Any of these is an improvement (in my opinion), particularly at the smaller size shown at right. Even the one with the uppercase G still reads okay (although I prefer the lowercase versions).

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