[ education Category ]
April 24, 2003

The New UH Logo

The controversial Branding Project at the University of Hawaii is entering its final phase, with two proposed designs unveiled yesterday for the new, official university logo. Dubbed "Wave" and "Spectrum," they're the result of a yearlong, $82,000 process "to pursue a new, cohesive graphic identity for the UH system."

What do you think of the designs? UH wants to hear from you. So do I.

Not surprisingly, while the toothless Ka Leo article essentially reprints the administration's press release, the article in today's Honolulu Advertiser reflects some actual student opinion:

"'I just hate it. Period,' said senior design student Dimitri Kim."

Between the two, I'll take "Spectrum." But with the center element forming an "H" in the yin-yang-esque swirl, it strikes me as a bit redundant to add the big "H" around it. A predecessor of this design was actually leaked in the Honolulu Weekly a few weeks ago, and it didn't include the big "H." At the time I gave it a B-minus. Basic, distinctive, with an Asian flair. This finalist? Eh. If you're going to represent two letters, one should be "U," wouldn't you think?

Neither really excite me. But then again, neither did the current one, which more than a few people have mentioned looks like a burning book.

But I also think it's silly that the University will retain its (distinctly Hawaiian-themed) athletics logo and its formal seal separately. If you're looking for a "cohesive graphic identity," you should be looking for just one logo.

Posted by Prophet Zarquon at April 24, 2003 12:22 PM


Posted by ruth on April 24, 2003 1:34 PM:

I'm all for creating a visual appearance that is true to the brand identity of the University of Hawaii.

While I find both marks unobjectionable in and of themselves, visually speaking, they both do not carry the weight that an institution like a university should carry. The mark should convey history, strength, character, longevity, credibility, trust, knowledge and depth. When I see the mark, I should immediately feel that the institution it represents is solid.

Yet, viscerally, the logos make me feel "wavery." If "wave" or "spectrum" is the central idea, I would prefer something much less literal in the marks. I would prefer a logo that is more difficult to explain - not so easy to break down, piece by piece.

The groups the University chose to work on the brand are quite reputable. Sometimes, however, results often come about "by committee" and not by the philosophy and thinking of the artists. I'm not certain if this was truly the case here.

If the logos were used for a hotel, I would say, "perfect!" But for a university? I say, "Please give it another try."

Posted by anon. on April 24, 2003 2:46 PM:

Both of the new logos the "Wave" and "Spectrum" disappoint me. They appear too casual and to me, they do not convey the pride and professionalism that a university should have.

The style of the WAVE logo reminds me of the type of logo a hotel would have. The circle shape with the crest of a wave going through the center makes me feel too relaxed, like I am looking at the logo of a spa. I feel it does not convey a sense of foundation and permanence that a university should have.

When I look at the SPECTRUM logo with the prismatic background, all I see is "surf shop." Even as a single color logo, I think Spectrum lacks a sense of UH identity since the "H" is not readily prominent. The two dots in the middle seem to catch more of my atttention. At my first glance, the logo looked like a colon between two capital I's (I:I). At second glance I thought the logo was a lower-case "r" up against an inverted lower-case "r."

I feel that a better logo which will suit an academic institution much more appropriately can be developed.

Posted by Ambika on April 24, 2003 4:02 PM:

I find both logos to be dissapointing as well. I can imagine a logo far more cultural and aesthetically pleasing. I know minimalist logos are generally best, but neither of these stand out. I agree with Ruth, the logo needs more depth.

Although I have to say that I prefer "wave" to "spectrum" - The 'H' looks more balanced.

Posted by NemesisVex on April 24, 2003 5:17 PM:

They look like freeking hotel logos.

Posted by Beth on April 24, 2003 8:40 PM:

As an advertising person, I'd throw these back, and fire the freaking art director.

Both of these logos are sad. They're safe and boring and who would ever remember either of these brands? At least a logo that looks like burning book is recognizable!

Two thumbs down. And if they really paid some Mainland firm over $75,000 for this crap, they got seriously ripped off. They should have gone with a local agency. Somebody that could look beyond a wave when trying to graphically represent The University of Hawaii.

Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

Posted by Beth on April 24, 2003 8:42 PM:

By the way, the logo does desperately need a redesign. I'm not supporting the burning book. I'd just like to see them go back to the drawing board. Literally.

Posted by Ryan on April 24, 2003 8:51 PM:

NemesixVex: They look like freeking hotel logos.

Anon: The style of the WAVE logo reminds me of the type of logo a hotel would have.

Ruth: If the logos were used for a hotel, I would say, "perfect!" But for a university? I say, "Please give it another try."

Who said the new logos don't build consensus?

I like the "surf shop" comment myself. They're wimpy, safe, and instantly forgettable. (But at least there's no Millennium Orbital Crescent Swish.) So since we're looking at a general thumbs down, here, how about a follow-up question:

How about just adopting the current Manoa athletics logo? It's distinctive, has a Hawaiian flavor, looks good in two colors (an important criteria), and, it's paid for!

Posted by Donna on April 24, 2003 10:24 PM:

As soon as I saw the "spectrum" logo, I instantly saw some visual elements that looked oddly familiar: it's actually a blending of the old symbol of the Ryukyu Kingdom (Okinawa, before the overthrow by Japan) and the ying-yang symbol. All they did was remove one of those teardrop shapes from the Ryukyu symbol and voila!

Personally, I don't care much for either of the logos and tend to agree with what Beth said about not getting their money's worth by paying $82,000 for the creation of these logos. (That dollar amount was taken directly out of the press release.)

I also agree that UH should have used a local design firm to do the job. I mean, what's the whole "Buy Hawaii" campaign about if our own state university can't support our local businesses? (I know, I know... they received proposals from firms from Hawaii and other states, but I'm just being picky here.)

Boy, what I could've done with $82,000...

Posted by lisa on April 24, 2003 10:44 PM:

Not paying much attention to these things, I kinda always thought that the athletics logo WAS the logo, cuz it's all I ever see :)

The new designs? Send 'em back to the late 1980's/early 1990s where they belong. One looks like it ought to be for a "new wave"/ easy listening radio station and the other for a cheesy DJ outfit.

I agree with Beth in that they really should've tried harder to find a local company. Sheesh, for 1/10 of what they spent I could've created something better.

Posted by Sin on April 24, 2003 11:55 PM:

I don't understand why these two logos are even being considered. One looks like it' should be the "H" for Hilton Hawaiian Village and the other looks like...hell, I don't know what it looks like. Like if Jerry Garcia was glancing at the alphabet and having an acid trip on letter H.

Posted by aureservoir on April 25, 2003 5:08 AM:

yeah, where's the "U"? The Hilton Hotel one looks like two doric columns with Oceanic Cable waves thrown in...

Posted by Randy Delucchi on April 25, 2003 1:05 PM:

Agree with the consensus here; neither logo is too exciting, submissions should have come from local firms. If any, go with the athletic logo, for consistency sake.

Posted by Linkmeister on April 25, 2003 2:59 PM:

Yo, Phil Kinnicutt! Read this thread!

I'm not fond of either, and I'm not fond of the athletics one. I still like the UH with the rainbow that the athletic one replaced.

Yeah, yeah...old fuddy duddy.

Posted by Nobody on April 25, 2003 11:45 PM:

For what it's worth, there are other schools that use more than one logo.

The Pac-10 college I graduated from has three logos too - the official seal of the university, a logo that you'll see on all the official letterhead and most literature that gets printed, and finally the sports logo.

So the logic does make sense. The two logos they paid 82,000 for are ugly as sin and that money should have gone to a local company to create something better. Both of the current choices reek of mainland interpretations of what higher education represents here in Hawaii.

Posted by ali on April 27, 2003 9:41 AM:

Both logos are awful. I can't believe they let all that money go outside the system, much less the State! UH has a ready pool of talented people going through their very own programs--tell me they couldn't have had an excellent logo just by offering a scholarship and the fame of having designed their school's logo?! The remaining money could have gone into the arts program or production/marketing costs with local companies. And UH has the nerve to solicit the charity of alumni and local businesses to "help them in these tough economic times"? Puh-leez!

Posted by Albert on April 27, 2003 2:11 PM:

The new designs suck, the athletic one sucks.

I think they should just the classic old seal, the only design I liked enough to walk around wearing a polo shirt displaying it.

Certainly won't wear one with these designs.

Posted by ZZ Type on April 28, 2003 6:36 AM:

There's an online petition that urges UH to keep the old, original logo and ditch the new logo effort.


Nearly 400 signatures so far.

Posted by Albert on April 28, 2003 8:55 AM:

Cheer! That's the "old seal" I was talking about, really looks like a *university* instead of a hotel or fastfood joint.

Posted by Ryan on April 28, 2003 10:36 AM:

Thanks for the petition link, Blaine. I signed it immediately.

Note also that the Star-Bulletin is seeking public submissions for a better, locally-grown logo for the University.

Posted by Greg on April 28, 2003 12:42 PM:

These "brands," which actually amount to nothing more than logo designs--even as an ex-brand consultant I can see that--are clear evidence that UH was ripped off, big time.

The logos appear to me to be half-baked imaginings by someone who knows nothing about UH, let alone Hawai'i. They are designs made out of the imagination of outsiders for Hawai'i: primitive, exotic, touristic, vacation, Oriental, etc. And even at that, they are redundant, stereotypical, and dated. You might not find these exact logos around right now, but take a walk through Waikiki or any seaside resort town in 1980 and you'd find them on the doorhandles of hotels. Looks like someone was having a bad creative day. Seriously these need drastic revision by artists who genuinely know what we stand for and who are given the opportunity to be more creative and bold.

Were the text next to these logos, "Hawaii Convalescent System" or "Hawaii Academic Beach Resort"--or "Hakata Visitors Bureau"/"Hong Kong Rainbow Drumming Ensemble," they would at least be a bit more acceptable. There is nothing here that suggests the honor and prowess of a distinguished university, nor anything to reference the pride and multiculturalism of Oceania and Asia.

A brand is a promise, and a brand is an attitude--the attitudes that I get from these mere logos strike me as leisure-resort insignias, and their application--even if done effectively--will reinforce the misconception that this school is just a tourist school, not a serious academic institution. But it is likely that worse yet, these logos will not be applied in a uniform and effective way--for very often clients do not realize that changing one's brand requires extremely thorough application (and money) throughout the institution, and this is what brand consultancies profit from in the long term (read: they are waiting for more jobs down the line to sucker UH out of more money). This is not a mere chance to make new T-shirts and accessories, nor is it simply a signage issue. UH must uniformly apply brand values throughout the system that are coherent and consistent with the brand. This should even influence the way UH employees and students imagine themselves and their role here.

At best, this UH Branding project as it stands appears to be a frivolous waste of money that could have been better used to provide scholarships for students who need it. If the goal is truly to raise UH's brand equity in the long run, a more thorough and well-researched brand should be generated. Striking a balance--PONO--between the important elements of Hawaiian values, Hawaiian identity, academic integrity and pride, the brand should reflect the wonderful potential of this place--and if that is communicated effectively, the brand's sincerity and passion will be enough to attract more students, raise the pride and solidarity of the student/faculty body, and link all campuses of the UH system together.

I sincerely hope that more careful consideration is given to this issue, because it is much more important than just fancy logos. It has everything to do with the way UH imagines itself at this moment in history, and it will substantially change that image in the future. If this change is misguided, it could be disastrous for the university in the long run.

Posted by Haken on April 29, 2003 1:03 AM:

They're definately not worth $82K. Both look like a H with a bullseye.

Posted by Raevyn808 on April 29, 2003 2:39 AM:

The latest article in the Honolulu Advertiser lists the names of local firms who bid on the project. Three bids were at or below $80K including one from Clarence Lee!

This was posted by Robert Rytter on their News section:

04.25.03 - To our visitors from Hawaii — Aloha, Thank you for taking the time to visit our website. We wanted to address some of the concerns about our work for the University of Hawaii. We are a national graphic design firm seeking interesting projects in all 50 states. We were awarded the graphic design project for UH because we had a stronger proposal and deeper experience than our competition, not because the graphic designers of Hawaii are not great, or up to the task - there are many great designers in Hawaii. Our work is collaborative with our clients. We work to see the project goals through our clients eyes. We believe the two final designs are fine marks to represent the University going forward. We believe in the future of the University of Hawaii - and we believe our work will lay a strong foundation to raise the national visibility of UH to where it belongs. Mahalo, Robert Rytter"

Collaborative designing from images viewed through their client's eyes. Who are these Branding Project committee members, anyway? What kind of constructive criticism did they receive about the other possible designs to end up with those two choices? Did they ever consider consulting with the Hawaiian Studies department about cultural themes that could've been utilized?

My mind reels to contemplate what the $82K could've been used for. One would think that reaction from the UH Athletics logo change in recent past would've made the project committee a little more thoughtful. I shudder to think what they would do to the UH-Hilo Vulcans logo.

Posted by Russell Kaya on April 29, 2003 12:25 PM:

I am really upset at the news of this logo. If UH really wants to promote solidarity, we suggest that they take the loss and dump these two $82,000 logos from the Baltimore firm.

As alumni, we strongly feel that the students, faculty, and people of Hawaii should design the logo that represents them. A logo is nothing but symbolic. The designing of a UH logo is a blessing that should have been given to the people of Hawaii, if not at the very least, the UH students.

Taking the assumption that everyone will either hate it or love the logo is self-defeating. If UH wants a unifying symbol, they first need to unify themselves and stop the practise of hiring Mainland companies to do what UH can handle.

This is extremely symbolic and it needs to stop. UH needs to stand on it's own feet. It does not need to pay for representation from the mainland.

Even after reading a follow-up article by Beverly Creamer in the Advertiser, UH still neglects to justify the cost of this project. This project would have been better served as a marketing opportunity to promote UH by accepting designs instead of paying for them.

Paying for a design does not constitute a better product. Period.

A logo is essentially an idea, not a product, and paying $82,000 for an idea when they are free to begin with is simply stupid.

It might not have been so bad if the logos were good, but they are not. Both these logos do nothing but to stereotype Hawaii by it's climate. The "Wave" logo appears to be a Roman Number 2 with a cloud passing over it. The "spectrum" logo with it's stereotypical rainbow won't appear look good black and white (fax machines, etc) and appears to be in the shape of a gong. Where is the culture? The education? All spent.

UH has several logos already and there's nothing wrong with having more. The Athletics Dept. has a beautiful logo. So does the UH seal. So does the UH Assembly. But these really have no visual justification for representing UH. All they represent is how Stupid and Wasteful UH is.

On second thought. I changed my mind. It's perfect....

Russell Kaya

Posted by John Pritchett on April 29, 2003 12:43 PM:

think both designs are substandard and way, way too expensive.

Wouldn't it be more meaningful to have the best and brightest UH art student design the UH logo at no cost? I'm sure a student could do a much better job and the $82,000+ would be better spent on educating students.

Posted by mike on April 29, 2003 1:29 PM:

It amazes me that some committee decided to go outside of Hawaii to get these logos. You cannot tell me some students from the Art Department couldn't come up with those two logos and a couple dozen more, while splitting one of those $8 salads at Manoa Garden. AND, if the committee really doesn't think any UH art student (past or present) can, why not close down the Art School and use the money saved to pay for a killer logo.

What really makes me sad about this whole thing is the "committee" seems to have taken to the Von Appen theory that there is not enough talent in Hawaii and we have to recruit from the Mainland. UH shouldn't just consider local businesses for contracts, they should make local and alumni sources the rule.

Those ads they run on national UH football games claim you can get a top notch education here. Why doesn't this committee think so.

Posted by ruth on April 29, 2003 5:46 PM:

I know I'm digressing somewhat here, but I think this is important enough to throw into the discussion.

I agree with most comments posted on this subject. But I disagree with ideas suggesting that designers - whether Hawaii-based or not - donate their time and talent to contribute a design.

I run into this issue too often with graphics artists and musician friends. The general public is so used to getting art for free or for extremely cheap, that the artist is reduced to a nominal place in our community.

An insignia may take a matter of hours to create, a concerto 45 minutes to play. The end result may be minimal, very simple. Yet, the insight it requires to make a truly meaningful design (or artwork or music), to know what to chip away at and leave out, takes years and years of time and discipline, insight, not to mention money. Good art is not simply the result of a skillful hand, but a way of thinking, reflective of years of experience, insight and depth. Unfortunately, the consuming public may never appreciate all of that when they see something that looks like a "swoosh."

To keep art in our community at an elevated level, it's important to understand that art cost us something - it requires sacrifice. We never think twice about paying the electric bill or purchasing hardware, but when it comes to artistic or design contributions, people think that it's OK to get it free or cheap. If someone indeed was kind enough to donate a design that works perfectly for the University, then he or she is the one who made the sacrifice. And that sacrifice should not be taken for granted. The recipient of the art - UH, and by extension, the community - should have a strong sense of indebtness to the contributor.

On a separate note, many people think the designs are ugly. I don't think that's the case - they're simply inappropriate. I do think UH wasted its money on these logos because they supremely miss the mark.

I think many artists know how to create nice designs, but few understand how to create appropriate designs - ones that resonate at different levels and create a sense of permanence. On the one hand, the investment UH made angered the community at large, but it also, very sadly, cast an unfair shadow on the design community as whole. When these two logos burst onto the scene, the public suddenly got a sense that professional designers are overpriced and undertalented and that we should turn to people who would do it for free or for very cheap. I believe not just any Tom, Dick or Harry designer can create a mark that is appropriate for the school. The designer could be a student or a master, but regardless of who it is, that someone must have great insight and depth. Could that person have come from Hawaii? Most certainly, and that person *should have* come from Hawaii. Hawaii's design community in fact does have artists who could've produced something more powerful, more appropriate and resonate a sense of wisdom and deep understanding.

If we are to receive something of symbolic value that will outlive us, we should understand its enormous worth and recognize the thinker behind the contribution. Something this valuable should never be this cheap.

Posted by Sin on April 29, 2003 5:51 PM:

I don't get it, Clarence Lee was the guy who designed those cool Chinese New Year stamps and they didn't hire him? And wasn't there another local guy who helped redesign NFL football logos for some teams? I forget his name but one guy redesigned the Tampa Bay Buc's lame orange uniforms to the cool Red and Pewter ones that have now. I bet someone involved in the bid process has got a cousin or uncle or is getting kickbacks from that firm in Baltimore. C'mon, 82 grand? Use some common sense! Have a contest between all the design schools within the UH system and have the students come up with some logo examples before putting it out to bid. A lot cheaper that way plus you provide opportunities for some young talented student. Not only are UH officials NOT thinking out of the box, they're not even thinking with their heads out of their okoles.

Posted by anon on April 29, 2003 11:00 PM:

An article in today's Star-Bulletin highlights the online petition..... and quotes our Ryan!

Posted by ZZ Type on April 29, 2003 11:45 PM:


The guy you're referring to also designed the UH footbal "H" logo.

"Kauai born-and-raised Kurt Osaki is the lead designer of the logo and overall new look. He has also designed for NFL teams."


He lives in San Francisco now, but has plenty of family still here.


Posted by Sin on April 30, 2003 2:36 PM:

Howzit Blaine, thanks. I couldn't remember the name so even a google search for that guy was hard. By the way folks, I don't know if you've heard yet but UH has scrapped it's plans for these particular logos and it's back to the drawing board. Hopefully not to spend another 82 thou though I do agree with Ruth that if you want quality be prepared to pay for it. Anyway, good work gang!

PS - Blaine, we miss you here at Resturant Row Building 7.

Posted by ali on April 30, 2003 8:23 PM:

I'm glad that he rejected the two hideous logos but he doesn't seem to have much confidence or pride in the talent of UH students and the quality of the UH programs. Disappointing.

"Have you ever thought that maybe you could open it up to your arts and graphics arts students have a contest and pay them a thousand bucks?" KITV 4 News reporter Dick Allgire asked. "It seems to me they could come up with something as good as an "H" with a wave in it."

"Or we could do that with the journalism students and ask them to do your job. The fact is this is a professional business," Dobelle said.

via The Hawaii Channel

Posted by Ryan on April 30, 2003 9:29 PM:

Or we could do that with the journalism students and ask them to do your job. The fact is this is a professional business.


Noting Ruth's comments above, I do agree that art and graphic design cannot simply be "this guy I know who'll do it for 50 bucks" — even though I bet everyone here knows such a guy. Branding, marketing is sometimes pretentious, but it's a profession.

In scrapping the logos, Dobelle noted that the last time a systemwide logo was comissioned, they paid a local firm much, much more... and it was similarly panned. Picking something simple to convey something complex is always tricky.

Posted by ZZ Type on April 30, 2003 10:04 PM:

Eh, dat Dobelle guy, he need couple-o cracks, no?!

Sin, I miss the Bulletin, too! But the Mounties made it pretty clear I wasn't welcome there any more! Hehehe. Who da heck are you???

A hui hou,

Posted by Sin on April 30, 2003 11:33 PM:

No can say Blaine, but I'm the biggest "sinner" there amongst the angels...if you guess email me at work.

As for Dobelle's comments to Algire, was that a part of the tv story or did they only put that on the kitv website? Kudos to kitv for being honest and putting it on their website but I think Dobelle shouldn't have dismissed the concept like that. Like I said before, I still like the idea of letting students at least TRY and design a new logo though...what's the harm? Give the kid a scholarship if he or she designs something worthy. If they don't THEN go spend whatever thousands of dollars for a professional logo.

Posted by Raevyn808 on May 1, 2003 12:01 AM:

Dobelle's comments make me wonder what kind of process the average corporation goes through to brand themselves and produce a specific marketing image. The University is a public institution and represents more than just a geographic place or athletic team. In any case, Dobelle seemed ambivalent towards either of the choices which makes me believe that he really has no idea of what he'd want the logo to represent.

Interestingly, American Savings Bank recently unveiled their new logo, the Kalo leaf, to symbolize their ties to the Hawaii community and longevity. ASB collaborated with a native Hawaiian cultural specialist Lindsey Pollack in developing their logo.

From their press release: "The logo was designed by the bank’s advertising firm, Starr Seigle Communications, in consultation with Pollock. Additional inspiration came from the architectural firm Wimberly Allison Tong and Goo..."

Posted by Linkmeister on May 2, 2003 3:35 PM:

That clip of Dobelle's crack was on the news, not just the site. In fact, it was repeated on the late news the following night.

Posted by Ryan on May 4, 2003 9:07 PM:

With the professionally-designed logos scrapped, the people are having their chance to show off their designs.

KITV and the Star-Bulletin have both posted viewer/reader submissions... and the latter is inviting the public to vote on the best.

My step-brother's submission made it into the Star-Bulletin, so I have to vote for his...

Posted by ruth on May 5, 2003 2:29 PM:

While Dobelle's "crack" may have been said in a defensive and arrogant way, he still had a point, underscored by the reader/viewer submissions. Logo design and visual identity is not as easy as people assume, apparently.

The UH administration did right in seeking out professionals to handle the job. I just think they chose the wrong firm.


Posted by Sin on May 7, 2003 3:31 PM:

I have a question for Ruth. By what criteria does one judge a logo as being "professional"? I'm not trying to get snippy or anything, it's just that I'm looking at some of the designs submitted to the media and to my untrained eye some of them seem well done. I'm actually curious as to what you think about some of them. (If you've seen them that is.)

Posted by Ryan on May 7, 2003 4:27 PM:

I'm not Ruth (unfortunately), but I too have been heard to say, "It's a pity Hawaii's designers had to go and prove Dobelle right."

Many of the logos are nice. A few are, perhaps, professional looking to some. But I was very disappointed. One, and primarily, it seemed everyone was limiting themselves to the design vocabulary used by the Mainland design firm — 101 different ways to draw an "H," versus a wide range of iconic images that could represent Hawaii. Second, many were designing the way the Mainland design firm expressly (and rightfully) avoided — focusing obsessively on the little logo, rather than how well it could be made a part of a brand, and incorporated into a wide range of collateral material.

Just as a small example, many of the submitted logos were full of color and detail, and were kinda pretty. But almost none would translate well to two colors (even my stepbrother admitted using gradients/blends was a mistake), or physical signage, or be recognizable at all unless it was two feet in front of you.

I'm absolutely certain there are many more skilled, professional designers in Hawaii. But I doubt many of them would send in anything to a newspaper or TV station for free.

It was a neat exercise. But I just hope the UH administration doesn't see either of these collections as representative of Hawaii's talent pool.

Posted by ruth on May 7, 2003 5:03 PM:

Hi Sin,

I know where you're coming from and don't think you're being snippy. You have a very cool vibe on this thread, and I appreciate reading your posts.

You have a valid question, and thanks for being curious enough to ask.

Here are a couple points:

Hawaii Stereotypes Revisited. I know several people were complaining that the two scrapped logos embodied Mainland stereotypes of Hawaii. But I also think many reader/viewer submissions did just the same. I don't need to see the eight islands plopped upon an "H" for me to *get* that it's Hawaii. And if the ocean, flowers and palm trees aren't the stereotypical Hawaii, then I don't know what is.

Lack of Simplicity. The submissions are too busy, and they force too many literal images together. They cobble all kinds of generic concepts into a basket. Ultimately, they lack elegance and depth.

Sin, while I think the contributions show skill, I don't think they show depth. The ideas they try to convey don't have very much dimension. Simplicity and balance can be more powerful than complex literal representations. Simplicity and balance last longer, and feed more strongly into mythological perceptions of a person or a group. Think of the cross for Christians or the swastika for Nazi Germany. Think of the Nike "swoosh." They're sort of archetypal. The Mercedes logo is just a three-spoked wheel, but when you see it, you immediately think "class, quality, longevity." Certainly, the Mercedes brand reputation upholds the imagery's mythology. But a less-experienced designer could've gone the way of designing a logo with a car with a glimmering star behind it - or something.

Sometimes, I think less-experienced designers assume that consumers must be spoonfed with images that look like a flower or a book or a torch. They assume that consumers might not *get it* if they imply, or let people viscerally "feel" something they can't explain with words.

If I were to ask an experienced designer what they think of the submissions, they might provide insight on color value and proportion. I can only guess that successful logos like Nike and Mercedes actually have very specific proportion that make them pleasing to the eye. At a visceral level, the submissions sent to the TV and newspaper do not feel balanced proportionally, but that's just my untrained perception as well.

In addition, I don't think a design can really show depth without the designer intimately knowing the subject matter of what they're designing. If I were to design the logo for a potato chip company, I would spend lots of time hanging out with the potato cutters, the admin assistant, the company owner. I'd listen to all their stories of trials and tribulations, the funny times, too. I'd learn their history. I'd learn their future. I'd try to emotionally get a sense of who they are, not just learn the elements of the company, the elements being the chips, the spices, the grease. The designer has to have enough emotional and mental capability to become their subject matter, then to render that subject matter out in a most spiritually creative way. To encapsulate all that is a person or all that is an organization to a line or a dot is not easy. And I will never pretend that I have the skill to do that.

I have friends in the design business who've been at this kind of work for 20 years. They, like many other established professional artists here, have not submitted their work to this kind of open (unpaid) forum. I don't blame them. Had they won the right to design the logo and get paid properly, as any artist should, I know they would've done a fine job. You mentioned Clarence Lee - and he indeed is one such fine artist. (I don't know Clarence Lee personally, but know of his work.) I do think artists with the insight and depth to create a truly lasting logo are very few and far between, and unfortunately, people don't see it that way.


Posted by Sin on May 8, 2003 10:58 PM:


Your comments about simplicity and using the Mercedes logo as an example helped clarify things a great deal, thanks. Also the visit to the potato chip factor was a good way to illustrate the work behind the scenes.

And thanks for saying I have a "cool vibe"...best compliment I've gotten in a long time.

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