It’s not always as simple as applying a single set of graphic standards across the board when a brand expands into foreign markets. In some cases, the brand name may be difficult to pronounce in the native language or the letters may translate into a word that is negative or obscene. Or the graphic mark may include a detail that may be perceived as insulting or culturally taboo. The challenge for brand designers is to adapt the logo to the region, while preserving enough elements to make it recognizable in every part of the world. Ideally, travelers to a foreign country will recognize the brand identity on sight even if the letters or image differ from what they are used to in their own culture. See if you can name these brands. (Answers after the jump.)
An aesthetically pleasing logo is great, but when it is wrapped around a charming story, the brand becomes all the more memorable. Landor Associates did both in developing the design and branding for the ultra-exclusive Nine Suns Wine of Napa Valley. Playing off the Chinese heritage of the owners, Landor recalled the ancient Yao Dynasty legend that claimed that once 10 suns lit the earth in rotation, until one day the suns grew tired of taking turns and decided to rise all at once. The unrelenting heat from the suns scorched crops and trees and caused much suffering. Emperor Yao summoned Hou Yi, the god of archery, to save the land. The archer quickly shot nine suns out of the sky, but left the tenth sun to keep heaven and earth in perfect balance. The winery’s brand mark represents the nine suns myth with the nine black dots lyrically configured to spell Nine Suns.
Extending a brand into global markets isn’t a straightforward process. Product makers have to consider all kinds of cultural and language barriers. Can the letterforms be read? Can the name be pronounced? Does it have a pleasing or harsh sound when spoken? Does the name mean something else in another language? (An example is the famous case of the Chevy Nova, which in Mexico translates to “doesn’t go.”) Then there is the challenge of trying to maintain some graphic consistency so the brand is truly global and not the same product that looks different in every regional market.
Consider how Carlsberg Beer and Coca-Cola graphically translated their logotypes into multiple languages, for example. LogoDesignLove brought the Carlsberg comparisons to our attention. With Carlsberg, note the way that the designers tried to carry over the signature style of the brand — the flat-top squared-off “C,” tri-leaf accent pattern, the swash decorative flourish under the type, the brushstroke-like serif on the last “r.” Although the letterforms differ dramatically from language to language, the various logotypes have a family look that suggests their roots stem from the original Danish Carlsberg logo.
For a Central China Television (CCTV) promotional commercial, Chinese ad agency, MMIA, undertook to retrace the history of China in an animated version of a traditional Chinese ink-and-wash landscape painting. Ink-and-wash is an art style that developed thousands of years ago and is noted for brush strokes that range from bold forms to faint ink washes that render scenes in a dreamlike mist. To simulate this liquid effect, MMIA turned to Troublemakers.tv, a production company based in Paris, and German director Niko Tziopanos of weareflink. The result is mesmerizing, a merging of design, computer graphics, visual effects and live action blending seamlessly together to appear that an ancient ink painting has come to life.
Japanese graphic designer Masaaki Hiromura has made pictograms an integral part of the kanji characters he created for Tokyo’s Kitasenjyu Marui department store to come up with food words that can be understood in any language. The silhouette of the food appropriately replaces a stroke in the word so it can be read as text. Although Hiromura was probably focused on devising a witty and graphically interesting way to communicate to multinational customers who frequent the store, this display seems like the reverse of how written languages began in many ancient cultures. Japanese and Chinese characters started as pictographs, ideographic symbols describing objects and actions. Over time, these characters became less pictographic and ideographic and more visually abstract. What’s amusing about these pictogram characters is that we’ve come full circle.