Ask people to name some of the most iconic symbols of Paris and they are likely to say the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Notre Dame Cathedral, among other landmarks. What they are unlikely to mention are the merchant boats that once plied the Seine. So important were these vessels to the survival, wealth and influence of Paris in the Middle Ages, a high-sided boat with a billowing sail was adopted as the heraldic coat of arms for Paris in 1358. It remained the city’s official emblem for more than a thousand years. The seal is typically displayed on public facilities along with the city motto “Fluctuat nec Mergitur” – Latin for “tossed upon the waves, but doesn’t sink.”
Over the centuries, the boat displayed on the coat of arms had been redesigned a dozen or so times, with artists striving for a more majestic look, sometimes by drawing tall-clipper-type ships with multiple masts. But in 1942, when Paris again modified its logo, it aimed for more historical accuracy and showed a high-sided, bowed gondola-like boat with a single mast. That version remained the authorized logo for Paris, until the city opted to modernize it to complement the graphic style of today.
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Tokyo, the host city for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, unveiled its logos for the games recently. Designed by Tokyo-based Kenjiro Sano, founder of Mr. Design Inc., the logos are not merely pleasing graphics; according to the Olympics press release, they were intended to convey a deeper meaning. The Olympic mark has a large black and gold “T”, which we are told represent “Tokyo, Tomorrow and Team.” The red circle, which looks like the red sun on the Japanese national flag, is described instead as a symbol of “inclusiveness and the power of a beating heart.” The same graphic elements are used for the Paralympic games, but the gold and silver shapes are placed within parallel bars to form the universal symbol of equality. The “beating red heart” is placed within one of the bars. The meaning attributed to the graphic elements is poetic, but not immediately apparent to anyone seeing the logos for the first time. The fact that the symbolism has to be explained to be understood makes it seem contrived by a public relations committee, trying to read more into a nice-looking logo than is actually there. That’s totally unnecessary. The logos are graphically compelling on their own.
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Steve Frykholm is rare among in-house graphic designers, who tend not to make a career in one company for fear that they may become stale and repetitive. Frykholm joined Herman Miller in 1970, and has produced an impressive graphic communications portfolio for the celebrated furniture maker over the past 45 years. Back when financial annual reports were the design showpiece for most companies, all eyes were on Herman Miller to see what Frykholm came up with. Inevitably, it was something wonderful, fresh, and engaging. Frykholm established a graphic brand for Herman Miller that didn’t emphasize the repetition or placement of the logo, as much as meeting the company’s reputation for bold, original design. So, it is not that surprising that the silk-screened posters that Frykholm produced for the annual company picnic over the past 20 years have been included in New York’s Museum of Modern Art permanent collection. This brief video was produced by Dress Code, a New York-based production company.
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As of this writing at 3:05 p.m., June 24, 2015, there are 25 declared Republican candidates and 14 declared Democratic candidates for the 2016 Presidential election. Of course, the count is still in flux, with about a dozen other wannabes rumored to be exploring entering the race. Shown here are the logos of the declared candidates who have logos (many don’t). Based strictly on their logos and nothing else, which candidate communicates “the right stuff”? Has anyone’s logo changed your opinion of his/her qualifications?
Recently Bloomberg Politics reporter Ali Elkin asked designer Sagi Haviv, a partner in legendary New York design firm, Chermayeff & Geismar @ Haviv, to critique the graphic brands of the then-current slate of Presidential candidates (now outdated). His critique is on the video below.
Disclaimer for U.S. voters: The brand identities of the 2016 Presidential candidate, shown here, do not in any way reflect the preference of any @Issue staff member for a particular candidate or logo.
Apology to non-U.S. @issue readers: If you don’t know anything about half of these candidates, don’t feel out of touch. Neither do a lot of Americans.
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It might be considered tacky to give a bar of soap as a gift, but not if it is beautifully wrapped.
Established in New York more than 30 years ago, Michel Design Works found its niche merchandising tasteful gift products in lovely garden-themed designs and packaging. Scented bar and bubble bath soaps, body lotions, paper napkins, coasters and placemats, kitchen towels and potholders, and the like are delightfully decorated with antique botanical prints. In the case of the soap, the wrapping paper makes the product look like a luxury item, but is inexpensively priced to give as an appropriate hostess thank-you or as a shower party favor. The packaging for the soap even features the Michel Design Works’ elephant logo as a hot-wax seal. What makes this soap “gift-worthy” is not the actual bar of soap (however good it is); it’s the packaging. The packaging defines the brand.