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  Pro-logo versus no logo

Design Week: Pro-logo versus no logo


The only thing that has died is the term 'logo'; not to what the term refers. To what the term refers has changed so much that logos no longer do justice to contemporary brand experiences.

Pro-logo, that is, 'professional logo' and the use of the prefix as a declaration of logo advocacy is not a likely alternative to no logo because the problem is embedded in the term 'logo', no matter how it is spun. The catchy and clever 'pro-logo versus no logo' will only serve as an enticing headline to counter, to a minor degree, Simon Manchipp's attention-seeking (and misleading) sensationalist declaration of the death of the logo.

On the surface neither option appears a likely way forward. A fundamental change to the whole brand-handling set of tools is necessary. This will be achieved by adopting a more effective language with which to handle not only brands but everything (in every sense). We need to change how we talk about brands so as to best represent all the non-logo things and gestures that make up brands, their identities and experiences.

Brand experiences are comprised of marks, every type of mark: material, linguistic and gestural. There will always be a requirement for one type of mark to be primary. A single mark will always be required because its use enables the least amount of effort to tag and cue the richest experience of a brand. This might often mean only the linguistic mark (the name of the brand) and as Mr Manchipp would have it, presented in a nondescript typeface so that the mark doesn't appear as a conventional logo.

However, linguistic marks are not always the most effective way to carry the non-verbal aspects of a brand experience. Some visual marks have the added benefit of also carrying the name with minimal effort – think of Apple or Target's bullseye. Other symbols are visual marks to which linguistic marks are not inherent but that are closely identified – think Nike.

And so, I propose, based on Hilary Lawson's Closure (a story of everything), that brands be handled as coordinated sets of marks (brand-marks) and that that the primary mark that has traditionally been referred to as the 'logo' be treated as one of many interconnected brand-marks, and that it be written as one word (brandmark) to denotes its status.

This is not just a semantic variance on brand-handling systems, it's a fundamental shift in the reality mediating, thinking and doing force that is the use of language in a particular way. A new language that alters fundamentally how things in the world are grasped and understood. Leading this change should be the most powerful agents to achieve this, commercial brands.


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