Gone but not forgotten: the thankless life of a rejected logo
Like it or not, logos are everywhere. In addition to the spine of this book, there’s probably one emblazoned on your watch, sleeve, spectacles, shoes and coffee cup. Logos adorn almost every item in our vicinity, screaming their message, clamouring for attention.
Logos are signs, small graphic identifiers; things that help differentiate a product or service from its competitors. Yet over time, their meaning has transcended mere differentiation. Like personal signatures, logos are unique statements of their origins. They give away our background, our interests, our vanity and vulnerabilities. They mock our lifestyles, tell our income, betray our sociopolitical point of view.
And still they’re so much more. Logos hoard our memories, passions and reputations. Made familiar with time, we come to trust and befriend them. Then, like mates, we give them nicknames (the ‘Swoosh’, Worm’ or ‘Piper’). In naming a logo, we infuse it with meaning, it helps classify & define who we are. In short, it helps us be.
Then one day, they desert us. They rust, fade from billboards, are replaced by new italicised upgrades.
Two years ago, when we began this book, our hypothesis was based on first-hand experience. We were submerged in a project based on the logo of pharmaceutical giant SmithKlineBeecham. Though we hadn’t created this trademark, our task was to devise a corporate identity program for its application. Then just as we reached the implementation stage, it was announced that the entire project was to be dropped. The reason was simple: SmithKlineBeecham had agreed to a merger with arch rival GlaxoWellcome. The new company was to be called GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and unified under a new logo. Naturally, all our templates were irrelevant. Never again, would we glimpse the trademark of SmithKlineBeecham. The logo was no more. The logo was dead.
Around the same time, we became conscious of other, similar stories. Practically every week, the effects of globalisation dominated the headlines. Takeovers, mergers, buy-outs, bankruptcy… the list went on and on. Numerous familiar visual identities had to redefine or die.
These changes were echoed in our postbox. New names and motifs appeared on bills for our mobile networks, insurance companies and energy concerns. Even the logo on the postman had changed. Later we were to reminisce the lost logos of our youth: the manufacturer of our first game-console, the wrapper of our favourite ice-lolly, our parents’ first car.
One-time precursors of our daily lives, these familiar landmarks’ had vanished and we had hardly noticed. Yet in contrast to the ceremony and pomp that greeted their arrival, they often suffered an ignoble death. Used-up and superfluous, they were discarded or replaced by a shiny new signifier. Businesses went under, but no one shed a tear for the other loser of diversification – the logo.
Logo R.I.P. is a collection of lost design icons. Icons that despite achieving ‘stylistic durability’, have been deemed defunct, consigned to the logo graveyard. No longer allowed to signify.
This compilation recognises that each dead logo is a story in itself, an ideogram of its time. They are cultural barometers, expressions of a recent but bygone age. Like the sounds of an old LP or a particular smell, they transport us to what was.
Here we attempt not only to properly commemorate their demise, but also to tell their tale. The end of the book is dedicated to a series of ‘obituaries’; or articles that give a short account of the logo’s life, including details such as the nature of the organisation behind it and the reason for its discontinuation.
Unlike contemporary corporate identity design, many of the logos in this book weren’t accompanied by lengthy press releases; their ‘magic’ is inherent, their ideas clear. They were designed by creatives not committees, were tested on real people like family members and directors’ wives, not the clinical environment of the modern day test-group.
We bid farewell to these once familiar logos, and pay tribute both to the designer’s ideas, and the corporations behind them. Join with us in mourning.
Declan and Garech Stone,
The Stone Twins, Amsterdam
By keeping memories alive of things that happened in the past, one defines some sort of civilisation. In most cases, this is done in the form of a memorial such as a statue, an arch or a column. Graveyards too are places of reflection and act as a beacon of the collective memory.
This book is a commemoration of historical logos that have passed away. No one likes funerals, but in Logo R.I.P. there are many valuable trademarks that should be remembered, not just for today’s generation of designers but also for the next.
The selection contained in Logo R.I.P. reveals the optimism, skill and craftsmanship of some great classic trademarks and logos. Apart from the functionality of these marks, which represent services and trades, these logos conjure up emotional responses – which range from the depraved (the Swastika) to the ingenuous (Spratt’s).
This book is an important alternative to the new trend in logo design that is marketing-orientated nonsense. Many of today’s solutions are produced by agencies that consist of a ratio of ten pin-stripes to every one creative. They are strategy-driven and lack stylistic durability, are missing concept, magic, wit, emotion or narrative – some of the major ingredients of a good logo. This marketing-driven fever of clients ultimately leads to nothing, producing bland future brands. Metaphorically speaking, these agencies are the gravediggers’ for many design classics.
I hope, and sincerely wish, that this book becomes a valuable design resource in the future. Let’s not make this a coffee-table book!
Studio Dumbar, Rotterdam
Welcome to the website of ‘Logo R.I.P.’: a book whose core thesis is that defunct logos – that were once an integral part of our visual culture and lives – are worthy of commemoration, or even preservation.
Logo R.I.P. is also an acknowledgment of the growing movement to document the cultural and design history of trademarks, particularly icons from the golden era of corporate identity design (1950s to the 1970s). The preservation of our visual culture is central to our hypothesis and echoes the goals of the architectural conservation movement. Some will argue that logos are just marks on paper and, inherently, ephemeral – but that’s beside the point. As stated in our original introduction, great logos are much more than graphic marks that represent brands, companies or organisations. Logos also hoard our memories, passions and reputations.
In short, Logo R.I.P. is as relevant as ever. Acknowledged as both a critique of corporate culture and a celebration of some of the most potent logos ever created – we invite you once again to take a moment to pause and reflect on our selection of lost logos that are, quite simply, well-conceived, well-crafted and well-known. Gone but not forgotten.
Declan and Garech Stone,
The Stone Twins, Amsterdam (January 2021)
Design, Text & Concept: The Stone Twins
2012 Edition: English / 50 illustrations
192 pages / 120 x 170 mm
Hardcover with gold gilded edges
BIS Publishers, Amsterdam