Feb 23, 2007

Google, Yahoo.....Cambur?

'Logo Options I presented'

I'd be remiss if I didn't also post about projects I worked on that were less then successful. This post is case in point.

I was contacted by a couple engineers who are trying hard to become the next Google or Yahoo. (Easier said then done) Their expectations clearly defined their desire for a logo type they could use to brand themselves with.

Googles logo isn't a looker, that is for sure and there are a plethora of better logos for companies offering similar services and they haven't been as successful so all though I believe in a strong logo it's only part of the bigger branding picture which will only be as believable and effective as the quality and usefulness of the services being offered.

On logo projects specifically I require a lot of upfront information from clients, this helps me gauge perceptions and expectations as well as understanding them personally, their business and their target audience. After receiving this and other information I proceed to work out my concepts and the end result is presenting what you see above.

About a day after sending off the comps I received an email that contained a report card of tests these engineers apparently ran the logo comps through. In a nut shell my logos didn't pass their tests. I found it both amusing, frustrating and ignorant so I decided to share it with others.

Here was their evaluation criteria. (My comments in response to them follow each and are shown in italic)

1) Highly Recognizable: I liked the fact that you provided the initial concepts in solid colors as this is something I do to test the typeface recognition factor. Some question I ask myself are: Can I spot it instantly? Can I recognize it well even if I change the colors and effects?, is the font unique? Can the logo be identifiable even if it's reduced to 75px wide.

How do I test this condition? I reduce the size of the logo to 75px wide, I transform it to grayscale, I print it both by itself, and with some dummy text around, etc.

Disney and Yahoo are examples of logos that I see pass this test.

Of all of the logos that you provided me both #1 and #4 easily pass this test also. The others don't convince me.

If you mean by 'Recognizable' that it has visual equity then I'd have to say that is not what a logo accomplishes. This IS what branding accomplishes and that is facilitated with how well you market and advertise. If you do that well any mark good or bad will work to be frank. You do that with a well crafted design and it only makes it more effective. All four I have provided accomplish this in my opinion.

You say it's unrecognizable after you scale it down to 75 pixels. Well that's because you're not suppose to scale down art to create small onscreen graphics. It just doesn't work that way. Creating GUI content is part creative and part science. You build your art at 100% so it rasterizes art when you take it into Photoshop at a 100% this helps clarity and even then you need to go in and finesse the pixels to make it look it's best. So the only reason they failed is because you are attempting to do it the wrong way. (See my attachment showing all four very recognizable at 75 pixels in width)

Furthermore none of these four options are merely a font typed out. Number one I created from scratch. The rest are modified to he point they look very little like the typefaces I derived them from.

'My mock-up at 75 pixels wide to show that these do work.'

2) Readability: This is something I find extremely important. That's why I prefer spelled letters instead of handwriting-like letters like in the Johnson&Johnson logo. It is a great logo, I am not saying it's not, but it is not for an internet search engine for sure. This is a component that causes frustration, some designers have tried to satisfy condition #1-Highly Recognizable at the expense of #2 Readability.The first time I came to the US, I saw a guy carrying a computer that I liked, I looked at the logo and went back home to see if I could buy one. I typed on my web browser www.DOLL.COM and no computer site showed up. I want to avoid these kinds of mistakes. I believe a logo can be both readable and unique, again my old examples Disney and Yahoo, with Yahoo being the most readable of the two.

Your logos #1 and #4 in my opinion do not pass this test. I basically try to test and see if my brain can read the name in a blink. I showed your logos to several people and some of then read Combor, Canbur, and Camur (#4's "b" is not very noticeable)

The letter "C" should be capitalized.

Actually I ran all of these comps by eight different individuals (7 non-designers and 1 designer) who did not know anything about this project. One of them was a 9 year old girl and they all read them fine. I am a bit confused how you not being able to read 'DELL' pertains to these marks? That said I modified the 'm' letter-form to improve the readability.

3) Portability: Another reason why I reduce the logo size to 75px width is because the nature of our business involves engaging in co-branded deals and partnerships, application development etc. What I mean by this is: Try to envision Cambur:
a) Powering the search feature of another site and showing a very small "Powered by Cambur" logo next to the search box
b) Creating a desktop-based application that requires an icon, a firefox plug-in, extension, a favicon for the site.
c) Creating a browser toolbar.

On this logo #1 does a much better job than #4. In addition, the reflection effect or mirror effect that you did on all logos is not optimal because it does not pass this test. I like other components of the web 2.0 style, this one is not very portable.

Once again you build to size. This is easily done so your getting the cart before the horse. Further more you made it clear you wanted a logo type not a graphic mark for a logo. Even though you said that I still added secondary elements to the logo types you could use in that respect. A logo is not a desktop based icon, it can be but then that needs to be made clear up front.

If you wanted an icon for these usages that would either be part of the logo development as a secondary branding image or just another project after the fact to create a desktop icon. A desktop icon is never a name or word it's an iconic mark which would and can be developed for a, b and c as you describe. Google uses a 'G' and Yahoo a 'Y!' AOL uses the running man and so on. Think square proportion.

4) Neatness and Presence: This is the easiest component to test, I simply re-size the logo to 300px wide and I place it on a "Test" page similar to the google interface that I have attached for you to use. If I like what I see, and it passess all of the tests above, then I approve the logo.

Regarding the Web 2.0 style: I like the reflection effect, but I don't think it's portable, so I prefer effects like this: http://zimio.com/ (please look at the logo), and the other type effects on the forum I sent you about corporate web 2.0 redesigns.

Like I've said you build to size you don't merely scale at will and expect it to look good. Frankly even though you scaled it for this you can tell it looks good. I assume you don't like it though?

The web 2.0 reflection I only added because you mentioned that upfront. And that would only appear in places like the header of your web site, not on badges or co-branded applications etc.

Yes I can add layer effects to the mark to get subtle shadowing etc. None of which will hold up at the smaller viewings however. This is all detailing work though and something I'd do in the next stage of the process.

Well the client hated the logo concepts as you can see in the above tests he ran them through.

Since this new criteria was not provided up front when I requested such information made me realize this whole process was going to be an uphill battle dealing with engineers who fancy themselves as designers and view me as an extension of their arm. Some times it's worth educating a client and winning them over to a vision you have for the project or helping them understand something. Frankly I was too busy to deal with this type of situation so I made the decision to end it before I got in any further suggesting that they should find a new designer because I don't think I am a good fit for their project based on the new information they provided.

I don't like doing this but sometimes it happens. In this project I struck out pure and simple. But to continue with the baseball analogy I'll have another at bat soon and hopefully I'll hit a frozen rope to deep center. Thankfully this isn't the norm but rather the exception with my business. Live and learn.


DRM Artwork said...

Holy crap Doll.com? Thanks for posting this lesson Von. It's interesting that even when the client has "criteria" they may still not understand the purpose of a logo.

jPaper said...

This is a great post. I recently had an almost identical situation, dealing with software engineers. When providing them with a mock-up for a website design, they proceeded to announce new additions, new widgets, and everything else in the kitchen sink. "Feature Creep", I think it's called: Something many engineers are guilty of where they want every feature mixed in, without regard to usability or a good interface, let alone a nice look. Good example: Look a package design by Microsoft vs. a package by Apple. Microsoft=Engineer. Apple=Designer.

Ok, I take my leave from my pedestal.

Patricia said...

Great story...thanks for sharing. I'm not surprised you parted ways. It didn't sound like it would have a happy ending (if one at all w/those tests!)

Miinx said...

Hi Vonster, great post. Wondering if the logo at http://cambur.com/ is what they went with in the end? Ick. Bog-standard dinosaur font, baubles stolen from the old ProFusion.com search engine, perhaps? (Sadly now offline, see http://web.archive.org/web/20030618191721/http://www.profusion.com/ for logo though.)

Vonster said...

The logo at their domain current (At the date I posted this that is) was designed himself originally and like you said it does resemble the 'Pro Fusion' mark so might have been his source of inspiration?

libbyann721 said...

Thanks for posting this. I was having two reactions: "ick! ack!" at his quasi-designer critique and "uhm, YEAH" at your responses. I'm glad you took the time to write out your thoughts on each item. I ususally just get my feelings hurt, pout, and go back to the drawing board. ;) And for the record, I liked all of your designs. They passed my criteria.

Ray Frenden said...

I think most of us can relate to this specific sort of situation. You're correct, given unlimited time and the right incentive (meaning decent compensation), it is entirely appropriate to take on the role of educator. Sometimes, however, as in the above example, it's pretty clear that terminating the business relationship is the most humane thing to do.

unlikelymoose said...

the orange one has the most life and personality.

mrs. b. said...

call me crazy...my 2 and a half year old knows what Disney represents, or the golden arches, or LEGO, and it has nothing to do with logo readability... he can't read...so it must be that he understands what the products associated with the logos are, and they're meaningful to him, right? can it really be that simple? ; )

madalip said...

Dear Sir,

I admire your work, your drawings, illustrations you are a natural talent. But forgive me..at least 3 of these cambur logos are mediocre at most. They lack a good quality modern font, they have forced web2.0 superficial effects on them and they have forced ligatures that simply makes them..unpleasent. I think it's unethical of you to put here on your blog details of conversations you had with the client simply because you are frustrated that he did not like your logos. I'm in the graphic design business for 5 years now and i can recognize a good logo or a bad logo. Great logos you can see for instance on great companies like Future Brand Australia , Grapefruit Design Romania, Metadesign Germany and so on. I also had them as a client and even if they were not an easy client i did manage to make them happy with my solution. It's just a matter of perspective. And i do think it's good for your reputation to keep your "failures" inhouse.

Best Regards,

Vonster said...


You said "It's good for your reputation to keep your failures inhouse."

I suppose by that you mean I shouldn't talk about when I fail in my creative pursuits? It's failures that help you grow and become a better designer. If you never fail then it's a good bet you're not exceeding your comfort zone.

Part of being a good designer is recognizing when it's not worth trying to please a client who has unrealistic expectations. If being a designer is just about making the client happy regardless how inane their feedback is then what's the purpose of design? And talking about common issues we all face in pursuit of design be it good or bad experiences is what this post and blog is all about.

I know you think you have a wealth of experience with '5' whole years under your belt but when you have to qualify your opinion by telling people "I can recognize a good logo or a bad logo." you kind of loose any chance of being taken seriously.

Thanks for sharing your opinion in any regard.


igregurec said...

i really like your work and style but it seams to me that these logotypes are little bit different...
i like 2nd and 4th one though 2nd one reminds me of "canon" logo. the wavy downer line makes them fluid and dynamic so it probably not so reachable for square minds.
anyway as i can see their project failed so it explains it all.