New Marks Can Leave a Mark.
In the world of advertising and graphic design, creating a new logo for a business or an organization is one of the more interesting challenges. It can also be a nightmare and most graphic designers have at least one horror story about the experience.
Mine involves a neighborhood shopping center in Honolulu that had been owned by a Chinese family for many years. My firm had been retained to give the place a more contemporary look and that included some kind of a logo or “mark” to be featured, among other ways, on a large illuminated sign out in front of the center.
We interviewed the principals—three brothers and two sisters—did some research with typical customers, and came up with a design we thought filled the bill. We arranged to present the new logo for their approval on a Saturday morning at the family compound.
They were all there, but it went badly almost from the very beginning. Everyone had a different opinion and they ended up literally screaming at each other. Finally, as everything seemed to be careening out of control, the eldest son said, “Wait! Let’s ask mother”.
He went to the far corner of the room and pushed open a swinging door that led into the kitchen. After several seconds, an ancient Chinese lady, clad in an exquisite traditional silk robe, came shuffling into the room. She slowly crossed the room and stopped directly in front of the easel holding the artwork.
She stared at it for what seemed like an eternity. Then, never taking her eyes off the graphic, she snapped, “I like it. But can’t it be red and yellow?” Then she turned and shuffled back into the kitchen.
The National Association of Railroad Passengers has just gone through the same process. The legal name won’t change—not after 50 years—but for everyday use, it’s been shortened to Rail Passengers Association. The logo is now a rectangle that should remind people of the window in a rail car. Depending on how it’s implemented, artwork representing passing scenery can be presented in the “window”.
Most of the members I’ve spoken to either like the new look or have at least accepted it as a necessary step in the organization’s evolution into a more contemporary look. And, mercifully, no one has suggested that it would look better in red and yellow.