Designs Both Real and Imagined

28. January 2016 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Business News  //  Tags: , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

Never underestimate the importance of having a recognizable brand. Here at The Spill, we appreciate the power of having a recognizable logo. The right logo is like a royal coat of arms: an instantly-recognizable image that makes your intentions known to all who look upon it. This is as true for fictional products as it is for real ones. Any Quentin Tarantino fan, for example, knows the fictional brands Red Apple Tobacco and Big Kahuna Burger. The following two stories are about experimenting with the well-known designs of beloved franchises.

Suds Style

Sports fans' loyalty to their favorite beverages is matched only by their loyalty to their favorite team. In the battle of beers, the distinctive Bud Light logo has been a staple for decades. After more than 30 years of success, the Anheuser-Busch company decided to change it up.

Bud Light against blue background
Image via Wired.

Although the can keeps its classic blue shade, the name of the beer now sits alone in a new font. The new logo actually bears a striking resemblance to a design the beer had in the early eighties. The design change is seen as a way to appeal to the growing craft-beer demographic. Rivals Miller and Coors have likewise recently adopted minimalist designs. Although the taste of the beers hasn't changed, it remains to be seen how long-time fans will react to the changes in appearance.

May the Flags Be with You

In record time, Star Wars: The Force Awakens became the highest-grossing American film in history. The film has introduced millions of fans to the battle of the Jedi vs. Sith and created a host of new worlds. As our heroes zip from one side of the galaxy to the next, have you ever wondered what it would look like if each of the inhabited worlds had a flag of its own? One Star Warsaficionado decided to answer that very question.

Star Wars flags
Image via Wired.

New Zealander Scott Kelly has been a fan of Star Wars since childhood. Like many fans of the franchise, Kelly liked to fill in the blanks regarding details of the films that weren't specified on screen. In particular, he tried to imagine the individual societies of the galaxy far, far away. Kelly has created more than 100 flags representing the worlds featured in the Star Wars franchise. Each minimalist flag features bold colors and a simplified crest suggesting the economy and agricultural history of each world. "I tried to walk the line between traditional flag design and these far-off alien planets," Kelly says. He hasn't specified an end to his project. It's quite possible the franchise's upcoming films and TV series will inspire Kelly to make even more flags.

Little Details

Just as our world is full of products and details we take for granted, so too an imaginary world would be full of details beyond the lives of the central characters. Without uttering a single word, the brands we use every day speak volumes about us.

The Science Behind Logo Design

19. November 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Business News  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

It's easy to say that design has a lasting effect, but most people don't take time to think about what that means. Logos with a lasting effect are the result of careful research into human reactions to colors, shapes, and patterns.

With the some of the world's biggest companies making changes to their interfaces in order to become more visually appealing, the complexity behind such changes is worth appreciating.

The Eyes Have It

The letter-based vision test has become a staple of waiting rooms the world over. Whether you're visiting the optometrist, getting your annual physical, or renewing your driver's license, you've probably had to stare long and hard at the shrinking cascade of letters on the white board. Unpleasant though it can be, the test is known for having prevented countless maladies. What isn't well known is the long and complex history behind the test.

letter-based vision test board
Image via Gizmodo.

In a recent article for Gizmodo, graphic designer Lorrie Frear traces the history of the contemporary eye chart. Beginning with the first chart, designed in 1836 by Heinrich Küchler, Frear describes how the test has been refined over the last 179 years. The refinements have taken into account physical factors like font design and viewer distance, along with psychological factors, such as the viewer's ability to describe the letters or words on the chart.

Color Me Sold

As you walk down the grocery aisle to pick up your favorite cereal, you probably put more thought into the taste of the cereal than the color of the box or the lettering of the logo. Still, why is it that you are drawn to one box more than all the others?

poster on the psychology of logo design
Image via Inc.

The design of the brands you see every day is the result of countless hours of research. The above infographic is a quick primer on the most common factors used in the design of some of the world's most recognizable brands. You may believe your choice is based solely on taste, but that nice-looking box has an influence on your wallet that you might not even be conscious of.

Added Benefits

Perhaps the most intriguing factor in the psychology of consumer brands is the fact that the average person is taking part in an experiment that never ends. Just as the right to vote gives people an active role in the mechanics of their government, so the purchases consumers make give them an active role in their economy. That's why those who want consumers' hard-earned money invest so much time and energy into influencing their decisions.

Signs of the Times

5. November 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Business News  //  Tags: , , , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

For regular readers of this blog, it should come as no surprise that we appreciate the importance of a good logo. A lifetime of training and precision can go into creating pieces of brand recognition. Though logos may be seen only momentarily, they generally leave a lasting impact on the people who see them.

This is just as true for independent business and creators as it is for corporations on Madison Avenue. The "little guys" might not have the financial backing of their larger counterparts, but what they lack in financing they can make up for in creativity. Once designers make a connection with their intended audience, they can inspire a sense of loyalty bordering on the religious.

Rock & Rule

The basement or garage may not seem like the most auspicious place to begin a successful career, but many of the world's most memorable innovators started their careers right there. From Hewlett/Packard to Apple computers, the garage has proved to be a breeding ground for creative mavericks.

Perhaps no industry has benefited more from "garage innovation" than rock music. Metal music in particular has always stood on the fringes of the musical mainstream. It's no wonder that logos created for many metal bands reflect that same outsider status.

heavy metal band logo
Image via Wired.

A typical metal logo wouldn't look out of place on a horror-film poster, and that's not an accident. The logos lend visualizations to the dark and aggressive music. In designer Mark Riddick's new book Logos from Hell, he collects and comments on 600 logos from metal acts over the past 30 years. "The genre kind of commands a particular style of logo that the listener can identify with," says Riddick. "I want people to recognize this as much more than a high schooler scribbling in his notebook and calling it art. This is legitimate serious talent. It's a subculture that's create a whole look and feel unlike any other. That's a powerful thing."

Bunny Hop

For more than 60 years, Playboy magazine has been the industry standard for showcasing some of the world's most beautiful women. The magazine's first issue featured a then-unknown Marilyn Monroe and has since gone on to feature award-winning actresses and renowned supermodels, often wearing nothing more than a smile.

That tradition is about to change, in light of the recent announcement that the magazine will no longer feature nude pictorials. It's a bold move, to be sure, but it raises the question whether Playboy's photo spread's were ever as important as its famous logo.

Playboy bunny logo
Image via Wired.

The Playboy bunny logo was reportedly created in just half an hour by Chicago artist Art Paul. Founder Hugh Hefner commissioned a design that, like the magazine he was assembling, would be "a projection of the wonderful world I dig." After the recent announcement, WIRED magazine design columnist Magaret Rhodes argued that the company's award-winning writing and legendary icon were more important than its infamous photos. "Losing the nudes shouldn't pose a big threat," writes Rhodes. "If you're looking for pornography in 2015, you're not likely to pick up a print edition of Playboy. For a lifestyle brand that once claimed to prize Picasso, Nietzsche, and sex equally, that can only be a good thing."

Medium Cool

Since its creation in 2012, Medium has quickly become one of the Web's premier platforms for longform writing. The layout is intentionally simple so that focus is kept on the written essays rather than on flashy design. But that hasn't stopped the site from making noticeable design changes, the most recent of which was the introduction of its new logo.

Medium logo
Image via Medium.

Although the original "Stag M" logo—which consisted of a white "M" against a black background, or vice versa, proudly represented the site's simple design, the creators felt it was time for a change to something less monochromatic. "This simple geometric interpretation of the M felt fun, like a delightful game or a deeply satisfying puzzle," said Medium reps Erich Nagler and Karen Jaimes. "We couldn't stop ourselves from playing with all the different treatments, mutations, and color combinations it was practically begging for."

Although there were no announcements about expanding the design to other parts of the site, the reps maintained that they were happy with the design, which does not distract from the essays for which the site is still known.

Same Name

People remember a logo even when they don't remember what a company actually does. That said, making brand recognition the sole focus risks making the services purely superficial; failing to evolve the brand itself risks making it obsolete. In the end, a beautiful design will catch people's attention, but adherence to high quality will keep them coming back.

Social Skills

10. September 2015 09:37 by Steve Leigh in Business News  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (0)

With more than half of American adults using social media on a daily basis, it goes without saying that the process of using it should be made as simple as possible. We’ve mentioned before that ease of use and design appeal can make or break a site. Web designers continue to experiment with minor tweaks while sticking to their winning formulas. The Web’s most-trafficked sites continue to evolve their logos, their interactive capabilities, and even their basic functions.

Success by Design

We recently saw that Facebook went through its first major logo change. While this may be a new thing for the world’s largest social network, Facebook's sleek new design is right in line with the simplified designs of its Silicon Valley colleague companies.


Spotify design
Image via Wired.

A typical rebranding will minimize or eliminate the text while emphasizing the actual function of the service. As shown by the Spotify logo above, the company’s name was removed in favor of an illustrated transmission signal. It also switched to a brighter shade of green and removed the dark borders along the text. Spotify currently being the No. 3 streaming music service, it’s hard to say how much of their success was due to their logo. Still, it doesn’t seem to have hurt.

All Thumbs

For more than a decade, Facebook has changed the way we think of invitations, family photos, and even the word “poke." Possibly the most recognizable and oft-used part of Facebook’s service is the ubiquitous Like button, a one-click option that allows you to show your approval of a friend’s posting with an illustrated “thumbs up." The message it sends is clear, and for years users have campaigned for the icon’s antithesis. Finally, the icon is getting a diametrically opposed counterpart.


thumbs-down logo
Image via Wired.

Facebook's CEO and co-founder generally neither confirms nor denies the eventual presence of a Dislike icon, despite acknowledging frequent user requests for it. At a recent Q&A session, however, he didn't beat around the bush. “People have asked about the Dislike button for many years,” he said. “We’ve finally heard you and we’re working on this and we will deliver something that meets the needs of the larger community.”

It remains to be seen how this oft-requested function will actually work in practice. Knowing Facebook users, it won’t take long for them to Like or Dislike the idea.

One-Click Consumers

For decades, science fiction authors and technical visionaries looked toward a future where shopping is done from great distances at the touch of a button. The Digital Age has made online shopping easier than ever, but it’s only recently that the idea of one-button buying has become a reality.


point and click
Image via Wired.

A recent article for "Wired" highlighted the rise of the Buy button, starting with the proliferation of the personal computer in the late '90s. From Amazon’s filing for a one-button patent in 1997 to Facebook’s purchase programming, the simplification of online shopping cannot be underestimated.

Looking Ahead

With such bold strides in design, function, and interactivity, it’s hard to see where else these companies can go to improve their users' experience. But, then, the defining attribute of innovation is creating something people didn’t know they needed. 

Logo Redesign: A Risk Worth Taking

9. July 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Business News  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (0)

What is it about a particular logo that just sticks with us so well? Even when a company goes out of business, the logo can live on as a unique fashion statement. Perhaps it’s the fact that no matter what definitive thoughts one has of the business, the logo can be interpreted any number of ways.

With logos having the ability to outlive their products and companies, attempting to change one is a risky proposition. Here are a few big-name companies that recently took the risk.

A Coke and a Smile

There are few beverages considered to be as “quintessentially American” as Coca-Cola and few logos as recognizable as its iconic stripe. The logo was created in 1885 by advertiser Frank Mason Robinson and has remained relatively unchanged in the company’s 100-plus-year history. Variations are often limited to the title signature, relative to the primary language of the region where it’s sold. But the latest change removes the signature altogether.

Coke-can.jpg
(via Wired)

For the Islamic month of Ramadan, the company that been shipping limited edition cans featuring no signature; just the silver curve against the red background. The advertising company behind the new can says the altered design is part of a larger campaign attempting to fight prejudice and preconceived notions.

Although there are no plans to bring the new can westward, the reaction has generally been positive. Margaret Rhodes of Wired comments that “Kumbaya rhetoric aside, the new cans say a lot about today’s branding landscape, without saying anything at all. [..]Coca-Cola’s enduring look can go simpler without sacrificing design identity; that ribbon is enough to let us know what’s in store.”

Face to Face

In the tricky relationship between technology and personal interaction, few milestones have been as definitive as the rise of social media. And no other social media network has had the same impact as that of Facebook. Since its founding in 2004, the website has been the subject of countless think pieces, lawsuits, psychological analyses, and even one Academy Award-winning film. It’s turned its founders into billionaires overnight and connects its 1.44 billion users in an instant. Needless to say, when Facebook makes a change, quite a few people take notice.

Facebook-2015-logo.jpg
(via Facebook)

Facebook tweaks its design on a fairly regular basis, often to the consternation of long-term users. The logo has seen the fewest changes since the name was changed from “TheFacebook” in 2005. However, it was recently altered slightly as part of the company’s plan to further expand worldwide. Reaction to the change has been mixed. “It is, unfortunately, a bit plain,” says Rhodes. Although she acknowledges the “slickness” the company was attempting, “that slickness comes at the cost of personality—something corporations, especially ones designed around people, should value.”

Given the company’s history, this change isn’t likely to be the last. Only time will tell if this one is as easily accepted as those that came before.

Logic and Tech

For a company that never actually made computers, Logitech became one of the defining companies during the rise of the internet. It’s third-party accessories – most notably its mouse units – added a refreshing splash of color to the otherwise dull beige of out-of-the-box PC tools. They seem like the last company to try and change their logo, let alone their name; but they’ve done both.

Logi-logo.jpg
(via Wired)

The company has officially shortened their name to simply “Logi”. Furthermore, they’ve removed the red and green from the logo in favor of a streamlined monochromatic image. The redesign was the brainchild of the Logi’s new CEO, Bracken Darrell. He described the move as an attempt to brand the company as “a design company” rather than a technological one.

Each of the above has a secure stake in their respective market, so they could afford to take risks with brand recognition. Although the risks appear to be minimal, they do demonstrate just how much a change to a brand’s literal image could equally change their publicly perceived image.

The Politics of Logo Design

25. June 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in   //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

There’s an old saying from the world of advertising: “You’re selling the sizzle, not the steak.” It holds that the quality of the item sold is secondary to the methods used to sell it. Indeed, many of us could probably exhaust ourselves very quickly just thinking of all the mediocre products we’ve purchased because they had great catchphrases.

In a world increasingly defined by an overabundance of advertising, the importance of a single recognizable brand cannot be overstated. It all comes down to timing, demographic, and most importantly, design. Whether running for public office, or simply trying to promote a new film, the right logo at the right time can make or break your entire campaign.

Political Print

On June 24, Louisiana governor “Bobby” Jindal became the latest candidate to throw his hat into the already-crowded field of nominees for the 2016 presidential election. As pundits and analysts mulled over his positions on hot-button topics, there was also a small collection of analysts who paid close attention to the logo he’d chosen for the campaign. As we’ve mentioned before, the logos for the current candidates have been subject to scrutiny from the moment they were each revealed. Jindal’s logo was no exception, with analysts noting how it follows the current trend of contemporary presidential: a single letter using the primary colors of the American flag.

2016-campaign-logos.jpg
(via Washington Post)

With so many logos boasting such similar designs, it remains to be seen just how effective any of them will be in the greater scheme of things. In fact, one could almost argue that the candidates will have to define themselves less by their logos and more by the politics they represent.

Celestial Font

In the mid-1970s, George Lucas was having a devil of a time selling studios on the idea for his next film. Having already experienced one sci-fi flop with his debut film THX-1138, studio execs weren’t too keen on the idea of him revisiting the genre with an Errol Flynn twist. Fortunately for Lucas, he quickly learned that where his words failed him, images more than made up for it. As such, he began pitching what-would-be-known-as Star Wars with a collection of eye-catching concept art and mock-ups.

Star-Wars-original-logo.jpg
(via Gizmodo)

What isn’t often touched upon is the inspiration for the series iconic title logo. Created by designer Suzy Rice, the logo was meant to evoke the fascist lettering used by the Third Reich. But by a stroke of fate, the design used was actually a modified font based on a pre-fascist German typography. For the sake of all involved, that’s probably a good thing – it would be hard to imagine one of the most beloved family franchises drawing undo comparisons to one of the worst regimes the world has ever known.

No matter who you vote for, you have to admit, a logo goes a long way. What logo do you like the most? The least? Let us know in the comments!

Democracy by Design

16. April 2015 13:16 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

There’s no escaping it: campaigning for the 2016 presidential election has officially begun. Although the election is one year and seven months away and two major parties have only four candidates thus far, those four candidates have spent years building up their reputations and solidifying their positions. But despite all the work they’ve put in and the sheer variety of issues they address, one of the real challenges is truncating those positions into easy-to-remember slogans and eye-catching logos.

The role of design is often underestimated in politics. When done right, it can define a generation. When done wrong, it turns into the sort of regrettable faux pas forever stamped in the public consciousness.

In the Information Age, reactions are instantaneous and often very strong. Such was the case with the start of campaign season. When each of the four candidates announced their nominations, reactions to visual aspects of said campaigns were as sharply divided as opinions about the candidates themselves.

WSJ-presidential-campaign-logos.jpg
(via Wall Street Journal)

The Clinton logo – whose font has already been parodied – has been compared to a road sign or delivery logo. The Cruz logo features the stars and stripes in the shape of a flame, an image with which some have taken issue. The Paul logo has been compared to that of an oil company, while Rubio logo’s use of the mainland United States to dot the “i” in his name has been criticized for its exclusion of Hawaii and Alaska. In short, none of the logos have been met with much immediate acclaim.

Still, it’s important to note that the impact of these logos on the campaigns is, like the campaigns themselves, still in its infancy. As such, it’s impossible to determine the long term effect they’ll ultimately have. Yet the reactions have ultimately proven the importance of design in the digital world and necessity for brand recognition in distinguishing oneself. As Wired design writer Liz Stinson points out: “A political candidate’s logo isn’t just a static thing that gets slapped on the side of a bus. It’s a symbol that will be deployed in all sorts of different material, potentially in many different forms.”

When one wishes to lead one of the most powerful nations in the world, the strength and influence of that symbol cannot be underestimated.

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