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Designing a trade-mark, 1988
An introductory text written by Bruno Munari for the book Made in Italia
The first task to be performed when designing a trademark is to define the ‘message’ that the sign is to convey. For example the message conveyed by the letter P in the Pirelli logotype is elasticity, which is a property typical of rubber. A logotype is often linked to the trade-mark itself. The letter P stretched lengthways is an elastic letter, and the stretching, which runs in the normal reading direction, ie. from left to right, is executed in a fluid manner, whereas it would have been harder to remember it it had been stretched downwards. Thus the message is closely linked, where this is possible, to the product to which the trade-mark refers. Hence it would be ideal if the trade-mark for a textile company were intertwined, if the trade-mark for a mattress were soft, if the trade-mark for a manufacturer of unit furniture were sectional, and so forth.
A trademark can express force or delicacy, development, durability, flexibility, richness, stability, drive... each of these qualities has a suitable, and sometimes even coded, sign and colour. Graphic designers know that square shapes are static, circles dynamic, that shapes stretched lengthways may give the impression of speed, that angular shapes are no good for conveying softness, that primary colours are good for a printer's but not for cosmetics. The next operation entails collecting the existing trade-marks of products from the category with which we are concerned. This collection of data enables us to find out what has already been done and also reveals the predominant line of thinking in that sector. The examination of all these trade-marks thus ensures that the designer will not create a trade-mark which already exists, the consequences of which may easily be imagined. The job of the designer will then be to discover which shapes and colours are most suitable for conveying the message that has been defined in the first stage.
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When designing a trade-mark we may think not just of abstract geometric or non-geometric forms, but also of some type of stylization of real objects or animals or vegetables. The apple, for example, is an object widely used because of its simple shape and for all its many associations. The four-leaved clover, the ivy leaf, the star, the cross, the eagle, the shell.. these are all frequently used objects. Inspiration may be sought in ancient forms, in primary signs, archetypes, runic and camunic signs, heraldry, in signs used for visual communication...
At this stage the designer will take into consideration the fact that a trade-mark is such only when it can be immediately memorized and hence easily remembered. Over-complicated signs are not easy to remember. Therefore the designer has to simplify the graphic element he has chosen to make it as clear as possible at any size; we shouldn’t forget that a trade-mark may be reproduced even as small as three millimetres, on a coin or medal for example, and reduced to an even smaller size on the face of a wristwatch.
Let us suppose that the designer has prepared his initial sketch which will be about the size of the palm of a hand. At this stage it is necessary to test the sign to discover how the public will interpret this trade-mark that it has never seen. Perhaps it calls to mind something that is not absolutely consistent with the message to be conveyed, or even that it conveys the opposite idea. To make this check the trade-mark should be shown for one second to randomly chosen people, of any condition and age, and they should be asked what they have seen and what sprang to mind when they saw it. The response must absolutely not be influenced in any way, otherwise the check will not be a true one. The results of this test may even change the design. Once this has been done a fair copy of the design can be made, on a sheet of paper measuring approx. 50x50, first in black and white, then on another sheet the negative version, then in colour, and finally at three and five millimetres and one centimetre. Other sheets may show the trade-mark with logotype or manufacturer's name, applied to the object itself, on the packaging, on the writing paper and all printed matter, on advertising material and all other possible applications.
Should the trade-mark have to be enlarged for, say, a lighted sign or stand, a separate structural diagram based on precise geometrical rules will be provided, so that the enlargement can be made following the measurements of each part. Finally all the documentation of the job is sent to the client who will in this way appreciate the amount and nature of the work that has been done, since a common response on seeing such a simple sign is: but I could have done this myself. But he didn't do it.
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Logo Histories' Extra Issue unlocks opinion and insights lost to time, buried within the pages of rare out-of-print design books and magazines. Through this series, you'll come to understand the challenges and opportunities corporate identity designers of the past faced to help you better understand design practice of the present. For Logo Histories, click here.
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