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The Trademark: A Graphic Summation of Individuality
An article by Lester Beall, published in Trademark USA, 1968
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The following is an introductory article by Lester Beall for Trademark USA. This was published in 1968 and produced in conjunction with a pioneering exhibition of American trademarks and logotypes created between 1945 and 1963.
A restatement of the type of trademark that will embody the individual visual requirements of a corporation is redundant because it has been repeated innumerable times. Nevertheless, some thoughts relative to these graphic devices may be of interest to the designer and those in the business world, who are, or should be, interested in the trademark as a promulgation of the function of individuality. For a belief in individuality is a belief in the human thought processes involved in achieving individuality.
In 1924 Alfred Knopf published a book of trademarks compiled by Joseph Sinel. Some of the best efforts in this field were represented: W. A. Dwiggins, Harvey Dunn, T. M. Cleland, C. B. Falls, Edward Penfield, René Clarke and Joseph Sinel. Not all of these were great, nor outstanding. However, they did have common characteristics of warmth and literal content.
The latter was due, in part, to the individuality of the products and services of the corporations cited. Today, corporations characterized by their many faceted divisions (usually a result of acquisition) dictate the development of a graphic device that must positively project an "all-encompassing" visual image. This requirement underscores the difficulties encountered in designing a trademark that is a mark of individuality, while at the same time having the qualities of universal application. It is axiomatic that every corporation has some kind of a corporate image. For a corporate image consists of many factors: management, products, services, research, employee relations, personnel, packages, and consumer relations.
Any graphic device, no matter how well designed, cannot alone project an over-all positive image unless it is an integral part of a usage system. This system, or the organization and coordination of all usage areas, functions as an integration synthesizer and is therefore an acutely essential factor in the development and growth of a corporate identity. However, in the development of a corporate design program a paradoxical phenomenon is often exposed.
For though the corporate objective is basically to create or develop an individual corporate identity, the corporation sometimes ignores the fact that an effective realization of this objective, depends on individual initiative and responsibility and not on group anonymity epitomized by either the committee or the computer. The burying of one's self in group anonymity is a denial per se of the human factor of which intuition is a part. It is important to remember that an increasing dependence on mechanical devices and the subsequent digitizing of those human factors in the creative processes as well as the processes of living, does not provide an assurance of incontrovertible "problem-answers" regardless of how thoroughly the machine (computer) has been programmed.
Though the computer in a sense can be "creatively" programmed the substitution of artificial intelligence for human intelligence with all of its vagaries, is an act of ruling out the essentiality of inspiration in the accepted definition of creative problem-solving.
It is also a verity that man is too often obsessed by a desire to "look-alike". The use of the machine unquestionably aids this achievement of "look-alikeness" and as a result quickens a sense of the superficial meaning of security inherent in "look-alikeness". It also demonstrates a form of self-destruction; for a society based on a continuum of physiological and psychological controls can never be intellectually retrieved. Instead, the individual as a sensory perceptive apparatus faces erasure. To survive in today's world of unrealities the designer should consistently expose himself to new experiences, absorbing some, deflecting others but nevertheless building a bank of human phenomena. This becomes his personal computer.
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He is, therefore, continually concerned with this structuring of his own individualistic data computing system. If the system is a thorough one, he can presume to impose answers upon his clients as a result of his individualistic compilation of facts plus their application to his creative processes. If instead the designer is willing to stand aside and watch individuality be denied then inevitably the machine will substitute for him. Furthermore, training his receptivity in constancy and reflecting that receptiveness in his own terms of individuality can "slow-down" both the subconscious human desire for "look-alikeness" and the "look-alikes" produced by an increased dependence upon machine usage. The exclusion of the machine, however, will never account for the plethora of trademarks that are distinguished by their sheer boredom. This condition is man-made and is only going to change when the designer becomes more completely conscious of his responsibility to society and business.
The Society of Typographic Arts Trademark USA Exhibition was an attempt to project to many publics the intricacies involved in trademark creation and usage. The compilation of this exhibition can serve as a guide book to the many different symbols and their usage as a means of projecting the individualities of many corporations.
About Logo Histories’ Extra Issue
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.