• Transform magazine
  • June 22, 2024

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Does the world need another logo?

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With Pentagram soon releasing a new book on its logo designs over the years, its partner and creative director, Angus Hyland, explains why brands need distinctive identities to differentiate themselves from their competitors now more than ever before.

It might seem a bit strange that someone who makes a living from creating logos should even be asking a question like this.

Recently I’ve been tasked with putting together a new edition of the famous Pentagram red book. Marks – to give it its official name – is a collection of 500 logos designed by Pentagram partners between 1972 and 2008 (when the book was first published). Featuring French folds and a red linen cover, it was published as a co-edition and reprinted several times. When the last edition ran out, instead of just reprinting it, I started to think about updating it. What began as a slightly mad idea has now become a reality, and the new Pentagram 1,000 Marks book is about to go to press.

For those who haven’t seen a copy, Marks takes a very purist approach, with one logo per page, printed in black and white, and a simple one-sentence caption. The logos appear in alphabetical order, and the designer isn’t credited. They appear in isolation and are stripped of all the other elements such as type, image, colour and layout that work together to form a brand identity. It’s even more of a contrast now that motion has become such a big part of so many visual identities.

As you can imagine, the selection process for adding another 500+ new logos was interesting (and not just because it involved getting 21 designers to choose their favourites). The first task was to go through the original 500 logos and find any that have since been redesigned by Pentagram. The next was to ditch any that hadn’t stood the test of time – this turned out to be surprisingly few, which I think is a testament to the sheer quality of the work on show. 

Staring at hundreds of logos did make me ponder the question though… Does the world really need any more logos? 

Of course I’m biased, but the answer is definitely a qualified yes. As the world changes, the businesses that help us navigate our way through it also change, and so do the brand identities that represent them. In the last decade, there’s been an explosion in tech and services, many of which are only experienced by their customers in the digital space. 

Now more than ever, these companies need distinctive identities to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Better tech means that logos also need to work much harder – they have to look as good when they’re app icons as when they appear on huge HD billboards. You could say that this is having the effect of raising standards, because if your logo isn’t up to scratch, while no one will notice when they’re looking at their iPhone, there’s nowhere for a badly drawn or ill-conceived mark to hide when you’re in the middle of Times Square.

Maybe the question should really be ‘Does the world need any more AI-generated logos’ …but that’s probably a question for another time.   

Pentagram: 1,000 Marks will be published by Thames & Hudson in September 2024.