Categorized | design

Speaking of logos, how the best logo of 2008 was created

If you’re in the market for logos of any kind, you should hear Sol Sender’s two-part video interview on how his team created the Obama ’08 logo. Now, most of you can’t afford someone of Sol’s stature and ability, but if you listen carefully, you’ll learn much about what separates an effective design from an also-ran. The Obama logo is considered by many designers (including myself) as the best logo of 2008, arguably of the last few years, so listening to the creative thinking behind the logo will help you immeasurably when approaching your own logo.

Of course, if you can tell me the exact reasons why this:

Is not as good as this:

Which in turn is not as good as this:

Then you may not need Sol’s advice.

Takeaways after the break.

There’s this quote from the interview: “The strongest logos tell the simplest stories.”

Developing a logo is first and foremost a disciplined process of distilling the company’s or product’s position to the simplest possible statement and the simplest possible emotion. Telling simple stories is not easy.

I always tell clients the story of the shortest story ever written. Ernest Hemingway once took a bet that he could write the shortest story ever written. He went home and came back with a six-word short story. Six words:

“Baby shoes. For sale. Never used.”

If that didn’t send a chill up your spine, then nothing ever will.

Take any of the most successful logos, like the Obama logo, and they’re the visual equivalent of Hemingway’s six word short story.

Second takeaway: Sol Sender had never worked on a political logo or design before.

Too often, entrepreneurs and managers in the market for creative work, such as a logo, try to make up for what they don’t know about creative work by insisting that the creatives have some deep-seated knowledge of their industry or business.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard a question like the following, “How much experience do you have in the death care industry?” Or the sex toy industry. Or the garbage disposal industry. Or the Venetian blinds for mental hospitals industry. What have you.

Creative work rarely benefits from “experience” with an industry. In fact, as a manager, I make it a rule of thumb to only hire creatives who have no experience in a particular business or industry. And I always try to make sure someone like a student or a recent graduate is putting in their two cents somewhere in the process.

Creative work is one of the few areas of business that consistently benefits from having a “beginner’s mind.” Beginners look at things from the ground up; they think in plurals rather than singulars. They haven’t learned the rules, so they instead think in terms of options. Beginners have no mental ruts that have been painstakingly carved into their thought processes.

So here you have Sol Lender, a great designer, yes, but one with no political experience whatsoever brought into a high-level political campaign. What you’ll hear in the two video interviews is how an experienced designer uses a beginner’s mindset to produce one of the best and most effective logos in several years. That’s the kind of thinking you need to apply to your own logo.

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