text based vs. graphical logos (was: Re: Logos - something entirely new)

Anja Gerwinski anja at 44615166.theo-phys.uni-essen.de
Sun Mar 25 21:06:28 UTC 2001

Hi Georg and all,

Georg C. F. Greve wrote on Mar 23, 2001 at 02:04PM +0100:
> It does show one thing, though. We apparently have a confusion on this
> list about what a logo is. A logo is normally text-based and
> non-graphical. The only logo I can think of right now that is
> graphical is the one of Apple. 

I don't agree with you. I cannot think of any company / organisation
logo that has text _only_. They all have at least shape and color.
Think Coca-Cola, IBM, Mattel, Canon, ... Coca-Cola is also a nice
example where the color and shape is the actual logo (e.g. the
Coca-Cola ribbon is trademarked). Many companies use both: graphical
logo plus company name written in a special font. Some of the most
well-known logos are mainly graphical or graphics-only: Nike, Adidas,
Xerox, SGI (old logo), Krupp, Mercedes, Ferrari, w├╝stenrot, Telekom
AG, Sparkasse (the latter three are probably not so well-known outside
Germany;-), ... 

On the other hand, product logos usually are text-based with color and
shape. Mattel's selection of fashion dolls makes a good example
("Songbird Barbie", "Songbird Teresa" and so on). Ferrero's and and
Mars' selection of sweets ("Kinder Schokolade", "Kinder ├ťberraschung",
"Milky Way" chocolate bar or nut cream) are further examples: the name
is important to identify the product, and the writing is used to
clarify the relationship with the other products in the line. But for
the FSFE logo I would rather look at company and organisation logos,
not product logos.

This is a list of sponsors of a local school project in Essen,
Germany. You might consider it a random collection of company logos 
in the present context: 


> non-graphical. The only logo I can think of right now that is
> graphical is the one of Apple. And that is how simple it would have to
> be. Also the association must be clear... I don't see how we could
> produce something THAT understandable by everyone for the FSFE.

An apple is an obvious choice for Apple. But it is only well-known and
understandable because Apple has been promoting themselves for a long
time and with a large marketing budget. If Apple was still a small
company the logo would not be known, and it could as well stand for a
grocery chain. I mean, we also need a good logo but no matter how good
it is, it will not be well-known at the beginning. It is in our hands
to make it as understandable as Apple's.

> Adding a "Europe" to the FSF logo would make it significantly bigger
> (I think it's very much at the verge of being too big already) and
> also it would be too much text to read. It probably should not be more
> text than "FSF Europe" - since "Software" and "Foundation" are
> relatively long words.

Agreed. _If_ we use a text-based logo it should have "FSF Europe"
only, not the full name.

But IMO the logo should not be purely text based, at leat not purely
latin letters. It poses the question: Why latin writing, not kyrillic
or greek? Why FSF Europe and not FSS Europa (Freie Software Stiftung
Europa), for instance? I vote for a graphical logo with maybe
additional text but if we create a text-only logo IMO we should
include all three types of writing. 

In my opinion the FSFE logo needs to be different from a company logo.
A company's name is well-defined (not language dependent) and is the
first "brand name" the company needs to promote. Therefore, some (not
all) companies use their specially written name as a logo. Also,
text-based logos are much easier to create in series. However, the
most important thing FSFE wants to promote is free software, not the
name "Free Software Foundation Europe", specializing to English
language, latin letters. Of course, we don't want to be a nameless
organisation. I just mean that the logo should focus on the message
FSFE wants to promote, not the name itself. 

Consider the cross for Christianiti, for example. This symbol (logos
are a modern invention) is recognized everywhere, it is simple, it
refers to an important aspect of the religion (it is not just a
pretty, random symbol) and you refer to the religion it represents in
_your_ language. Other "logos" that come to my mind are the rune and
pigeon for the peace movement or the flags for the various countries.

Also, letters don't scale as well as graphics. If the letters are
sufficiently small you cannot read them any more. The only thing you
can see is their shape. This works with very unusual shapes and strong
colors (think Coca-Cola) and with graphical logos (Nike, Adidas,
Apple), but letters that are primarly meant for reading need a minimum

Best wishes,


Anja Gerwinski, Universitaet Essen, Germany
(happily married to the nicest gnu on the 'net since this Friday:-)

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