We don't call ourselves Brandmakers for nothing.

The most rewarding work thingy I do is help create new brands for clients. And for me, the best part of that process is designing the logo. It is the essence of graphic design — the arrangement of shapes and colors to communicate an idea.

Good logos.

I like to think of myself as a humble disciple of some of the great designers of the 20th century — Paul Rand, Massimo Vignelli, Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismer, and Saul Bass, among others. They were at the forefront of modern graphic design and I consider them the fathers of modern corporate identity. Many of their logos are still being used today, decades after they were introduced — the Chase logo by Chermayeff and Geismer, the Westinghouse logo by Paul Rand, and the Girl Scouts logo by Saul Bass. (The iconic American Airlines logo by Massimo Vignelli was retired after 45 years in 2013, apparently much to his dismay. Hell hath no fury like a designer scorned.)

Lately, part of the challenge of rebranding has been educating clients what good design means. I’ve been using the evolution of AT&T’s logo as a way to illustrate how a logo — and, therefore, brand — can remain relevant for a long time, but change when necessary. Partly as a response to the deregulation and breakup of Ma Bell, Saul himself redesigned the new AT&T logo in 1983 — and its descendent is still being used today.

Saul Bass introduced the modern Bell Systems logo in 1969, at a time when cultural norms and mores were violently changing, and when visual clutter was overwhelming and rampant. Many of the largest and most visible companies in the country responded by redesigning their own corporate logos to be simpler and to stand out amidst the chaos.

I just ran across this fascinating short film created by Bass as a presentation to Bell executives. In it, he describes the visual chaos I mentioned, and methodically and entertainingly sets the stage for his new logo. (The new logo isn’t even introduced until about the 13:00 mark.) Every single detail, from the pinstripes on trucks and collateral down to the uniforms and cufflinks, has been carefully thought out and designed.

What strikes me is the amount of time and money that went into this little epic. I cannot fathom being able to do something even approximating this magnitude. But it’s a great inspiration in the fact that a great brand identity is built around thoroughness, details, and exceptional design. Things that still hold true today.

It’s just a matter of educating clients. Now all I need is $100,000 or so to produce a pitch film.

Posted in Design