Logo Appraisal #001

I was traveling this past weekend and spotted this Neal Electric truck at the airport. The logo? It made me sad…Why? Well, this is a perfect example of a good foundation that was not seen through to it’s real potential. I aim to fix that, just for the hell of it. Well, not just for the hell of it -  as an example that will extend to you the philosophy, rules and process that guide my designing.

Neal Electric

Okay, so here is the first addendum to this post. This is the logo off of their website, which I assume is the most recent version. There are still some major issues that need to be addressed. One of the blaring problems is the spacing. with less then a one pixel space between letter elements, even at this size, the logo begins to fall apart.

Basically, when designing a logo yo must consider the resizing of that logo… this is an example of not considering that important aspect of logo design. In addition, the “Electric” part of this logo… WTF? It is nonsensical.

neal logo

Here we go! So lets blow up that jpg… the areas I circled are the areas that need to be addressed in this logo. First, we define the issues or aspects worthy of reevaluation. Once that is done, we work on resolving them!

breakdown

1. Inconsistent corners/spacing… Look at the bottom of the “N”, look at the top of the “L”. Hard lines, hard corners. Yet the top right corner of the “N” and the top bar of the “E” are pixellated, meaning they are a bit rounded. this is not consistent with the rest of the lettering.

2. the bars of the “E”… Each cross bar is a different size, as is the spacing in between them. These little inconsistencies really compromise the effectiveness of this logo.

3. further considerations regarding the way the “E” Relates to the “A”… The middle bar approaches the “A” at an angle and, although its length is that of the top bar, as it dives into the “A”, it appears to be longer because of the shape. The top bar stops abruptly, creating an inconsistent black triangular-shaped negative space.

4. BAR SIZES… Why is the leading bar of the “N”, the visual anchor when one reads left to right, thinner then the rest of the vertical standing bars?

5. “Electric” Font… Far beyond a normal Italic, the slant of this letter was chosen in an attempt to match that of the left slant of the “A”. The reasoning is valid; the result is not. Sometimes what seems ideal is in actuality a misstep. The way the word “electric” works with the leading “N” compromises the visual foundation of the logo, not to mention the readability issues of the chosen font.

6. “Electric” Font Height… One of the most striking visual features of this logo is the diving right bar of the “A”. The electric font should reinforce this aspect of the logo, not distract from it by extending beyond it vertically.

7. More spacing issues… The spacing is not only inconsistent, but too small for a logo that will be used in many different applications. the width of the lettering, the power of strong letter elements is lost in a haze as the small spacing between each blurs together.

8.The horizontal bar of the “L”… this is a good idea… but the outcome is not. The problem is not in the slant, but in the bar thickness. the bars forming the foundation of a logo with such thick positive space need to be able to support what is above; I would reconsider the thickness of bottom bars to really reinforce the visual effectiveness of the logo.

Now that the issues with this logo are clear, lets start with the biggest elements and work our way to the details.

WE start by considering the horizontal space each letter occupies. There is NO CONSISTENCY here at all. Granted, with the “A” overlapping aspects of the “E” and “L”,  there will be some variation, but the variation should be predictable and consistent. I tried to illustrate below how out of whack it really is:

letters

the “N’ is about 25% longer then the “E”, 5% shorter then the “A” (at the baseline), and 15%  longer then the “L”. The question is: WHY?

AXIOM #1: THERE SHOULD BE A REASON FOR EVERYTHING.

*FYI: These are MY Axioms; they need no proof from my perspective, they are simply true. If you feel otherwise, state your arguments, I’d love to hear them.

Now, lets take a look at the vertical and slanted bars of the logo:

vert

You can see immediately that the vertical bars for each letter are not consistent. In addition, the crossbar of the “N” and the bars making the “A” are at different angles entirely. WHY?

AXIOM #2: EVERY ELEMENT EXISTS IN RELATION TO EVERY OTHER. THEY NEED TO BE CREATED WITHIN CONTEXT.

Now, lets take a look at the vertical bars of the logo.

horizontal

Although it is hard to see, using the top bar of the “E” as the test case, both the middle bar of the “E” and the bottom bar of the “A” are not consistent. In addition, consistency in negative space must also exist and in the case of the “A” we are a little off. And of course, the “E” is all Jacked up.

The reality is, depending on the logo, there may be variation in the width of both vertical and horizontal bars, there may be variations in spacing, there can easily be variations in corners and straight & curved aspects as well… but in addition to axiom’s 1 & 2…

AXIOM #3: CREATE A SET OF RULES THAT GUIDE THE GENERATION OF EVERY LOGO. FOLLOW THEM PRECISELY.

Now, lets consider the second part of the logo. In a logo such as this, that has no discerning icon or graphic that denotes through imagery what the company actually does, the word (in this case, “Electric”) is of great importance. Sometimes the name says it all, sometimes instead of denoting an industry, we have a tag line, but really, if something is an integral part of the logo, it needs to be addressed as such, not as an afterthought.

Take a look:

WTF

So, this part of the logo is problematic. Although the designer attempted to be consistent, in skewing this word as to match the slant of the left side of the “A”, in doing so the integrity of this word and logo has been compromised. It is difficult to read. It does not reinforce the strong foundation of the baseline. It does not reinforce the left edge of the “N” AND, it creates a distraction point as it meets the right bar of the “A”.

Consequently, the most notable part of the logo, that being the “A” , is marginalized.

This marginalization really goes nuclear  when one considers the letter height of the word “Electric”. Here we’ve got this amazing differentiator in the right side of the “A”, breaking the baseline, creating a unique and memorable mark, and its length, as well as its relationship to the word “Electric”, is completely ignored. This of course references the third axiom, every element of the logo must exist within context. In addition…

AXIOM #4: IF THE RULES COMPROMISE THE EFFECTIVENESS OR READABILITY OF THE LOGO, CHANGE THE RULES.

In other words, don’t compromise them. Reinvent them to address all of the issues effectively.

OKAY THEN… we have investigated the problems, revealing the axioms that guide my logo design process along the way. Now we need a systematic way to address them; a process that we can effectively apply in a streamlined and time-effective manner.

THE REBUILD

So, in order to rebuild this logo properly, we need to create a set of RULES that guide us. This involves addressing spacing issues, element widths and lengths, letter space, angle consistency, additional fonts, etc. I never actually document these rules, as they are a function of the design process; in other words, the rules evolve as the logo is built.

Depending on the logo, you may have various widths, heights and angles associated with various elements of each letter, but the goal is ‘visual consistency’ – in achieving such consistency, the logo flows, the elements, each which can stand on its own, come together creating an exponentially fluid and memorable mark.

Lets start by addressing the letter elements – sizes, angles & spacing. First lets take a look at what we have.

barss

Here, in blue, we see the variation in the bar size in blue. I’m thinking that the bar size will be the average of the two vertical bars of the “N”. Circled in Pink are the areas where angled bars meet. We need to determine how they meet – do the form a consistent horizontal length? how will that length translate to other letters in the logo?

In addressing the horizontal bars of this logo, we need to consider the spacing between them, specifically in the “E” and if that spacing will serve as the rule for all letter spacing within the logo. I’m thinking “YES!” In the image below, the green represents consistent bar sizes for vertical and horizontal bars. In some cases, the baseline bars might be a different height then those above, but I think in this case we can go with all one size. The angled bars are also the same width of the vertical ones… next we actually form each letter.

Bar sizes

Since the “A” is the dominant feature of this logo, it will be used to determine the width of the angled/vertical connectors in the “N”. In the image below, we spread out the down bars of the “A” so they correspond to the vertical spacing of the horizontal bars of the “E”…. Consistency…. Although the “A” will now be wider at the baseline, we will adjust the other letters accordingly.

the A

As illustrated above, the width of the “A” where it meets at the top will now be exactly the same width as the top bar of the “E”. Perfect! The top of the “A” is now quite wide. Depending on how it effects the “N”, we made need to change this rule, or change the angle at which the bars lay. There exists the perfect compromise. So we need to find it.

Getting confusing? Agreed. Now, let’s not forget… this is a logo REDESIGN. Meaning, the rules you follow also need to take in to consideration an important fact:

This logo is in use. Right now. On EVERYTHING. So, we are not rebranding this company; that would cost a fortune… we are instead making minor alterations that have huge visual consequences… The goal is a relatively seamless migration to their updated mark.

The huge visual consequences I refer too are not that major to the untrained eye; in fact, if you surveyed a group of people, some of them might not even see a discernible difference, depending on the logo in question. That being said though, the outcome of the rebuild with have huge psychological impact. The most minute details can change people’s initial reaction – reinforce trust, create an instant sense of rapport, draw the potential consumer or client in.

This is important stuff.

OKAY. It has become clear to me that explaining every step of this process will result in a book. So, lets just move to the results and wrap this up. the important thing to remember is the process driving this whole gig:

#1: THERE SHOULD BE A REASON FOR EVERYTHING.

#2: EVERY ELEMENT EXISTS IN RELATION TO EVERY OTHER. THEY NEED TO BE CREATED WITHIN CONTEXT.

#3: CREATE A SET OF RULES THAT GUIDE THE GENERATION OF EVERY LOGO. FOLLOW THEM PRECISELY.

#4: IF THE RULES COMPROMISE THE EFFECTIVENESS OR READABILITY OF THE LOGO, CHANGE THE RULES.

So, here are some possible treatments for the logo.

logotypes

#5 is the closest to the original, but with the inconsistent spacing will be compromised at smaller sizes. Remember, this is an electrical contractor; All things electric are standardized and, at least from a consumers perspective, must be perfect. #2 is also very similar to the original, but the consistent spacing creates a big negative space between the “A” and the “L” and the interesting relationship between them is not longer so integrated.

Personally, I’m really feeling #9. It just feels solid, complete, and balanced. At a point like this in redesigning a logo, I would typically narrow it down to three options and then figure it out with the client. For the sake of my time, I’m going with #9.

Now, to add the word electric. Well, Ideally, I would probably pick a more squared-off font, but for the purposes of this study, this works for me. It’s not perfect, but it is well on its way. We created a protocol, we followed it. That was the real goal of this whole process.

final

I’m pretty happy with this. What’s your take? Maybe the “E” should be a bit bigger… still needs work! But you get the idea.

Here it is with a longer “E”…eh. Obviously, we have not arrived at a final destination, but the process has been documented and that ultimately the goal.

Bigger "E"

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