What Makes A Good Symbol
designers and their clients often looked at big name brands as designed success stories. We talk about apple Nike and coca cola as being somewhat sacred and infallible, but we shouldn't confuse the recognizability of a big name brand for successful design work. I personally think that coca cola word mark is a visual mess. I know plenty of professional designers who think that the Nike logo is off balance and makes their shoes look goofy. Yet these brands are everywhere and we see their marks so often that it's hard to have an impartial opinion about them. They're just kind of a part of the world's visual culture. We also may only think of Mark is successful because we recognize it, but what if we only recognize it because the company behind it had enough money to advertise it to us so often the other thing we're up against when trying to judge design is taste. We often talk about what we like and dislike what's cool or just interesting to us. The thing is your taste will always inform ...
your design decisions. You can't get away from your perspective completely. That's why it's easy for us to start arguing about what instinctively looks good to us. But can we say that a mark is successful because we personally like looking at it, what happens when someone disagrees with that. So I've been talking about two things here, success in business leading to massive brand exposure and personal taste. I bring this up because they are both points of confusion and mystery when talking about successful design. These two ways of arguing over design are unsatisfying on their own, but I think they are much more appealing when considered together. Let's consider taste for a second. I'd argue that anybody's personal taste is really the result of a combination of culture, genetics and general exposure of the senses. In other words, everybody's taste can only exist in context with outside forces. So if we assume that our personal tastes are informed by the culture around us, it would help us to understand our culture more so that we know better what we're responding to when we say we like or dislike something, what's more if culture can help define our taste and brands, no matter what size they are, are becoming more a part of our daily life, then we have to consider that we are responding almost directly to what brands put out there. And of course the designers working on those brands in turn are responding to our taste. So what does all this have to do with symbols? I'm bringing this all up because as we've discussed symbols are abstract representations of broader concepts. And if the world is looking at our symbols through the lenses of cultural taste and modern brand influence, we need to be aware of that and make sure that our designs can speak to that context, the success of any symbol is directly related to how well it communicates to its audience