Archive for ‘Review: logos’

November 15, 2010

The Thrill of Discovery: Virtual Native Lands

overview
It is rare to be dazzled by a visual presentation when you’ve seen and reviewed as much design as I have. Always searching for gems motivates me to continue my quest for finding design that works—not just attractive, but compelling, intriguing, and impactful.

So impressed am I with Virtual Native Lands that I halt in my tracks. Although I have completed my tour of the next 24 nonprofit presentations (begun in my post “Second Life: A First Glance at Nonprofit Graphics),” this presentation stands such head and shoulders above anything I’ve seen in the nonprofit arena to far—now with a total of over 50 visited out of the 80 in Second Life.

Virtual Native Lands entrances

Entrance signs and map of three islands—representations of North America, Central America, and South America.

Not only do their signs have good placement, Virtual Native Lands’ logo is crisp and identifiable. All logos in Second Life are wise to be bold and simple. For a nonprofit group representing native American populations, however, this symbol does need some explanation or it risks of looking too corporate.

Information signs

Information signs explain terrain and act as a portal from the organization's virtual office.

Here’s the most amazing part of their pressentation: from this room, the visitor can teleport to their islands representing the various segments of the Americas.  The other informations signs begin the ambiance of the gorgeous topology and historical accuracy. They describe their mission:

“Virtual Native Lands promotes the use of virtual worlds technology to strengthen and sustan real world Native American communities.
The diversity of authentic Native American culture is displayed on three beautiful islands depicting North America from Mexico to the Arctic. You can get the picture of how different Native American cultures developed around their natural environments”

Although I have yet to take the formal tour that they offer, I dropped in the island at my location, the North American Midwest. There I landed in a grove of trees but could see a log cabin nearby.

historical cabins

The indigenous cabins from various regions and tribes allow the visitor to enter, walk around, and explore. Information signs near by give details about the history.

Wandering throughout the entire site, I learned about the dwellings, both inside and out, of all the indiginous populations on the two continents! As an educational/historical tool, VNL showcases some of the best features SL has to offer!

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October 1, 2010

Association of Rotational Molders International

overview
Few logos can best the Association of Rotational Molders International‘s in symbolism, simplicity, memorability, and flexibility. Perhaps ARM doesn’t realize the potential branding equity that they could enjoy through using it more effectively. Their site design is an expression of missed opportunity that demonstrates obvious ways to improve. (It is easier to change a site design than a logo.)

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Association of Rotational Molders International

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Purely descriptive, ARM‘s geometric logo uses the most universal symbols in an unusual way. It makes a sphere and a plus sign mean something new. It is a visually striking and memorable composition!

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
ARM‘s graphics do look industrial, and in that way are appropriate. But brevity, organization, blue bands, and minimalism do not make up for material that is hard to read and visually nondescript.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
This is where ARM could make the most improvement. The site navigation is hard to read and visually all the same. The space at the top of the home page is trying to sell its first banner ad. Unless they have one to start, this space can be better used. (Perhaps the blankness can remind members of its availability each time they enter.) Though you have to know initially what rotational molding is, with its depth of content, ARM‘s site could be really engaging! Constructed only of type and a generally unchanging frame, this is low budget probably at its potential. With a bland page design, the logo actually stands out more!

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
ARM seems to have placed no emphasis on visual development beyond the logo and a brief decision-making process about the website. As imaginative as is their logo, that’s how unimaginative is their other graphics. When exploring various benefits and services, the eye is jarred by a secondary level graphic that brings in new colors and a different design approach, such as in their Library section and Annual Meeting presentation. Here, visual gimics are used on the logo that don’t contribute to its visual strength.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
ARM has many resources for building visually, especially within their “Design Applications” section. Members love to have their work showcased! Another resource untapped comes from their “Awards” program. It is unfortunate to see such unrecognized opportunities.

Many organizations have dynamic logos but stop there in graphic development. The most common reasons for accepting “Okay” include: lack of budget, executives have other priorities, no one can handle, or no one cares. In a visually-sensitive marketplace, even small improvements that make content easier to find, read, use, and enjoy, can make major differences in member perception.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

The Sebastian Study 2010 national review will be available at the end of the year. If you want to be sure that your organization is included, please click here.

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August 26, 2010

Foundational Vocabulary

overview
Having a good identity is a prerequisite to be included in the top of this study. Such a criteria filters out many groups that have great graphics but a forgettable logo; only a few organizations achieve effective graphics without a good logo.

The majority of idenitities that gain recognition by constituents use symbols. The letterform logos rarely are distinctive enough to stand out. Images that are too abstract without a context are also forgettable.

Out of the 700 organizations included in the Sebastian Study, 27 have excellent logos (see reviewed organizations with strong logos that build into a graphic direction). Only a few groups with inferior logos reach graphic excellence because they are so strong in other areas. Unfortunately, most of the 27 organizations with excellent logos don’t carry through. Here are examples of groups that could better develop a graphic foundation based upon a good start:

NOT THE BEST BUT COULD BE:

These organizations have strong logos but don’t carry through into potential applications:

spiral bullet Associated Equipment Distributors
At first, this may look like an abstract gear or industrial mechanism. But on second glance, the AED’s symbol is comprised of people in a circle. Because of this double effect, the image can’t appear too small or the pople get lost. The typeface chosen for the acronym is nothing special.

spiral bullet Association of Rotational Molders International
Given that a sphere is expected for this trade group, this simple treatment conveys global, unity, and industry. With only a few lines, ARM’s symbol is infinitely flexible and offers a circular theme to be extended.

spiral bullet American Society of Hand Therapists
Combining letterforms with a symbol is a good strategy towrd distinction. ASHT’s logo reflects a recognizable integration that uses the master typeface to complement. The image of hands expresses the focus of the organization, making it instantly understandable.

spiral bullet Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development of the AHA
Sometimes abstraction is strengthened by a reference—by vaguely looking like a recognizable image. SHSMD’s abstract symbol reflects integration, communication between two entities, and looks like two hands cupped together. Although geometric, it has a warmth that is appropriate for a health care organization.

spiral bullet Healthcare Financial Management Association
Symbols that are based on a letterform can help tie to a name. HFMA has a formal geometric logo based on an “H” in a beautiful linear drawing. It is interesting that this group chooses lower case type for their acronym, softening the formality of the symbol.

Like getting the invitation after the party, these organizations are missing opportunity. In a challenging economy, nonprofits need to make the most of what resources they have (don’t we all??). To possess a memorable logo and do little with it is such a missed opportunity because it can sharpen the arrow of marketing and publications. Although building recognition is hard to measure, the reactions of constituents are not. If these groups produce graphics that receive few comments from the audience, this is one indication that their focus should be on increasing reactions.

spirals
The Sebastian Study 2010, national review will be available at the end of the year. If you want to be sure that your organization is included, please click here.

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July 14, 2010

Madison County Chamber

overview
Every good logo establishes a graphic foundation. Few use visual language as well as the Madison County Chamber. With the goal of creating a welcoming personality, the logo symbolizes the natural and human attractions of their location. Their stylistic imagery carries through their graphics as unifying and recognizable elements.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating Madison County Chamber

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
With a clear identity block, the Madison County Chamber’s logo incorporates the imagery of nature and people in a harmonious composition. Crisp and identifiable, the brush-stroke style is friendly yet has a professional sophistication through the geometric shapes. As a unit, this logo works in a variety of sizes, limited in smallness by its tagline that supports the visual message. The images are understood even without the words.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Few organizations build a theme upon their logos as well as MCC. The colors, the white swash style, and the geometry are used throughout their materials. Online, icons for the various topic components extend the visual language. The colors are strong, through conservative.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
Although MCC uses a standard template structure on their website, the various audiences are well defined and content targeted appropriately. Simple and direct, they use every opportunity to include and engage the community. Features, such as the calendar and e-newsletter, are easy to access. The template does prohibit a better use of space, but the whole holds together as greater than its parts.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
With a clear visual language developed, consistency comes easily. MCC meshes the visual images with their mission of unifying business, community, and agriculture: the symbolism is simple, direct, and easily understood. All graphics continue the style throughout the great variety of offerings.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
MCC’s graphics have a friendly elegant appeal that is timeless. Demonstrating their communication expertise, unlike other associations in this Study, they offer such services through an internal department. They demonstrate through their graphic strength how they support their goals to “improve every aspect of our community.” Rarely is seen a better integration.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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July 2, 2010

Water Quality Association

overview
Few organizations have such a well-defined niche as the Water Quality Association. It is enviable. Monitoring the most basic of resources, they graphically use the obvious water theme through a variety of photographs. Their logo is exceptional in its symbolism and recognizability. Deepening the level of their visual priorities can further enhance their message.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating Water Quality Association

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
The topic of water can be expressed in many ways, usually using wave forms. WQA symbolizes the subject in a surprising way—three simple swashes form a W or a Q—one form represents two letters. Simple and flexible, this logo is both classic and contemporary.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
The water theme for WQA is too obvious to need discussion. However, their graphics could use it more expansively rather than as a touch now and then. The template shows a droplet splash, the features in the right column illustrate various projects. Some of their strongest visuals are the photographic backgrounds of rippling water on selected pages.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
Divided into the two categories of commercial and residential, WQA’s site needs to cover the spectrum of water providers, users, and legislators. The site has comprehensive resources from Hot Topic articles for any viewer and features for target audiences. Unembellished graphically, unfortunatgely all content is treated the same. This site is a good example of prioritizing visual emphases and not carrying through beyond the first level.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
The use of prioritized graphics shows the opportunities for WQA’s approach. Established with color and basic imagery, this visual language could be taken further. Nowhere is this more exemplified than in their newsletter design. Without an inviting overview, samples, or previews, WQA treats this important benefit as less important. It makes sense that their key publication should be for members only, but there are many ways to visually entice a prospect. In a filter-down strategy, they could improve further than the initial impression.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
WQA’s logo and imagery is strong. Their overall presentation is crisp, professional, well-organized, and consistent. Although they could push their visual language further, they have a great beginning. The relevance of their organization can only grow in the future, so investing in their growth potential can keep pace. Their presentation can help visibility and education to use and preserve the most important human resource.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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June 21, 2010

Golden Apple Foundation

overview
The Golden Apple logo is one of the most exciting nonprofit logos in the Midwest because it says so much. To educate the educators, this organization needs communications as a unifying force for a wide constituent base. Inviting applicants, gathering teachers, and reaching supporters puts great focus demands on graphic strategy.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating The Golden Apple Foundation

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
The Golden Apple logo is one of the best mission expressions in the Midwest. It transports the common elements of apple, hands, and color to a highly recognizable level. Simple, classic, flexible, and beautifully executed, this logo sticks in the mind and easily becomes synonomous with an inspiring mandate.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
It seems that The Golden Apple organization knows that they have a strong identity because they use their logo as a graphic bullet to highlight content. Not the best use of an identity. They could build a theme upon the ideas of achievement, quest, and attaining the apple. It seems their graphic emphasis ends with their logo, as there is no strong theme to hang a hat upon.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
The point of view represented on The Golden Apple is supported more by good copywriting than good design. There is little, other than logo or photographs, to carry the emotional impact of educational importance. The topic begs for a creative and exploratory approach! As they hope to inspire educators, the presentation itself can go a lot further to inspire the reader.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Serving three constituents, The Golden Apple’s publications follow strict templates. Simple and geometric, information is easy to find and handled consistently. Their newsletter crosses the line between print and post. Although the design is generic, the content links are very useful. It may not be fun to look at, but it is easy to grasp the content.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
It is easier to change the graphics around a logo than it is the logo itself. The Golden Apple begins with an advantage because their logo is so targeted and crafted. Then they seem to drop the ball graphically by offering little visual enhancement. The photographs carry the graphic load. If GAF were to improve the visuals of their materials, their distinctiveness and vital programs could be seen as well as heard.

It is amazing to find an original and exciting image created with very common visual cliques: apple and hands. Yet these images clearly express education, the award, and is a classic portrayal for a 25 year history.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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June 13, 2010

American Society for Surgery of the Hand

overview
Simple is generally better. Too many organizations make the mistake of trying to be comprehensive at the cost of clarity. As busy eyes scan, the shorter and snappier a message can be, the more likely comprehension will thrive. American Society for Surgery of the Hand expresses a range of offerings with an elegant and inspiring approach.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating American Society for Surgery of the Hand
spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Hands are one of the most challenging of forms to illustrate. Art schools teach that the test of drawing skills is the ability to render hands convincingly. ASSH achieves a graceful and elegant representation. The brush-stroke infuses a humanness that blends with a simple graphic treatment, though the typography is not as imaginative.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Carrying the friendliness of the logo to the website home page, the viewer is welcomed by simple choices, directed at viewer interest. The photos communicate the three audience segments even without the words. However, the template overwhelms the theme on subsequent pages.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
Classic and simple, the logo and homepage presentation is distinctive. Almost a splash-page, if there is content that appeals to all the groups, this page could be extended below the fold. However, few organizations do as well above the fold!

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Although the ASSH website presents a geometric style with rounded corners, the simplicity of the homepage is not reflected as well on subsequent pages. Navigation is clear, but lacks the warmth they began. A better template could be chosen that makes more efficient use of space.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
Any organization with such a strong logo should make greater use of it. Rounding corners on boxes adds a flair but doesn’t take advantage of the potential present. Yet, it is refreshing to be so welcomed and supported with strong and clear information. Unusual, the ASSH ABOUT segment, so touted by the other 99% of sites, is found under the Member section.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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