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Comments (76) Posted 11.21.04 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Michael Bierut

Logogate in Connecticut, or, The Rodneydangerfieldization of Graphic Design: Part II



Logo for the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, Cummings & Good, 2004

A government agency unveils its new logo. A geometric abstraction, it intrigues some but baffles many. Eventually, the inevitable question: my tax money paid for this? Finally, the handwringing once the exorbitant fee is revealed.

The government agency is the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. The logo was created by the respected Chester, Connecticut, firm of Cummings & Good. And the fee? Cue that special Dr. Evil voice: ten...thousand...dollars!

That's right, $10,000. It is all depressingly familiar, another in a long line of stories that demonstrate the suspicion -- if not outright hostility -- with which Americans view art and design. Particularly if they're paying for it.

The tourism commission's new logo conjures up a surprisingly broad range of references. The Bridgeport-based Connecticut Post, which broke the story ("$10,000 logo prompts head-scratching"), quoted some locals who saw images as various as "a double set of theatre curtains," "a bunch of speakers, very loud speakers," as well as film reels and fountains. Peter Good, the designer, intended to suggest "one entity with four divisions": arts, culture, tourism and film. I personally assumed that it was a riff on the letter "C."

The Connecticut Post, sniffing blood,has been all over this story, which provoked a deluge of angry my-kid-coulda-done-that letters. It followed up with a fire-breathing editorial beginning "We wuz' [sic] robbed!" calling the episode an "evident case of daylight robbery of taxpayers." Even the New York Times picked up the scent, solemnly quoting the state budget director on the tourism commission's "entitlement mentality" and adding, of course, that he could not make out "heads or tails" what the logo was meant to convey.

Connecticut has become a scandal-happy place as of late, with its embattled governor resigning earlier this year amidst a firestorm of accusations of financial impropriety, including accepting thousands of dollars of free renovations on his summer house from favor-seeking state contractors. Indeed, when the executive director of the commission had the temerity to defend her design investment, she had her $118,451 annual salary published for her trouble, as well as the fact that she is married to the former state Senate minority leader. Logogate! Still, the $10,000 price tag -- $415,000 less than the mayor of Bridgeport was accused of accepting in kickbacks several years ago -- doesn't seem to warrent this level of fuss.

What ratchets up the excitement level is the emperor's-new-clothes element: a bunch of clever "artists" trying to put something over, once again, on the decent people. Here's a quote:

The abstract total-design logo is the most marvelous fraud that the American graphic arts have ever perpetrated upon American business. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, these abstract logos, which a company (Chase Manhattan, Pan Am, Winston Sprocket, Kor Ban Chemical) is supposed to put on everything from memo pads to the side of its 50-story building, make absolutely no impact-conscious or unconscious-upon its customers or the general public, except insofar as they create a feeling of vagueness or confusion...Yet millions continue to be poured into the design of them. Why? Because the conversion to a total-design abstract logo format somehow makes it possible for the head of the corporation to tell himself: "I'm modern, up-to-date, with it, a man of the future. I've streamlined this old baby." Why else would they have their companies pour $30,000, $50,000, $100,000 into the concoction of symbols that any student at Pratt could, and would gladly, give him for $125 plus a couple of lunches at the Tratorria, or even the Zum-Zum? The answer: if the fee doesn't run into five figures, he doesn't feel streamlined. Logos are strictly a vanity industry, and all who enter the field should be merciless cynics if they wish to guarantee satisfaction.

That's Tom Wolfe, in his high From Bauhaus to Our House mode, quoted in 1972, the year he was a judge for the AIGA's Communication Graphics competition. He would no doubt agree with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., who once accused abstract artists of conducting "a conspiracy with millionaires to make poor people feel stupid." And just to prove how far we haven't come in the last 30 years, the most popular remedy for the disaster has been that same old warhorse: let's have a contest! A professor at Housatonic Community College volunteered his school's graphic arts students, saying they "would have jumped at the chance to have some hand-on involvement in a real design project," adding that, after all, "art is about inclusion." And lest anyone feel excluded, others have gone the professor one better, suggesting that the contest be open to schoolchildren of all ages.

Despite the evidence of curvy check marks, dots-and-circles, and dozens of other successful abstract logos that have become part of our visual landscape since Wolfe issued his pronouncement, it's clear that we designers still risk being cast, despite our best intentions, as witchdoctors, trafficking in voodoo and incantations. What designer wouldn't sympathize with the embattled Peter Good, and his partner, Janet Cummings? "People see an end product and have no idea of the process," she told the Times, no doubt through gritted teeth." It's like any modern art. People say, well, I would have done that -- after the fact."

Meanwhile, Connecticut's new governor, M. Jodi Rell, has scrambled to distance herself from the debacle: according to her spokesman, "The governor's office was not involved in this decision. But it certainly could have found better ways to use $10,000." If you're an elected official in Connecticut, you can get a perfectly decent little patio put in at your house in Litchfield for that much.
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Michael, as a resident in Litchfield County, Connecticut USA, I feel obliged to make one correction: no one, not even the governor, can get a "perfectly decent little patio" for $10,000. The only thing such a sum will buy, it seems, is a logo.
William Drenttel
11.21.04 at 03:42

straight from the mouth of my favorite straight talker, mr. art chantry
bomp stomp
11.21.04 at 03:52

The Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism got a bargain with a $10,000 brand identity project. The project includes, beside the logotype, other services, recommendations and consultations.

This quote from the Connecticut Post
bring an important point about developing brand identity programs.


"Graphic design consultant Bruce Weinberg, of Wao Creative LLC, calls the $10,000 price tag on the low-end of branding.

'For big branding companies, such as Landor Associates and its competitors, the charge for developing a corporate identity, which encompasses logo design, is between $100,000 to $200,000 or more,' Weinberg says. 'Pricewise, they got a bargain.'"


Dino
11.21.04 at 04:28

"In general, it disturbs me that they spent any kind of money on designing a logo," Ryan says. "This is especially so given the commission's complaints historically about having inadequate funding."

In general, the above comment disturbs me.
Jemma Gura
11.21.04 at 07:47

As a resident of Connecticut and a designer, I have to agree with Dino. At $10k they got a bargain. Most people look at a story like this and see a bunch of circles and a $10 price tag. What they don't see is the process.

The don't see the meetings, they don't see the dozens of different concepts presented and rejected, they don't see the endless tweaking and revising.

The decision on this logo was likely made by a committee and had to please everyone and their spouses.

You can dislike the logo, and I would not blame you for that in the least, but the price is more than reasonable.
Stephen Macklin
11.21.04 at 10:12

Michael: You just won't leave me alone. While I'm on Retreat. (Inside Joke)

THE GOVERNMENT SETTLES FOR MEDIOCRITY.

That said, as a former Chief of Design at a Government Agency in D.C. Most of the Identity Design is Developed and Implemented by area Designer(s) on the Local Level. Or created inhouse. On the Federal Level. Usually First Tier or Second Tier Consultancies are retained. On the Local (City Level) Level. Most of the Identity work is aweful. On the Federal Level most of the Identity work was implemented during the Federal Design Improvement Program.

Ala, SAUL BASS, Chermayeff & Geismar, John Massey, Rudolph De Harak, Danne & Blackburn. (others)

Referencing the Design of the Identity. I haven't formed any opinions Yeh or Ney in reference to the Symbionics.

It reak Design by Committee.

Cummings & Good undersold themselves by 60,000.00 to 90,000.00 dollars. For 10,000.00 all they would have gotten from many other(s) were a meeting and tissue roughs.

TIME IS MONEY Irregardless of Economy. On second thought. Price of Design is determined by Locale.
DesignMaven
11.21.04 at 11:38

Much ado about nothing.

The logo that this silly stink should be about is the CT Lottery. Total junk and I imagine they paid well over $100,000 for it.

From the CT lotto site:
"2000 The Lottery updates its logo. "The Money Tree" format, used since the Lottery's start, is replaced with "The Happy Dancer" symbol, marking a shift in the Lottery's marketing initiatives."

Yep, another meaningless abstract happy figure made in Freehand in about 4 minutes at some ad agency by a hack.

I don't think there is a web site about dancing figures (there should be, I think Wired had a thing on too many little dancing people logos in tech sector?) Here are two sites with the next best thing - swoops and spirals:

http://www.splorp.com/critique/
http://50cups.com/swoosh/index.asp
JC
11.22.04 at 01:22

Michael: Design Observer's Link to the Identity is not working.

Posting another link below for Design Observer beloved scholars and patrons.

http://www.tourism.state.ct.us/Twain/shoestringworkshop.asp

I just read your Editorial a second time.

Are we talking about The Peter Good ???
That was practicing Design in the sixties.

There were two extraordinarily gifted Designers in the 1960s Peter Good and Peter Gee.

Both Peter Good and Peter Gee are Legendary Designers. For the younger generation unaware of their historic significance.

Clarification, THE GOVERNMENT SETTLES FOR MEDIOCRITY.

Referencing personal experiences. The Rise and Fall of the Federal Design Improvement Program.

NASA, killing Danne & Blackburn's Identity after 21 years. Regurgitating NASA amateurish Identity.

I'd like to reconstrue my earlier statement. If were talking about the same Peter Good, Design Legend.

Mr. Good can afford to Roll Back his fee and charge less.

Based on reputation alone. Mr. Good could've easily charged $ 100.000.00 If it were a Corporation.

Today Government Agencies have to account for every penny spent. As well, most have a budget for Design, which they cannot exceed.

Long gone are the days. Where Consultants and Contractors charged the Pentagon $ 600.00 dollars for each toilet seat purchased.

Consultants charging $ 300.00 dollars per screw.

A friend in Government recently informed me the budget for most Federal Agencies is $ 25, 000.00 dollars (max) for Design Services.

Times they are-a-changing.(Bob Dylan)

Ideologically, Mr. Good is contributing to the Betterment of Mankind.

Within Religious Sects. I think they call it Missionary Work.

Glad to see Optical Illustion make its way back into Identity Design.

Reminiscent of Italian Identity Designer Franco Grignani and Fine Artist Victor Vasarely.

Both Unchallenged Leaders of OP ART movement.

Thanks for quoting Tom Wolf.
A Man of many talents. Mr. Wolf just didn't understand the Science of Identity Design.

Neither do those IMBECILES writing Desparaging Remarks in reference to the new Identity.

Simple is Smart.
DesignMaven
11.22.04 at 02:33

hello,

thanks for the great article, but the link towards the logo doesn't work,

I WANNA SEE THE PROPOSAL,

thanks

mat
matthijs
11.22.04 at 05:53

The link should download a pdf of the press release announcing the new logo. If it doesn't work for you, try the tourism commission's press page. They've got the logo at the top, and you may be able to download the press release from there.

Michael Bierut
11.22.04 at 07:05

Gentlemen - the first link to download the pdf is simply missing the http:// from the start. Here's working one: http://www.ctbound.org/PDFS/NewLogo101804.pdf.

And yes, thanks for an excellent article.
Sami Niemelä
11.22.04 at 08:17

Conneticut, full of surprises...
That says it all.
Yorkali
11.22.04 at 08:26

The funny - OK, the sad - thing about it is that if it had been a logo that employed clip art or a literal logo showing a tourist taking pictures at a Connecticut landmark (sorry, don't know any landmarks in Connecticut) people would have "gotten" the expense...

Tax dollars paying for metaphors... Crazy.
Armin
11.22.04 at 09:29

A couple squiggly lines? For $10,000 there better be at least a page curl and a couple lens flairs!
Josh Zhixel
11.22.04 at 09:49

is there a similarity between the low fee here and doing pro bono work. by which i mean to say, doing pro bono work is notoriously surrounded with clients who want way more imput and causes much more frustration than would be associated with a job for which one was getting paid a proper fee.

do clients feel that if they aren't paying premium fees than they aren't getting excellent/professional quality work? hence the "my kid could've done that" and received a gift certificate to friendly's or denny's or some similar form of renumeration.

if you pay $100 for a de Kooning, are you going to feel like you have purchased a de Kooning? probably not, but then i suppose we're right back to where we were with the tom wolfe thing.
jay colvin
11.22.04 at 09:52

While I would probably be disappointed by this logo if it were designed for the Department of Transportation or the state tax service, this logo wasnt designed for that. It was designed for a group that supports local arts initiatives. Why wouldnt you have a metaphorical icon for a group that funds modern art? I'm assuming the majority of people who heard the news thought "governement agency logo - why is it symbolic?" More proof that the majority wants a style over content...

my only concern is about the colors - that red seems a bit bright comparitively, no? Maybe its just my screen...or maybe thats all ten grand gets you - poor color theory.
Derrick Schultz
11.22.04 at 10:15

I'm also wondering about the fee issue. The designers probably low-balled it figuring it would make a great portfolio piece "Yes, we did the cultural logo for the state of Connecticut"--would probably go over well in a pitch meeting etc.

We've all done that sort of thing before.

But at what point does taking on a project become a massive liability. For their low-ball portfolio piece (and I'm just assuming that's the reason behind the price, bear with me for the sake of argument) they get a massive negative campaign etc. Now when they say "Yes we did the cultural logo for the state of Connecticut" it will have an entirely different spin and meaning to it... a bad one.

Perhaps jobs for high-risk situations (like government, where we all know this "my kid coulda done that... why don't we let the gradeschoolers do it for free" mentality will arise after the fact... should charge more?

There's a liability in our work too. The designers, regardless of how anyone feels about their end-product, got skinned.

g
Gahlord Dewald
11.22.04 at 11:50

Unfortunately, because of this "logogate" issue, the logo was indeed a waste of money, because now people will associate it with excessive government spending rather than curtains, speakers, abstracted C's, or whatever.

This would be a fantastic time Cummings & Good to come out and defend the logo, show the process, talk about what design is and what it isn't. Many of us here on DO talk about the lack of respect given to the design profession. If what we do is truly valuable, we should be able to justify it.

If we just sit here and say, "For 10,000 dollars they deserve what they get," how are we ever going to earn respect?
Ryan Nee
11.22.04 at 12:27

Derrick, I'm a stones throw away from the
U.S. Department of Transportation in D.C.

Their Identity was Designed by Rudolph De Harak.
Nothing less than a Legend. In the 1970s.
When the Federal Design Improvement Program was
established.

Link below:

http://www.dot.gov

Upper left corner. Some IMBECILE decided to 3 D THE DAMN THING. De Harak's Masterpiece was never meant to be three dimensional.

Armin: The Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism Identity is Dynamic, Radiant, Vibrant, and Kinetic. It incorporates the Principals of Good Identity Design. Balance, Proportion, Movement, Rythm, Repetition, Harmony, Dominance, Economy of Space to provide unity.

The negative space create a hidden Identity within the positive space.

Cummings & Good Identity communicate through what we see and how it makes us feel.

A Good Identity engages our collectively psyche
in the sense of being psychologically resonate
and recognizable. It must also create an emotinal connection and start a relationship.

Cummings & Good Identity is symbolic. It is unique. Like all Great Identities. There is a second and/or third level image in it.

Ala, Bell System, IBM, CBS, International Paper,Chrysler Pin Star, Woolmark, and ARCO.

If you look hard enough. You'll see it. Then you'll say Ahh.

You see that don't you???

Or have I been sipping on the Branding Juice to long ??? As Felix has often accussed me.


DesignMaven
11.22.04 at 12:29

Come on folks. It's titillating to slam another designer's work and make a big hoo-ha out of the price tag, and another to have been involved in the process. $10k to me doesn't sound like all that much money, especially considering the client -- a public agency with a board of directors, each of whom likely had to sign off on the design. I'd bet Cummings & Good soaked up a considerable amount of hourly time going through all the motions to arrive at this final logo.

And beyond the red tape, is the logo really that bad? It's not the most inspiring work in the world, but is it memorable? Does it reduce well? Does it effectively capture the mission of the agency?

The one issue I have with the logo is that they're using color to indicate the different groups they represent. If you were to convert this logo to 1-color (black, white) usage, it wouldn't hold up as well.
Todd Dominey
11.22.04 at 01:08

Maven,
of course I meant no disrespect to the national DOT, but was referring to some of the state DOT logos (as this is a state-run organization in discussion here)

I should also say that I work (intern, rather) at the National Park Services's design center, so I'm well aware of the kind of hoops one has to run through when working for the government. And I will also attest to the fact that their are many employees internally who respect design, but like most government agencies, money is always the first deciding factor. I'll also mention the fact that at the park service, we fight to keep poorly designed logos off of our materials (often to the point of being threatened with termination by the higher ups). Maybe something we shouuld also bring up is that the government cut the NPS publications budget by 1 million dollars this past year (we only had three to begin with...), so if people are wondering where all the beautiful Unigrid brochures are going, we have this "design costs too much" ideology to thank.

I often wonder where my own job would be without Mr. Vignelli's contribution to government design...but of course I'm getting off topic. Perhaps we can save this discussion for another of Michael's reminiscings.
Derrick Schultz
11.22.04 at 01:22

Neither do those IMBECILES writing Desparaging Remarks in reference to the new Identity.

I really disagree with this statement. Design is not so much about what you say it is, it's about what they say it is. If the people who paid for this logo - the taxpayers - think it is a waste of money, then we either need to justify the solution to them, or agree with them.

We can't seriously expect to get respect if we call them imbeciles, call the logo balanced and proportional and say that we designers are contributing to the good of mankind. Why anyone would possibly agree with us?

As far as purely technical considerations go, you can look at the logo press release to see that the whole identity system hasn't been well implemented. My biggest problem with the whole thing is that they have a logo mistaken for an identity. As we all know, an identity is a personality, not a logo.
Ryan Nee
11.22.04 at 01:23

Jeez, what a laugh. Upon first viewing the logo, as if by reflex, a single word came to mind -- or at least to the knee-jerk, tax-burdened, philistine part of my mind:

"FRAUD."

I was next hit with the astonishment of how this seemingly small firm managed to wrangle ten grand out of a state cultural commission fund:

"COJONES MUY GRANDES."

Then, studying the logo further, the aesthetic crusader in me just went nuts:

"USELESS. HACKNEYED. BORING. VACUOUS. CRAP."

Okay, the hyperventilating has subsided. So:

1. It would be pretty hypocritical of me to deride these folks when I (as well as most of us here) have resigned myself on a few infrequent and shameful occassions to completing a project that I'm not very pleased with in terms of final results -- but, frankly, the money was good enough to just swallow the loss and deal with it.

You know what I'm talking about. A once-terrific idea that has strayed so far from the vitality and clarity of its original concept -- by, among other things, the involvement of too many committees, the introduction of too many wayward factors, the wearing down of a designer's resolve over time, etc. -- that, when it's all done, you don't even want your name associated with it.

Still, you tell yourself, the exceptional funds make it worthwhile -- there may be kids to put through college, debts to pay, etc. -- and in the end you can rationalize that, just this once, you'll have to live with polluting this world with a piece of visual trash at worst, or a half-assed dilution of a once-great idea at best.

Yeah, it happens, and such supreme compromises suck -- very defeating; arguably immoral; avoidable if at all possible; and, hopefully, exceedingly rare. But alas: also undeniably well-paying. Tibor Kalman purpotedly hated it more than anything, and so do I.

Obviously this isn't a justification of such work. I'm only giving Cummings & Good the benefit of the doubt by saying perhaps that's the case here -- because that is one truly lame, vapid design, hateful on many levels (at least to me), and there's just no other excuse for it.

2. Having said that: I went to C&G's website and checked out their stuff, and found much of it to be (in my insignificant opinion) handsome and solid enough, but stylistically reeking of a prim, blue-blooded, gentile stuffiness that just rubs me wrong. So maybe they're thrilled with their dumbass design for the state commission, for all I know.

3. Nice call pulling out the Tom Wolfe quote, Michael. To me, the worst part of such design is that it's evocative of absolutely nothing at all, and thus is lacking in all qualities that could in any way be called "human." A waste of ink and/or pixels, truly.

4. I don't know -- maybe I'm the dumb sucker living in a cut-rate parallel universe, but for those of you who can seriously claim with a straight face that $10,000 was "underpriced" for this dog of a logo: you must live in a very plush world indeed.

In the event you have some of that Big Logo Money lying around, using the paychecks as bookmarks or napkins or something, please feel free to send compensatory donations to Jon Resh, PO Box A3394, Chicago IL 60690-3394 USA.

Your kind financial contribution will be spent on phone calls to convince the budget committees of various state legislatures that a quadruple increase in average spending on dull, obtuse logos should supersede similar funds for textbooks in schools, health and human services, civil safety, etc. (I'll skip the call to Connecticuit -- apparently there's no need.)

Sheesh.
Jon Resh
11.22.04 at 01:38

Critical Overreaction Of The Year clearly goes to Jon Resh. Congratulations.
The logo in question is not an abomination, neither is it "hateful" on any level, Jon. (Get yourself checked out. You're carrying the vitriol of ten people.) It may be banal, or in the long run ineffective, (we can't know that yet) but it's nothing to inspire the hurricane of spew you hurled at it.
And one more thing: you scoffing at the budget number being described as "underpriced" betrays your lack of experience and makes me feel that you're underqualified to critique... or to put it another way, WAAAAAAAAH, $10,000 is a lot of money, WAAAAAAH!
John Logic
11.22.04 at 03:43

I find it ironic that, in response to a post about the general public's unfair indictment of graphic design, so many of my colleagues would choose to raise suspicions about the designers' talent, motives, and business acumen. I consider skepticism an appropriate reaction to just about anything, but come on; circle the wagons a little bit.

The public outcry over the design and the fee is offensive. It is an affront to our profession, and in fact our values. Make no mistake, anti-visual rhetoric is part and parcel of the anti-intellectual posture that enjoys such destructive sway in our country. The vocal minority who are raising a stink about this are exactly the same people who managed to set our country on a course back to the middle ages in the last election. When our culture offends them, they write letters to station managers and introduce constitutional amendments. But when they ambush our culture (not to mention our good old-fashioned, American JOBS) we can't even manage a sincere, sustained rebuttal on a blog?
Dmitri
11.22.04 at 06:07

Oh, John Logic, lighten up. Let a man have some fun at the expense of a needlessly exorbitant bad logo, fer chrissakes.

"Vitriol," as you describe it, wasn't my point in posting (in fact, I thought I was holding back!) -- but rather to chuckle at the sheer folly of this thing in the 20 free minuters I had before breakfast.

And frankly, doing so was a blast. Sorry if it got tedious -- unfortuantely I am a total and compulsive windbag whenever I post here, and not very prone to writing with anything resembling cool neutrality (which probably doesn't serve the overall aims of Design Observer very well). So I'll try to keep my tone more congenial (and short) in the future.

...The logo in question is not an abomination, neither is it "hateful" on any level...

Well, I certainly never called the logo an "abomination," but thanks for bringing up that fine noun in its context. And it's certainly hateful on the level that I seem to get more nauseous the more I look at it.

But hey, that's just me.

...you scoffing at the budget number being described as "underpriced" betrays your lack of experience and makes me feel that you're underqualified to critique...

Ah, you're probably right. Indeed, I certainly have plenty more to learn, and I'm happy to admit that.

However, having been commissioned for some governmental design work myself at the state and city level (albeit minor projects), the overall financial threshold, in my experience, seems to be much lower and more limited across the board (which, I'd assume, may be due to local differences in demands, needs and budgets, among other factors). A decreased pricing structure seems sensible, considering the vast amount of public resources to which the all-too-finite funds must be allocated, though I could surely be incorrect or mistaken in this assumption.

Otherwise, I guess it could just be because I'm the dunce here -- particularly for not demanding more dough!

...Get yourself checked out...

My wife would probably agree. Thanks for caring.
Jon Resh
11.22.04 at 06:28

Thanks, Dmitri, for the calming words. I originally was reluctant to post the actual logo because I wanted to keep the focus on what I still maintain is the fundamental issue: that there is a deep-seated suspicion of art and design in this country. What I didn't want to get into was a "well, if I had been given the assignment to design that logo, it would have been unveiled to universal acclaim!" kind of thing.

Maybe so, kids, as long as your logo managed to combine literal representations of an artist's palette, an autumn leaf, a picture frame, a movie camera, and, if possible, the shape of the state of Connecticut. Come back with something abstract, though, and you may as well search and replace your name for Cummings & Good above to get an accurate idea of the outcome.

The designer and client made one mistake: sending out the press release. Live and learn.
Michael Bierut
11.22.04 at 07:08

Neither do those IMBECILES writing Desparaging Remarks in reference to the new Identity.

I really disagree with this statement. Design is not so much about what you say it is, it's about what they say it is. If the people who paid for this logo - the taxpayers - think it is a waste of money, then we either need to justify the solution to them, or agree with them.

You can disagree with the statement. Semiotically Abstract Identity Design defy explanation.

Tom Wolf, the general public and writers don't understand Identity Design.

Unfortunately, Tom Wolf placed limitations on himself. Due to his lack of appreciation and understanding of Semiotics, and Symbionics. Albeit the many classifications of Identity Design.

Mr. Wolf, an Erudite limited his Identity Design taste to Pictographs, Pictograms, and Glyphs.

Which is one category out of seven (7) Identity Design Classifications.

How shallow of Mr. Wolf. To only appreciate the literal and Denounce Imagineering.

Prudence and Better Judgement will inform the Designer(s) not to discuss the project. Because of Blasphame, Public Desecration.

Identity Design, Visual Communication, Art, Crafts, The Applied Arts, Plastic Arts, is very subjective.

When is the last time you heard Landor, Lippincott & Margulies, Siegel & Gale, Interbrand, Enterprise IG, Malcom Greer, Sayles Design, Mires Design, any Identity Consultancy Defend their work. The client has the last word irrespective of what the public think.

Will a statement from the Designer or Consultancy change Public Perception ???

Ignorance is Bliss !!!!!!!!

The work speak for itself. Either you understand it or you don't.

The only time a Designer need to defend his/or work is in a Court of Law. Involving Copyright Issues or Infringement.

If you understand OP ART, Optical Illusion. Then you understand the Identity.

I've said it a Gazillion Times. A Logo and/or Identity only need to address four criteria.

1. Memorability: self explanatory

2. Livability: will it be around 10, 20,30 years or longer.

3. Usability, Can the Identity by implemented in all media? Does the Identity have the same visual strength in one color or two color as it does in full color? Can it be reduced to the size of a dime for advertisemen? Yet blown up to the size of a wheather ballon for storage tank. Without loosing any quality.

4. Propriety: is it professional ?
Does it properly address the Goals and Aspiration of the entity.

The above criteria is all an Identity or Logo need to address.
Doesn't matter if you like it or understand it.

IMHO,Cummings & Good, Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism Identity, address all the above criteria.

DesignMaven
11.22.04 at 07:58

Identity Design, Visual Communication, Art, Crafts, The Applied Arts, Plastic Arts, is very subjective.

To me, this list is a lump of very different professions. If you consider identity design and art to be essentially the same thing, housed under a big umbrella of subjectivity, that may be the root of our differences. Call me crazy, but I think that verbal and visual communication should have approximately the same level of subjectivity as one another.

Although I don't know this personally, I am almost positive that places like FutureBrand and the other large branding firms do justify their work in one way or another. I can't imagine they would get a lot of work if they walked into a client meeting and said, "We're really good at this, but you wouldn't understand, because you aren't a designer. I wish I could explain it to you, but it's much too abstract for regular human comprehension. Trust us with your large sums of money... after all, we're designers."

I agree with Michael -- the press release is really the root of this problem. It's just scary to think that people really think design is that big of a waste of money. Although, after reading a few of the comments, I'm not completely surprised. If we put design on a pedestal, we had better expect to get knocked off.
Ryan Nee
11.22.04 at 09:05

Why is the debate over the merits of a logo in the Connecticut Posts's headlined "We Wuz Robbed"? Cummings & Good were hired through a competitive bidding process, and from what we've been told produced and delivered what they were commissioned to do. We can argue as designers /consumers as to the merits of logo's design or effectiveness, but the headline suggests the taxpayers were swindled. Such hyberbole is a disservice to readers, especially as it fails to provide context for the discussion.

Finally, it would be interesting to follow-up on the reader's suggestion regarding holding a competition. I wonder what the true costs of such an undertaking would have been and the results it would have yielded? How would getting submissions from high school students or college students from around Connecticut save the taxpayer's money? Who would organize it? Who would judge it? Would they be paid? Would the winning logo need to be re-worked or re-drawn? Who would establish standards and how would they be implemented? Perhaps the ConnPost has already volunteered?
Paul Carlos
11.22.04 at 09:05

To me, this list is a lump of very different professions. If you consider identity design and art to be essentially the same thing, housed under a big umbrella of subjectivity, that may be the root of our differences.

If you're familiar with my writing on another Blog Speak Up. Then you know I'm a Identity Designer. Have practiced my craft for over twenty years.

I don't consider Identity Design, Graphic Design.

Consider, Identity Design the Science of Design.
Whether you incorporate the Formalist Approach or the Functionalist Approach.

Do you understand the differences between Formailist and Functionalist ?

There is a difference.

When potential Designer(s) are commissioned. They are presenting their work, not defending its merit.

My comment of Defense was in reference to Blasphamy and Public Desecration.

The various disciplines of Applied Art and Plastic Art was emphasized to show correlation of said disciplines. A process by which creatives Analyze, Strategize, Develop, Design, and Implement.
Thus, each discipline, having an intellectual aspect and craft aspect.

Again, if you're familiar with my writing. I've always stated. Design and Art are distant cousins and should not go to bed together.

FYI, FutureBrand, has never defended the Blasphamy or Public Ridicule of any of their Identities.

David Weinberger, Sr. Design Manager, Futurbrand.
And my personal friend. Has uploaded his work for critique on Speak UP. Not the same thing.

David, invited public scrutiny of his work.
As did Felix Sockwell, With his New York Olympic Bid Identity Design.

Kurt Koepfle of Pentagram submitted Paula Scher's Olympic Bid Identity Design for Pentagram to Armin Vit, Proprietor of Speak Up. For public critique. With Ms. Scher's permission.

During Rollout of UPS Identity. FutureBrand discussed the Identity in Atlanta. That was Public Relations.

99.9% of public discussion of any of FutureBrand's Identity Design have been Speak Up.

As my mentor Mr. Bierut is aware, and will testify. It is customary to send Press Releases when an Identity is Rolled Out.

The Logogate Debacle Reeks Yellow Journalism. Albeit, the authors of the article exercising Poor Taste and Decorum.
DesignMaven
11.22.04 at 10:28

A brave statement. The logo has a sense of shock when you first look at it. Im curious to see the applications. I think it will stick in peoples minds (both good and bad). Concerning the price tag, 10k is chicken feed. An identity should cost more than a cheap car, its more lasting and does more for an organization, company or and individual, over the long haul.

James Strange.
James Strange
11.22.04 at 10:29

Clarification:

The Logogate Debacle Reeks Yellow Journalism. Albeit, the authors of the article exercising Poor Taste and Decorum.

Referencing, the Connecticut Newspapers that originally broke the story.


DesignMaven
11.22.04 at 10:57

Why the impulse to defend this logo? Because it was designed by one of 'us?' My god, have you actually looked at the thing?

I've no idea what the hell that is supposed to mean. 'four sectors of the arts?' yeah, um, o-kay. Sure, designers get no respect, but we sure aren't going to score any points with the 'common man' by vigorously defending a logo which no one understands in the first place. I'm not advocating a paintbrush superimposed over a map of connecticut, but I am rejecting the conceit of some designer who comes along and says "this impenetrable abstraction succinctly represents the identity of your organization -- now please give me 10,000 dollars."
Ahrum Hong
11.22.04 at 11:54

It's interesting that after 30 something post of designers getting defensive, does one finally come around to the quality of journalism of the ConnPost article.

The article is full of misrepresentation and lazy editorializing. I realize it is an editorial piece, but journalists are held to a standard of informed opinions. With a bit of research, the author would had a better sense of the process. With a phone call to the tourism board, he could have gotten clarifications to projects. His claim that the logo cost $10,000 is either an intentional lie, or a sign that he didn't understand the scope of the project or the process.

In the article, the author asks, "For one, why does the commission even need a logo?", "why would a state agency take the highest bid on a logo?", "if the state was looking for a number of rounded-off lines inside a square, why didn't it create a contest for high school or college art or design students?", and simply concludes with "We may never know exactly why the tourism bureau did what it did." Contacting the tourism board, would have given us those answers, but I guess that's too much work.
Nipith Ongwiseth
11.23.04 at 12:54

Clarification: I was referring to the "We wuz' robbed!" editorial.

Reading the other articles, we find similar lack of research on the part of the journalists.
Nipith Ongwiseth
11.23.04 at 01:01

Boy if you think this is bad, then you guys obviously haven't heard of the recent University of Hawaii logo "re-branding" fiasco, a "process" which cost the University over $143,000, only to be completely scrapped at the end due to overwhelming public criticism.

I posted detailed threads about it here:

http://www.howdesign.com/forum/messages.asp?topicID=96951

and the follow-up:

http://www.howdesign.com/forum/messages.asp?topicID=104805

Mel Matsuoka
11.23.04 at 01:34

Sure, designers get no respect, but we sure aren't going to score any points with the 'common man' by vigorously defending a logo which no one understands in the first place.

"Understanding a logo in the first place" is an interesting criterion to apply to symbol design. Does this imply that any abstract -- as opposed to figurative -- logo is simply indefensible?
Michael Bierut
11.23.04 at 06:45

Does this imply that any abstract -- as opposed to figurative -- logo is simply indefensible?

No, but it implies that the rational for an abstract logo should be clear without explanations of process. From the mark itself, so to speak. This particular abstraction is so generic I can't decipher what it is speaking for or with whom it is supposed to resonate.
Ahrum Hong
11.23.04 at 08:28

Ahrum, I think you are straying on dangerous territory. Quite a handful of brand-name companies employ ridiculously ambiguous logos. Expecting that all logos should be "clear" is unrealistic - and it is not the main purpose of logos anyway... identification is.

I'm actually surprised at the reaction to the logo itself. It's not that bad. There are plenty logos out there that show no consideration whatsoever, this one clearly does in many aspects - one being, that it is at least well executed. (And looking at it so big in such a small space as presented here on Design Observer is quite clearly not the best context to judge it).

And, I think the logo itself - and a critique of it - is merely incidental to this discussion. The fact that this is an "unclear" logo and as such is not understood by the taxpayers and as such is a waste of money and as such it questions what designers do and as such journalists once again downgrade our profession to the dreaded "my kid could do it better" is the matter for concern here.
Armin
11.23.04 at 08:50

Someone should start a stock logo database full of these meaningless pseudo-modernist abstractions. Could sell like hotcakes at $5k a pop.
Ahrum Hong
11.23.04 at 11:02

Um, Ahrum, I hope you don't actually call yourself a designer, because you clearly have no idea what design is about.

I too am surprised by the "I could've done better" commentary here on this blog (from the public of Conneticut, no surprise). 10K is cheap for a logo for a state organization, regardless of anyone's opinion of the aesthetic outcome. It's all in the process, and anyone who has ever actually worked with a client (especially a complicated government client) on this process knows what I mean. The rest of you who have drawn logos for imaginary clients, or submitted to contests without ever having had to endure what I have always referred to as the Rorschach Test of Design, can go piss up a rope.
Excuse my language.

Why should we band together in condemnation of the misinformed opinions of the public regarding this issue? Because it's our business that is under attack. And this is not an isolated incident. It happens often, all across North America, and if you don't think that one day a design of yours that you worked hard on, and spent many hours of research, negotiation, psychotherapy and oh yes, drawing on doesn't come under attack for being a complete waste of someone's money, you will be proved wrong. And it doesn't matter how much or how little you charged for it.

Anyone who says that this was a waste of $10K doesn't know design. period.
marian bantjes
11.23.04 at 12:43

The story of a logo.

Cummings & Good accepted the project from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism because we simply wanted to do it. We have a long history of working for the Arts and Humanities in Connecticut, and this design puzzle was intriguing. Within the last year, under a restructuring, four formerly autonomous agencies were merged into one commission. Before the current name, for the first six months, the new organization called itself Connecticut Arts, Tourism, Culture, History & Film or CATCH-F. (Does not roll off the tongue, but is rather sneezed out.) Enter the new name, same players. Like many designers, we accept assignments not having a clue about the solution beforehand. We were given the new name and the warning that the four divisions were uneasy about giving up their independence and becoming diminished or even lost in the consolidation.

Literal images were impossible because of the disparate qualities of each division, so our first intuition was typography only. The name broke down nicely into four justified lines. Then the concept of four parts working as one emerged and seemed to make sense in that each division could have some real estate, albeit symbolic, in a consolidating form. But what could the form be? More play, more sketches, more thinking. Lots of artists have used geometry as inspiration for their art: Victor Vasarely, Frank Stella and of course Sol LeWitt, to name a few. The logic of four parts, subdivided into five rings (each division covers five geographic areas) led to the geometric solution. It has the analytic quality of the square softened by the inner circles. The stripes give it an optical energy and the four quadrants satisfy the synergy needs.

We presented the concept with materials showing the extraordinary potential for applications in all media, particularly animation and divisional spinoffs. (The design has more legs than a centipede.) The commission and division heads accepted the concept, and we proceeded to finalize. There were no changes to the original design, except for the discussion of which division adopted what color.

And there you have it, with a few footnotes:

The cost issue was created by an issue-hungry reporter feeding on the corruption legacy of the past Connecticut administration. It was a slow news day.

Could there have been other solutions? Of course. And that is precisely what makes appraisal of design so difficult. Pick your criteria.

Peter Good
Peter Good
11.23.04 at 12:54

So much fuss about a little symbol. With so much second guessing going on, we thought a few more words from the designers would be helpful.

First, Michael, thanks for opening up the subject to the design community. Peter and I too often feel out of contact with other professional designers, and it's heartening to hear all the voices out there.

Now the facts:

1. Our below industry standards fee seemed more than fair given the client, our credentials and the economic climate.

2. We do not need another portfolio piece. Four decades of award-winning work proves our competence to any prospective client. (Yes, Peter is The Peter Good who was working in the 60s.)

3. We are proud of the identity. It was not designed by a committee but informed by the four divisions and championed by a commission head interested in making a powerful and colorful statement.

4. The "confusion" about what the logo represents was intentional. The rational geometry morphs into representational imagery — sound waves, theatre curtains, film reels, plot plans, Sol LeWitt wall drawings. Great! We'd like to hear more of that. This is a multi-faceted agency and state.

5. Yes, a logo ought to be judged in context: on business cards, letterhead, note cards, fax forms, press kit folders, banners, and of course, the website. We'll soon have visuals up on our website: http://www.cummings-good.com In the meantime, here's a link to our proposed flash for the commission website: http://www.davidstreever.com/circle.html

6. A designer can't decide to not use color just because something might be lost in conversion to B&W. Most people who see a B&W version will have seen the color and will translate the meaning.

7. Jesse Maxwell Good had a good take on turning design into a contest for school children: "What message does that give to design students? Forget about getting choice projects once you become a professional, they'll all be given to the novices."

8. While the original Connecticut Post front-page article was most likely politically motivated, the result has been some intelligent (and some brutish) dialog about the value of design. A good thing to discuss.

9. Governor Rell's disappointing response to The New York Times reporter prompted Richard Grefe, AIGA Executive director, to send her an eloquent defense — a model of restraint, yet a strong case supporting "this profession which has a vital legacy within Connecticut."

Jan Cummings Good
Jan Cummings Good
11.23.04 at 01:09

I am probably one of the first generations who grew up using computers as a design tool, but my co-worker received her training using mechanicals and drafting supplies. And she mentioned that before the computer, clients trusted their designers. A designer couldn't just email a pdf to the client in what seems like an easy, two-second process. Most clients never even saw what resembled a final proof (this is in print, as im sure logo work was a bit different) before getting to a printer.

I wish I was as brilliant a writer as most of you are, but my point is that it seems to me that the idea that "my kid can do that better" has crept in because our process (the material part at least) has reached the masses. Now, obviously, the true creative process is lost on them, but the maufacturing process is right at their fingertips, so the public now believes it is cheaper and easier to create product. I don't want to turn this into a old methods vs. new methods discussion, but it seems like the public has lost trust in design partly because the mystique of design has been lost. Thats not to say that I don't find fault in their accusations, but it is to say that as designers we have to realize this country does not understand or respect our practices. And while none of us like being teachers 24/7, the only way to combat this is to educate people on design. I have no doubt that Cummings & Good did that with their client, but the public is left unknowing. and I agree with Maven that C&G doesn't have to back up their choices, but maybe as a design community, we all should, regardless of whether or not we like the final product.

I apologize for the ramblings of this design student, I'm in awe of the beautiful writing of posters on here, and I'm probably out of my league in posting with professionals.
Derrick Schultz
11.23.04 at 01:10

Thanks Nipith for noting the shoddy journalism at the heart of this whole issue. The tide of anti-aesthetic and anti-intellectual rhetoric in America can be overwhelming, but there is one lesson to learned from its rise: influencing the media is entirely possible. The only alternative course of action I can muster is some vague idea about "education" which sounds simultaneously wishy washy and really, really hard.

At the very least some letters to the editor paraphrasing Nipith's crtiique are in order. Here is his e-mail address: FKeegan@ctpost.com
Dmitri
11.23.04 at 01:11

I emailed Mr. Keegan and called him in a follow-up--they were incorrectly claiming C&G are in Chesire and also had left the type off of the logo. (sparking comments by their editoral writer that at LEAST the logo should have the name of the commission)

As every designer knows, the logo is meant to be used with accompanying type when it's deployment may be ambiguous.

Keegan was not to keen on this!
David Streever
11.23.04 at 03:14

Derrick Schultz, you are exactly right. As frustrating as this discussion can feel for designers, it is also exciting as a pedagogical moment. Education is the only solution.

I think Derrick is right on the issue of technology. Designers who are questioning the logo, undoubtedly neonates to the profession, are victims of the ancient illusion that new technologies, like Photoshop, will save them labor while not cheating them out of the design experience and understanding gained by doing the work yourself.

Obviously there are larger prejudgments in play in this discussion. Beauty, whether artistic and natural or formalistic and industrial, will always have its importance questioned because its value is fundamentally intangible. This is why beauty is so compelling and also terrifying. It engages us because it needs us to take a stand on it, to react to it, judge it, communicate it. And if we are not sure where we stand, and if we feel insecure about why we ought to respond - for example, if it is important for us to have a socially acceptable response to a visual image - then a beautiful image that calls on us to respond will make us feel anxiety. And if some pretentious intellectual snob makes us feel inferior because our response isn't sophisticated, then we rightly feel resentment and hostility and skepticism about the whole business. Who likes to hear a snobbish intellectual gasbag show off at a cocktail party?

Pretentious artists or cultural critics give thoughtful people a bad rap by making thoughtfulness or genuine creative imagination look like a mere status symbol, which of course, it often is. But pretentious anti-intellectual intellectuals like Tom Wolfe, who assume at the beginning that there's nothing there, no craft, no function, no beauty, are equally guilty of an ugly kind of arrogance. Like the sado-masochistic design ramblings of Mr. Resh, these people just add to the miscommunication by reaffirming pre-judgments, and inspiring people to speak from resentment rather than insight.

Although Wolfe's attack on abstract logo design is a bizarre, almost, perverse misunderstanding of modernism, the roots of his view are quite natural and embody a grain of visual truth. Take the issue of interpretation and abstraction. It is a very natural idea that the more abstraction is involved with an image, the less direct or realistic the information portrayed by it will be. But images function in ways other than being pictures of what they are about. Visual signs, for example, a traffic light, have meaning too, but their meaning does not depend upon looking like what they mean. A green circular light is a perfectly eloquent way to tell someone to go, and more effective than a small moving icon of a car would be. Now here's where things get more complicated. Visual symbols, like logo designs, fall in between pictures and signs, because they are both concrete and abstract at the same time. A symbol, while not picturing anything that you could literally see with your eyes, can represent abstract relations that are, in their own way, more real or more pertinent than any retinal image. Think of how a road map is useful because of how it strips down all of the information to its bare essentials. Designmaven, Richard Grefé, Cummings & Good themselves and others have indicated just some of the abstract, institutional and functional relations within the Commission that the logo alludes to. Each visual association adds to the meaningfulness of the logo which, when coupled with the conventional associations the logo will develop to the Commission through repeated viewings, will breathe life into the symbol.

Critics of the logo have pointed to the open-ended, or "multivalent" structure of the logo as evidence of its defectiveness. But it is precisely the ways in which an abstract logo engages the viewer's visual imagination, by calling out for interpretation, that gets the viewer, well, engaged in the first place. This interactive ability of a medium, which the media theorist Marshall McLuhan called "coolness", explains why people, and especially children, love cartoons, because cartoons leave a lot up to the viewer, and thus include the viewer in the process of assembling visual meaning. It is deeply ironic that critics who are reacting to the need for interpretation in the logo are themselves exemplifying the effectiveness of the logo by raising a stir about it. A "hotter," less interactive design would have been met with a yawn.

As for Ahrum Hong's comment that the logo constitutes an "impenetrable abstraction," it must be noted that the capacity for visual imagination, although widespread, is not equally distributed among human beings. Consequently, like everything else in life, there will always be someone who says "I just don't see it". It would be an unrealistic and unproductive criterion for good design that the entire demos must instantly grasp its meaning. Radical democracy makes good politics but is insane in any field, like medicine or academia or graphic design, where it is practically important to identify expert competence.

A lot of the talk about the merits of the visual appearance of the design are beside the point. It is in fact too soon to tell whether the logo will ultimately serve its many communicative and bureaucratic functions effectively. That is because the criteria for good design are shaped by how well a logo functions, and unless you are a very experienced designer, that's not something you can just guess at by looking, much less if you nothing about the structure of the institution represented. But it's very tempting - and oddly gratifying - to think you can!
Justin Good
11.23.04 at 03:56

Okay, eating crow here:

Massive kudos to Cummings and Good for posting their explanation. It certainly wasn't necessary -- particularly during a time of surely unpleasant scrutiny on their end. But it's appreciated nonetheless.

While my (wholly inconsequential) personal opinion of the logo may remain the same (though it was very interesting to learn of its development from the creators), I couldn't help but feel pangs of guilt and regret almost immediately after posting my snotty comment yesterday.

Normally, it's just not in my nature to dog someone else's work, nor to criticize how a person makes a living. I reckon I just woke up that day a little too feisty, which happens.

Next time, I'll be sure to speak softer and more reasonably when offering such assessments, and with less myopia.

So: my apologies for coming off like a jerk. And good luck to Cummings and Good in handling this momentary public outcry, the likes of which, as I understand it, tend to be fierce for a while -- then forgotten.
Jon Resh
11.23.04 at 04:09

Wow! I really appreciate Peter and Jan coming on and posting their thoughts. While I agree with many people here that designers have to defend their work only with their clients, it was helpful to read and understand the basic thought process in arriving at the logo.

I wonder if it might help the public of Connecticut to have opportunity at such insights. I usually carry a process book with me, and clients are usually impressed with the process. They get a better sense of what they're getting for their money. Perhaps an design exhibition that show the work process from begin to end (not necessarily of this project) might help people to understand that while their kid could have done the logo too (after the fact), their kid would not have come up with it given the various legal, business, marketing, budgetary, and aesthetic constraints.
Nipith Ongwiseth
11.23.04 at 04:52

Yes! I absolutely agree with Nipith. As I've been immersing myself in learning about design for the last several years, I have found that the process of design is much more interesting and complex than I ever assumed it would be. Why not talk to people about it?

And when we do talk about it, we should do so clearly, in plain English - not in jumbled phrases of design jargon.
Ryan Nee
11.23.04 at 06:07

It fascinates me that so many designers look at trademarks in pretty much the same silly way that people who have never spent a minute considering identity design do.

A corporate mark, trademark, or logo is not a little piece of art. It is the mental equivalent of a machine tool—a tool that's used to build tools. The tools that are built on the mark are the various pieces of design that that have various tactical and strategic purposes. Many wonderful-looking little pieces of art are not very useful for their purpose. Some less-wonderful-looking things are much better tools.

Since I haven't looked at the range of design that this client needs, I don't know how good of a tool the mark in question would be. (The criticism of its effect in black and white is a case in point. I have no idea whether that's important for this client.) My guess is that it could be very useful, especially if not considered as a little thing one places in the corner of an ad but rather as a form to riff on.

While one can dismiss much (most?) work at a glance as amateurish or badly crafted, that is not the case for this mark. Second-guessing decisions without benefit of understanding the underlying strategy result in judgments like the AIGA and my friend Maven condemning NASA for making a good decision in using design as I would advise them to do—as an element of strategy rather than as subjectively-considered decoration.

It's clear that those decrying this mark in the press don't know what they are talking about. Anyone suggesting a contest is spectacularly ignorant. But we, as a group of "experts" don't know all that much, either.

Things I do know: [1] Even in a design firm-intensive area like CT is unlikely that one could find a design firm more qualified to have done this project, especially one willing to do the job for $10K. [2] Anyone who thinks that the design fee is too high has not done work on this level and has no idea what it takes to keep a design firm solvent or get a job like this done (including the client service/political end of the work.) and [3] little could be done by a design firm to avoid the silliness of those who expect government to get everything done for free.
Gunnar Swanson
11.23.04 at 06:10

"You want HOW MUCH to fix my transmission?! Don't you just undo that big bolt and then take off the thingamajig, and then drop the wachamacallit?"

If I were a mechanic my response would be..."Then YOU do it."

It seems part of our human nature to think that someone else's job is easy, or their area of expertise is basically nothing more than smoke and mirrors, and somehow we're all getting ripped off.

"Can't you just open one of those type books you people have and pick one?" "Don't you just like push a button?" "Isn't it just a cut and paste?"

"Ok. Then YOU do it".

I'd like to think that somewhere along the line, intelligent people understand that they have a need beyond their own abilities (and the abilities of their kids) and have, therefore, concluded that they need the services of a professional. I'd also like to think that those same intelligent people have performed due diligence in finding and qualifying the credentials of the resources available to them. After that, I 'd like to believe that these same intelligent people remember WHY they have selected the particular professional they have selected and are prepared to work through the always arduous political process of creating great work together as a team, regardless (and often in spite of) the whinings and dronings of arm-chair experts and general public at large.

I'm sure I read that somewhere along the line.
Bill Corridori
11.23.04 at 07:08

Just Chiming In

This has been the most interesting Editorial in Design Observer History.

The authors have never uploaded a Designer(s) or Consultancies Identity Design.

I understood why Michael used Tom Wolfe as bait. To get a reaction from Scholars. Tom Wolfe was right in reference to the public's perception of Modern Art.

Mr. Wolf was misinformed of the Merit of Abstract Semiotics in Identity Design. At the same time, Mr. Wolf's disgust was the copy-cat nature of many corporations trying to be Modern, Hip, and Cool.

Akin to the 1990s with the dot com boom. Landor didn't invent the swoosh.
Landor created more Identity Designs using swoosh devices than any Identity Consultancy in History. Everybody and their brother was eating off Landor's plate.

Wasn't it Frank Lloyd Wright that said Graphic Design is a profession where there's no originality. Because Designer(s) steal from one another.

I love Frank Lloyd Wright. Architects borrow from each other as well.

The comments negative or positive are how we as Designers learn and grow.

Dialog is always Good. However necessary among Designer(s).

The problem, there's no Curriculum leading to a Degree in Identity Design. Yet Identity Design is the Pinnacle of our Profession.

Identity Design is Confidential.

Essentially, Identity Design is a Grandfather Occupation. Passed Generationally. You learn from a Master. Or learn by working at one of the First Tier or Second Tier Identity Consultancies.
Not that many Grand Masters alive. Peter Good is one of them.

Drew Bierut and Justin Good, you're BLESSED. You're from Identity Design Royalty. (Pedigree)

Derrick, you're always welcome to Chime In.
Visit us also at Speak Up.

FYI, I'm the worst writer on this site.

Michael, make me look intelligent. By spending endless amount of time correcting my grammar, punctuation and sentence structure.

Something I wish Armin would do.

Many thanks to my Speak Up Compadres for Chiming In. Armin Vit, Marian Bantjes, and Mr. Universe, 8th Wonder of the Design World, Luminare, Gunnar Swanson.

To: Mrs. Jan Cummings Good, The Legendary, Peter Good, and Justin Good.

Heartfelt appreciation for your response. I've admired, appreciated, and learned from your work for many years. Although, I'm a Baby Boomer. I inherited and built an Identity and Design Archives. I grew up looking at your work in the same publications and annuals with my DesignFather(s) SAUL BASS,and PAUL RAND. To include, Designer(s) of the Pedigree of G. Dean Smith, DON ERVIN, S. Neil Fugita, Peter Gee, Gregory Fossella, Ken Parhurst, Tom Geismar, Joe Selame, Robert Gale, Robert Miles Runyan, Gerald Stahl. (many others)

Some of the aforementioned names should bring back memories and a few smiles.

Connecticut is a thriving Design and Art Community. You're in Good Company with Drenttel, Helfand, DON ERVIN, Jack Hough, Steve and Barbara Haines, Arthur Congdon. (others)

I'm sending my email to the author of the article this weekend.

Richard Grefe' many thanks for your BOUNDLESS ENERGY in educating the masses.

Design Observer Scholars, Peter Good is as Legendary as SAUL BASS, PAUL RAND, Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Massimo Vigelli. (others)

If you don't know. You can also Blame that on Journalism.

I'd like to thank my mother for the endless weekends she spent with me and my brother. Taking us to The National Gallery, and Museums. Educating us and teaching us Art and Culture.
DesignMaven
11.23.04 at 09:15

On behalf of Ric Grefe, I'd like to post the letter sent by AIGA to the Connecticut Post, the Hartford Courant, and Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell:

To Whom It May Concern:

A very public controversy has been developing in Connecticut concerning a designer, a logo design and the perception of the value of design. The facts of the case are that the state's Commission on Culture and Tourism commissioned Cummings and Good to design a new logo that would develop a unified identity for four disparate departments consolidated under the commission, for which the designer earned a $10,000 fee.

The Connecticut Post has written an editorial on the logo starting "We 'wuz robbed!" and ending with "We may never know exactly why the tourism bureau did what it did, but one thing is certain: Finding a more evident case of daylight robbery of taxpayers is quite rare."

The state budget officer and the governor have made statements questioning the value of the investment and its return. This in a state recently dubbed "Corrupticut" by an assistant US Attorney, in which the former mayors of Bridgeport and Waterbury and the State Treasurer were all found guilty of financial misconduct, the long time previous governor had resigned for receiving gifts from state employees and a state contractor, and the state regional waste authority had lost $220 million in a deal with Enron. The Connecticut Post's readers should certainly question the sense of perspective and balance of the editorial page on this issue of fiduciary accountability to the taxpayer.

To place this matter in context immediately, this was a very reasonable fee for an identity system for an agency. An experienced and talented designer like Peter Good, who is well-respected nationally, brings perspective, creativity and a thoughtful process for finding a visual language that will create a link between the disparate parts of a new agency. This is well below the rate normally charged for a logo design or identity program, either for public clients elsewhere in the country or certainly private corporations.

Quite appropriately, the Commission on Culture and Tourism realized that Cummings and Good were offering more than simply a design of a marque in considering what can become a memorable and unifying identity. This is an investment well worth the price.

Finding a marque or symbol that can be associated with a variety of departments within an organization is a valuable investment in achieving the advantages of consolidation (both among employees and your ultimate audiences and customers). It is often easy for someone to criticize because he or she does not like it or "get it" or feel it contains the whole story about what it represents.

Yet, the significance of the design is not always in whether it is representational, what it looks like or means. The value is ultimately in what the organization does that makes people associate success with the design. Think of the Nike swoosh. It has no explicit meaning or message; it is the association with what Nike does that gives it immense value and meaning. The same holds true with other famous marques, like the golden arches or the Woolmark. The logo design will be combined with the names of the agency and its departments, will be associated with the activities of the department, and will become a meaningful identity over time.

In this regard, the new design is very effective. It is simple. It is interesting. It will reproduce well in a variety of applications. It will lend itself to use with many messages, on print, banners or film materials that may involve many styles, and it will be memorable. These are some of the attributes you want in an identity.

As a Connecticut taxpayer and the executive director of the professional association for communication design, often seen as the arbiter of design relevance and excellence, I would give this identity very high marks for demonstrating a confident, progressive and market-oriented attitude for a state agency.

This is an agency that will be judged on its success in bringing audiences and economic activity to the cultural legacy of the state, competing against many other activities that know the value of highly produced advertising. I applaud the Commission staff for taking on this challenge in precisely the right manner: select a highly regarded and experienced professional designer who understands the challenge, after considering alternatives; pay a reasonable fee that respects the public nature of this assignment (less than would be charged a commercial client); accept a design that can help link the activities of tourism, arts, historic preservation, film museums and culture; and, now, perform in a manner that gives that identity value.

Richard Grefé

Executive Director, AIGA

Darien, Connecticut
William Drenttel
11.24.04 at 09:51

There are a number of related by distinct issues encompassed in this situation and this discussion. I disagree with the premise of this topic in two ways: that this situation is about design's lack of respect, and that it deserves more. To the second: in comparison to what?

I firmly believe (and was articulated by Bill Corridori above) that every honest, diligent practitioner of a service deserves respect for their efforts. By all reasonable measures, Cummings & Good are just that, and are getting a raw deal. But, unfortunately, many other activities get crushed on occasion by capricious forces--namely, the media. As has been pointed out, this is really a story of shoddy journalism and sensationalism, not the value of design in society per se. It's tougher for design as it's a rarefied service (not many people hire graphic designers) but there are few untouchable subjects when it comes to cynical, "populist," exposes.

For instance (being in the teaching biz), we have all the abstract praise for education but come contract time for teachers...you fill in the rest. But again, when it comes to cultural productions--right where design is--the story writes itself (which is just what the lazy, hack reposter and editorializer likes). When do you hear about art in the news? When something bizarre sells for an astronomical price or there's an obscenity scandal. This is likely a subset of this issue: our society's estrangment from its culture. And graphic design's uneasy, contradictory relationship to the broader arts.

But to circle back to getting respect, saying design doesn't get any seems to indicate it should be ahead of other activities. (Wasn't Rodney Dangerfield handsomely paid?) I step off the bandwagon at this point. I have more concern about the societal anti-intellectualism, and disdain for honest work overall. It's a situation rife with a myriad ironies--the tax policies of the government, for instance. Sure it's debatable, but by many objective standards it seems tens of millions of people voted against their economic best interest a few weeks ago.

When designers complain about lack of respect, I try to imagine what the world would look like if that "respect" was delivered. If it just means more work for designers, and/or higher fees...I don't know. Because of their self-interest in this Logogate situation, I doubt any counter-arguments by designers will have much traction. And will this story really change things in any way? It's a black eye for sure, especially for Cummings & Good, undesirable and undeserved, but (I hope for the C&G's future) just another disposable "scandal." Back to business as usual. People who have needs for designers will hire them. Those who don't won't (a oversimplification but not by that much).

And now, I'm going to imagine what a DesignMaven letter to the editor will do for the public image of graphic designers. Happy Holidays!
Kenneth FitzGerald
11.24.04 at 10:38

After reading this extremely informative and long forum, i still haven't heard too much mentioned about what i believe to be the most essential point of this story: the Public's perception of graphic design.

Maybe this is a regional experience but living in New Jersey and working In NY as a designer i get to experience extreme views on design by the general public. In NYC, there is more respect given to design and designers. Meaning some busines's and people in general realize the potential that good design has in generating more business. In essence graphic design is seen as an valued profession.

In jersey, people generally do not see the value in good graphic design and view design as a lesser profession. Something any hack who spends some time on the computer can figure out. I can't help but see this issue as myopic of this problem.

I'm always reading that the public has to be taught what good design is? But what is 'good' is too subjective. Even in this forum we have people disagreeing with what 'good" is.

I hate to speak in general terms but Graphic designers have such a disconnect with the general public I see it as nearly impossible to justify our profession to "anti-intellectual intellectuals" as Tom Wolfe or others already stubborn in their distaste and comtempt for our mispercieved materialistic nature.

The outcome are justifiable attacks on designer fees by a public who doesn't understand the time and skill level it takes to make a professional logo.( even if the journalist didn't do all his homework, and even if it was slow day in the news office, the fact that they decided a designers fee was a viable news story says something )


jd
11.24.04 at 05:18

Wow, count the panoply of logos shown at The Connecticut Tourism Site, especially across the bottom. There's also some effort (it looks like) to get people to see 'CT' and think 'Connecticut.'

Mmmm...good luck...

jcburns
11.24.04 at 05:37

Mr. Fitzgerald:

When you send your letter to the editor.
Make sure you REQUEST he print a retraction.

Happy Holidays indeed.
DesignMaven
11.24.04 at 07:55

If $10,000 were paid for someone to sit down, think up a logo, and come up with this result, it would be overpaid.

However that is not what was paid for. Instead it is a fee charged for all the hassles attendant to the "design by committee" process that is a matter of course in commercial art.

The "ignorant masses" that so many posters here seem to feel have dissed them, are looking at a rather unspectacular logo and its five-figure pricetag and see something wrong. Few non-designers know enough about the design process to put their finger on what it is, but they see a problem, and they are not hallucinating.

What's wrong is "design by committee" itself; this is an animal that solely exists for the "commercial" purposes of commercial art, and the public is not wrong to express shock when this beast rears its peculiarly ugly head. This very boring design of five concentric circles, is probably not the best design created. Many better designs were undoubtedly jettisoned by the government beaureaucrats.

The public is not railing at artists; they are railing at the government beaureaucrats, the ones who sat on their rumps, ruminated over various designs and found lots of stupid reasons to reject better designs than this, and paid for the privilege of doing so.

And who are you all railing at? The public.

"Rodneydangerfieldization" implies that you feel commercial design "gets no respect." Well then, why not earn it? Get rid of design by committee. Stop putting forward mediocre work that the client will find less objectionable than your best.

Or else realize that your are more "Commercial" than "Designer," take the money, and stop complaining.


r martin
11.27.04 at 03:26

r. martin:

Perhaps it would serve you better if you did your homework. Had you listened to the conversation to which you just contributed, you would realize "from the horses mouth (C&G)" that the design in question was not created by committee; that the most challenging part of the design process was not making consensus between clients. The challenge was to make a design for four different clients. Do you see the difference? Not "by the clients", ... "for the clients".

Four agencies in one, ..that's a tall order. However, the challenges of this design are not an excuse for what you label and dismiss as "unspectacular,"rather they are a testament to the ingenuity, simplicity and power of it.

Maybe you should cool it with your condemnations. It seems that in this particular case by labeling this design with your hyped-up buzz words you fail the see beauty of its function.
Jesse Good
11.27.04 at 09:52

R. Martin--I think the problem you are having here is one of personal bias, as you seem to be trying to make a point about commercialisation and design that is evading me.

You also seem to have inside knowledge into this particular design, as no one I know involved has ever heard of these "better logos" or "design by committee."

I don't know what your background is or how you came by this knowledge, but if you'd like to share some of these better logos with us it would be appreciated, rather then tying together an irrelevant argument with the assumption that the "rump" sitting State beauracrats have bad taste and chose to pay more for a worse logo.

I think it's in very poor taste that you would contribute to an issue you clearly misunderstand. I believe you are an editor--and if this is how every editor works, it's no surprise to me that the horrible CT Post article made it to print.

Quite frankly--your opinion on this matter is no more relevant, no more important, then that of the guy who cooks at LaFayette Grill who has been so heavily quoted. It's not because you aren't a designer or an artist; it's because you've choosen to remain blissfully ignorant and instead use the forum as a sounding board to illustrate your personal views and bias. There was plenty of information both here and elsewhere with which you could have familiarised yourself first.
David Streever
11.29.04 at 09:33

There are bigger problems with federal government spending then little Connecticut's state government buying a $10,000 logo identity. This identity package could have been more expensive considering it was designed for the government. Fortune 500 companies may be charged up to $200,000 for such a package, according to Michael Bierut. Is it fair for the logo to get bashed just because some people don't understand and only have eyes for the price?

A logo has great meaning to the company it represents. As a designer, one must become part of that company and find its purpose, showing meaning in something simple. One image is supposed to do all that? The abstract circle design is significant to the ideas that are portrayed by the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. Design firm, Cummings and Good, tried to reflect a sense of "one entity with four divisions". Personally, I think this idea is easily seen. The circle pattern is repetitive to demonstrate one entity with each grouping of circles looking slightly different, only in color. This signifies four divisions. Even though society may not grasp this simple idea doesn't make the concept bad.

Not every logo is completely understood. Some people may have their own ideas/interpretations about the significance while others may fully understand the intended concept. Take into consideration the Wachovia bank logo. This is an abstract identity with varying lines and colors. However, you don't hear anyone complaining about how much money was spent on this unidentified idea. The only reason the Connecticut logo is an issue is because tax payer's money was spent. But how many of us disagree with the war overseas and we all seem to have shut up about it recently. Many of us disagree with how the government has been controlled during Bush's term, but he was re-elected. Why is the $10,000 such a big deal? We should be more concerned with the deficit, report your opinions about that, not a logo that only affects Connecticut dwellers. There is an estimated 3,460,503 people that lived in Connecticut during 2002, according to Census records. In order to pay for the $10,000 logo, each person would be charged .oo3 cents from their taxes. If only that wasn't such a high fee of .oo3 cents maybe I could afford to buy another car to pollute the earth and pay hundreds more for recycling. If only!

I resent the fact that the American public seems to have a beef with designers. Every person is good at something different. We all need and desire to find our place in society that we belong to. You don't hear me complaining about the monopoly created by electric companies or cable companies. Designers are not trying to take over the world one logo at a time. We are trying to educate, communicate, and change world views. The examination into culture is an honorable service. My job as a designer should be valued and respected as much as the plumber; we just supply different necessities to the people that request these specific labors.
Melissa
11.29.04 at 11:03

The fact that it is controversial is a good thing. They should stick with it. If the identity design is well implemented, in time, people's mind will change.

Why? Because at the current time, the general public can only see the logo as an isolated element that doesn't mean anything.
What they don't see is that this logo has a lot of potential. The logo itself can be the starting point a whole new graphical language based on those rings.
Free of preconcieved associations, it is a language that everybody in time will learn and automaticly associate with CCCT. So if the public doens't understand it today, thats okay. It's also part of the process
Patrik
12.02.04 at 01:57

Even Paul Rand's "abc" logo was questioned when launched.
Why does it take a famous designer, and an investment of 10,000 to 100,000 $ to design oops, write the letters abc, in a circle. This discussion dates back to similar discussions in "Speak up" about what the credibility of graphic design as a profession really is. There's always going to be people who have a problem with everything that goes on in this world. It's time we as graphic designers learn to ignore those who are ignorant, and move on.
bigvig
12.04.04 at 07:26

This morning, on the front page of the Hartford Courant's Sunday "Commentary" section, this essay ran as an OpEd piece:

THE LOGIC BEHIND THE LOGO
Critics Underestimate The Power Of Design

December 5, 2004
By RICHARD GREFE and WILLIAM DRENTTEL

Journalists at the Bridgeport-based Connecticut Post recently broke a story about the design of a new logo for the state Commission on Culture and Tourism - a trademark intended to visually unify four separate departments consolidated under the aegis of the commission. The designers were Janet Cummings and Peter Good of the Chester-based studio Cummings & Good. For their efforts, they received a fee of $10,000, prompting the Post to suggest taxpayer larceny. "We wuz robbed!" the newspaper alleged.

Coming at the conclusion of a year tinged with financial corruption and gubernatorial misconduct, such questions of fiduciary responsibility may seem timely - even prudent. In this case, however, journalistic scrutiny of matters of design is deeply inappropriate and woefully misguided.

Trademarks, or logos, are unique symbols that help identify a product, a brand or an institution. They are visual metaphors with a host of meanings, depending on the context of their use. A logo is like a signature: It's an emblematic stamp that establishes an institution's visual identity. Translating the goals of an institution into such visual terms is the principal task of the designer. Good logos are memorable and visually distinctive, and they last over time; they serve their institutions by creating a recognizable sign. The logo for The Courant is not the same as The New York Times' or the Connecticut Post's: This is one way we know which newspaper to buy.

The legendary designer Paul Rand (1914-96) once explained that a trademark is created by a designer but made by a corporation. In his view, a trademark only becomes recognizable over time and through repeated use. Such reciprocity - between a client and a designer, a trademark and its audience - testifies to its enduring role as more than a static symbol. It also explains, perhaps, why it is so difficult to measure a logo in quantifiable terms. Really successful logos sometimes attain a level of cultural recognition that surpasses the product they represent. The Nike swoosh, for example, is more recognizable to the average consumer than an actual pair of running shoes made by Nike.

Rand, a longtime Connecticut resident who created memorable logos for IBM, Westinghouse and UPS, was an indefatigable advocate of the power of design in general - and the value of corporate (or institutional identity) in particular. He was a devout modernist who aimed above all for simplicity, geometry, intelligence and readability. Rand would have loved Cummings & Good's trademark for the Commission on Culture and Tourism for precisely these reasons. It is simple. It is identifiable. It will translate well in a variety of media - in print and film, on stationery and billboards, silk-screened onto signage and integrated into international initiatives that promote tourism in our state.

Connecticut is fortunate to have a long, distinguished roster of exceptionally gifted designers. In addition to Rand, longtime Ridgefield resident Bradbury Thompson (1911-95) served on the U.S. Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee and designed more than 90 postage stamps during a long and prolific career. Working with Josef Albers in the 1950s, Bethany-based Alvin Eisenman created a masters program in graphic design at Yale, a program he chaired for more than 40 years. And Cummings & Good has, over the past decade, contributed new logos for The Mark Twain House & Museum; the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art; the Old State House; the Connecticut Humanities Council; the University of Connecticut; Connecticut College; the Bartlett Arboretum; and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas and the Special Olympics World Games held in New Haven.

Connecticut's Commission on Culture and Tourism will invariably be judged on its ability to boost both audiences and economic activity within the state. We applaud the commission for taking on this challenge, for selecting highly regarded and experienced professional designers who understand this challenge, and for paying a reasonable fee that respects the public nature of this assignment. Cummings & Good did its job, and the members of the commission did theirs.

Richard Grefe of Darien is executive director of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. William Drenttel of Falls Village is president emeritus of the American Institute of Graphic Arts.
William Drenttel
12.05.04 at 12:00

I think the best (and cheapest) way for businesses to exploit students for a logo design comes from my Dad's (a high school art teacher)classroom. Local businesses who didn't want to pay top dollar for design firms would hold "logo design contests" for my dads students. That way the student gets a $20 gift certificate to Wendy's and the local business gets a cheap logo. Brilliant...
Jack Zerby
12.05.04 at 03:29

This morning, on the "Arts" section of the Hartford Courant, this article by Frank Rizzo ran as an arts coverage piece:

GOING AROUND IN CIRCLES OVER LOCO LOGO DESIGN
December 5, 2004

BY FRANK RIZZO

The Nike swoosh. The Target target. The CBS eye.

These are simple and striking company logos that over the years have become very identifiable in our branding universe. They speak to us in the language of visual shorthand, in the vocabulary of commercial hieroglyphics, in the status of symbols.

But some might say such abstract symbols are too vague or too easy or - when the bill comes due from the graphic designers - too expensive. "I could do better than that!"

Ah, the art world has heard that refrain time and again, this sour song of the conceptually challenged whose second chorus is: "Even my kid could do better than that!"

Think Joseph Albers' squares. Or Jackson Pollock's dribblings. Or even Maya Ying Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial. What does it mean? Squares, goo, a slab. First reactions are often: It's ugly. Pretentious. Undecipherable. The implication often is: You're trying to pull one over on us boobs.

Well, the boobs are out in force these days, perhaps empowered by the red-state victory and the mandate to change things not just politically but culturally.

And where better to start than with an arts group.

All these negative comments come to mind over the twit fit that some are having in response to the new logo that was recently unveiled by the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism.

The logo was created by Cummings & Good Graphic Design of Chester. Several others were submitted. The Chester firm, the high bidder, got the contract for a $10,000 fee. Several others submitted proposals for a few thousand less.

The commission is this mash-mash of agencies, departments and offices that state legislators merged last year. Motivating it all was not the common sense that the coalition would be a natural fit. Instead, it was a backdoor strategy to get the tourism department to reduce its district offices.

But when all were merged, there they all were: the folks in the arts, history, film, culture and tourism worlds trying to speak the Esperanto of good government.

The original name of the new agency was this tongue twister: the Commission for the Arts, Tourism, Culture, History and Film, nicknamed CATCH-F (which sounded to many like "catsup." That certainly would have made the logo easier to depict, with a bottle of Heinz - oops, that's Pennsylvania.)

Wiser heads eventually prevailed, and the commission was redubbed the Commission on Culture and Tourism - while still embracing the worlds of history, art and film, though not specifically named.

After a shaky start, the new hydra-headed mega-agency with a $25 million budget finally emerged. Once it figured what it was about, it was time to communicate that to the public in a striking visual way.

All state agencies don't necessarily have to have a first-class visual logo - most don't, and if you look at some of the logos for some of these agencies, you'd see some pretty lame designs - but the Commission on Culture and Tourism is, after all, an agency that is supposed to 1.) stand for things classy and artistic, and 2.) go out into the world and sell Connecticut.

For this serious marketing work, you need a flag to fly.

But unlike other single-identity agencies this group also represents a variety of specialties. Tourism promotes the entire state's bounty of attractions; history represents a decidedly different set of ... er ... historic images; the state's arts institutions represent a wide range of disciplines; and then there's film, reeling off to the side.

What singular image could be created for this mess of a commission with such a wide representation? Any ideas? Yes? I'm waiting ...

I thought so.

So the chosen firm did what any good graphic group would do in a similar situation: It embraced the enemy of the literal-minded - it went abstract.

The logo consists of four circles emerging out of the four corners of the logo's square, each with five circular bands (and in so doing creating a negative space that could be interpreted as a diamond or star or nothing.)

It's simple. It's distinctive. It suggests.

Whether it's great or not, I think reasonable people can quibble. Yes, there's a clean-line primness to the design, evoking a corporate-committee-don't-offend style that won't match the aesthetics of some. But one can make a case that it does its job. And in color, it looks cool in an op-art kind of way. But that's just me.

But some people hated it. Metaphors with taxpayer dollars! Imagine! Or rather, don't imagine.

But instead of criticizing the art ("Have a conversation about art? Not me!") they attacked the cost. "This thing cost $10,000!" Of course, focusing on the final price tag disregards that such designs can cost much more (Hartford Stage's new logo went well above $10,000); that the fee included months of meetings with state committees; that this was a Connecticut designer with a world-class reputation giving a deep discount.

One downstate editorial writer suggested that the design should have been found by having a school contest, ignoring that such an endeavor would be a logistical nightmare to implement, judge, and (probably) redo - and probably would have cost more than $10,000. "Let the kids do it!" Sure, and let the kids do your job, too, while we're at it (how hard can it be?) and see how well things get done.

Would amateurs come up with anything more successful that visually symbolizes all the separate elements of this unusual state agency?

Of course, when anyone stirs the smallest ember of controversy into a bit of a flame, you can count the minutes before some pandering pol weighs in with their opinion.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell didn't take long. Through her spokesman a statement was issued: "The governor's office was not involved in this decision. But it certainly seems that the commission could have found better ways to use $10,000."

Rell was not involved in former Gov. John G. Rowland's hot tub brouhaha either, but I must have missed that press release when she was lieutenant governor saying those funds could have been better used.

But it's nice to see Rell more involved in the minutiae in government, especially when it underscores her image as a tut-tutting cost-cutter. More impressive would have been a: "Yes, this is a design by a world-class Connecticut art firm and they managed to come up with a stylish logo for an impossible task at a fee well below the rates they receive in the commercial world."

That would be just too much to ask - and a symbol of its own.
William Drenttel
12.05.04 at 03:37

So if the public doens't understand it today, thats okay.

Actually not true in some situations. I am reminded of a client I worked with a few years back. I worked with a University who attempted to redesign their logo. I wasnt part of the logo project but it was handled by a reputable NYC firm which I will not name. The university unveiled the new logo and a revolution occured. Those protesting even launched this site:
http://web.archive.org/web/20021130094057/http://savethelogo.com
http://web.archive.org/web/20021208173638/www.savethelogo.com/logos.htm

the site isnt live now but i found it in the archives.
Michelle
12.07.04 at 11:23

Interesting that there's no distinguishing between art and design...
KHougesen
12.07.04 at 10:40

Lots of email, I'm sure, about this one (I've seen some of it), and in the news/entertainment hybrid that's a good thing. But here's a question that seems not to have been asked by either Tom Gorgola or the Post: did Cummings and Good charge the state more than they would have charged anyone else? In other words, is this logo comparable to a $600 toilet seat for the Pentagon or a $35 model from Home Depot. If you had asked it, the story would have diminished and only appealed to the chronically indignant...unless, perhaps, the design firm had bought someone a hot tub before getting the assignment.

There is a wide range of charges possible for this kind of work, but a little research would have shown that this particular charge seems to fit in the reasonable-under-the-circumstances, not inflated at all. The problem with the logo test involving Glagowski and Fasanella, is that there's no client, so no client demands, no client input, no client judgement. Life with no client input would be heavan, but this demonstration is like batters showing off their swings when there is no one pitching.
Sean Kernan
12.08.04 at 02:07

just to change the subject for a second.

i'm reading the website for the first time because peter sent me here to check out the buz.

and i notice that it's difficult to tell which comment is from whom. i mean the space between the end of the text and the author's name is larger than between the previous author's name and the text - so it looks like khougesen's comment begins "lots of email..." but that's actually Sean Kernan's comment.

do you know what i mean?

anyway. thanks to peter and janet for taking the heat that we probably all deserve.
bob appleton
12.08.04 at 02:56

Methinks many of you miss the point. I doubt people would've kicked up such a fuss if the logo worked. It doesn't. It's meaningless and ugly. It doesn't reduce well (it's jagged in the PDF and looks like hell, for example). It's even more meaningless in black and white. It in no way even suggests Connecticut.

Not only that, have you seen the way it's used on the website and in the PDF? Just plopped in there. Is it any wonder that we're pissed off about the money (yeah, I'm a CT taxpayer)? Is this only the first piece of a rebranding package, or is this it? It's certainly not up to Cummings & Good Graphic Design's usual standards.
lee
12.19.04 at 04:58

One could make a case that the design has failed, in light of the reaction it has gotten. (Or is the only measure of success its delivery?)

LeMel
leMel
12.22.04 at 06:56

leMel--I'd certainly disagree and I think most designers would as well. I think that the people who have written before me have expressed it more eloquently though.

Lee--"methinks" you've definitely missed the point! How is this logo ugly? Meaningless? Did you read all the discussion on it? The logo is very complex & certainly subtle, but it has quite a bit of meaning.

It reduces beautifully. However, it was used improperly in the pdf. As to the website, what do you expect when you have an OLD website with no other updates?

The commission is redoing their website now, but these things take time. The logo is gorgeous & will be beautiful when shown.
streever
02.02.05 at 08:59

L O G O S are deep constructs that tweak our layers of genetic and social programming. They are visual field reorganizers. This particular imago divides us at our Kore self. Review the pi phi description in "The Da Vinci Code" and let me know if it slices the pi in a new order for you. Caitlin
caitlin addison-howard
03.21.05 at 01:29


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Bierut studied graphic design at the University of Cincinnati, and has been a partner in the New York office of Pentagram since 1990. Michael is a Senior Critic in Graphic Design at the Yale School of Art.
More Bio >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY Michael Bierut

Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design
Princeton Architectural Press, 2007

Looking Closer 5
Allworth Press, 2006

Looking Closer 4
Allworth Press, 2002

Looking Closer 3
Allworth Press, 1999

Looking Closer 1
Allworth Press, 1994

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An elegy to the makeready — those sheets of paper, re-fed into a press to get the ink balances up to speed, leaving a series of often random, palimpsest-like, multiple impressions on a single surface — in the digital age.

Cranbrook Commencement Address
"I come to you, like all commencement speakers, as an emissary from the future." The commencement address delivered by Julie Lasky at the Cranbrook Academy of Art on May 9, 2008.

Greening the Grocery Store
It turns out that the "recycling symbol" at the bottom of my yogurt container had nothing to do with its recyclability. So why was it there? My curiosity led to findings around which I built a design class.

O.H.W. Hadank
Paul Rand held Hadank in the highest esteem because he practiced modernist formal principles even though he did not follow its dogma or style. And most important, as Rand said “Hadank was then and always an original. A profile of O.H.W. Hadank by Steven Heller...