How to Make a Better Logo #3: Industrial Electronic Supply, Inc.
Wanna know a little secret? I’m enjoying this personal project much more than I thought I would. Despite the excitement, I’m still working out the basic protocol for the project. In general, I’m still not sure what to call the project. I’m also questioning whether or not people actually enjoy it. Maybe I need to make it more helpful to readers somehow? Make each entry a learning moment? Less critical? More (humorously) critical? Do I do a full write up on each logo fix? Will each one even deserve a full write up? Perhaps I only write about the ones with a teachable moment?
Basically, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing except that I’m trying to make better (not necessarily good) versions of some of the logos that I see. If you are one of the few people that happen to read this and happen to care enough to engage, let me know what you think. I know how to make logos better, but how do I make this better?
For this installment, I’m going to try out a new write up structure. I’ll organize it into teachable moments.
Here we go…
Industrial Electronic Supply, Inc (IES). To be honest, I do not remember where I originally saw this logo. Bad logos always seem to pop up like a Pokémon in the most inconvenient moments.
So far, I have not been able to catch a photo of the actual instance I see the culprit, so I’m left to quickly look it up on google images.
Teaching Moment #1: Brand Naming
Industrial. Electronic. Supply. Inc.
If you know me at all, then you can see that we already have a fundamental problem. The name is just SO long. I’ve already talked about poor naming in a previous post, so I won’t get too deep into it here. Consider this though, unless you’re Prince (or the artist formerly known as Prince), we all have multiple names. I have a first, middle, and last name. Aside from calling out the next customer at the DMV, do we ever call anyone by all of their names? Do we use two? How often do we even use one? If your name can be shortened to a simple, single syllable sound, that is the sound you are called. I am simply Russ. Sometimes Russell. Rarely Russell Wadlin. Practically never Russell Vance Wadlin. Brands just need to put some thought into how one might end up using their brand’s name. Strive for as few syllables as possible. We buy from Nike, not Stylish Athletic Sneaker Supply Company.
In a previous logo fix post, I took the liberty to change the name to something shorter. A shorter name is good for long term branding because it is easier to say, more memorable, and better for brand recall. It’s also better for design. A logo built from a shorter name can use space more effectively. I almost always strive for a design that is as square as possible. This is helps with legibility at small scales and in weird applications. However, a symmetrical/square design just isn’t always possible. So I create variants or a flexible logo system so that there’s always a legible option.
All that being said, for this logo fix I didn’t bother to change the name.
I always start my designs on paper. Before there’s any sketching, I simply write out the brand name several times. In upper case, lower case, cursive, etc., just playing around to see if there are any opportunities to capitalize on. Sure enough, there was with Industrial Electronic Supply, Inc. I quickly realized that I could lock everything into a 3x10 grid.
Now, I don’t mind some design for the sake of it, but I definitely prefer to have a reason for my design decisions. So now, I just needed a reason to use this 3x10 spacing grid idea.
Teaching Moment #2: Visual Trick
Personally, I consider a visual trick to be almost anything that differentiates a logo from just a basic font. At its best, a visual trick can be something that one doesn’t even realize for years. Once the trick has been discovered, you experience a smile in the mind. This moment can be very valuable for a brand.
Did you know that there’s an arrow between the E and X in the FedEx logo?
Is the Amazon logo a smile, or an arrow pointing from A to Z (because they sell everything from A to Z)?
So, what’s going on with the IES logo?
We have a sans serif font. One word, the largest, is in all caps. Is it the most important? The second line is much smaller and set in title case. The I and E are scaled up quite a bit and a sprocket sits on top.
First, I have no idea why the sprocket is there. Sprockets are industrial, I guess? But it looks like a bicycle sprocket.
Second, the sprocket, the I and the E are all composed together in a way that makes me suspect that the three objects might be representing a single thing. I just don’t know what it is.
Third, the I and E have been scaled disproportionally (stretched, squished, whatever you want to call it) so now they do not share the same proportions as the rest of the letters. Bad.
I suppose all of this could work as a visual trick (like I said, that monolithic sprocket, I and E might represent something). I just think it could be done better. A visual trick should be obvious (when you know), invisible (when you don’t know), but never confusing or misleading (why a bicycle sprocket?).
I quickly looked through their site for some sort of jolt of inspiration. It didn’t take long for me to get an idea for my visual trick. I noticed they have a bunch of products that have a rows of sockets on them. Then, I remembered the opportunity for the 3x10 grid that I discovered. Boom, now there is a connection. A visual trick with a bit of story and purpose behind it.
Overall, I used this logo fix as an opportunity for me to create a logo in the same spirit as some of the great mid century corporate identities that I love so much. You just can’t beat the classics.
Come up with better or shorter brand names and create more elegant visual tricks. And unless you’re the next David Carson, just avoid stretching type in general. Please?