A logo can never tell the whole story

I read with interest guest blogger Patrick Argent’s article regarding National Grid’s erstwhile logo designed by John McConnell from Pentagram. (www.designweek.co.uk, 8 November).

He states that ’Its contemporary counterpart is only remarkable by its bleak drabness offering little or no level of recognition.’

What makes an effective logo and what does not is a perennial question in the graphic design industry. While I’m all for creating logos and identities which try to capture the ethos and values of a company, a logo very rarely stands alone, and it’s what surrounds it that matters.

As developers of National Grid’s visual identity we were asked to bring to life the values and character of the company – something that it recognised had been lacking in its identity in recent years. Although the logo was to remain the same, we did address certain issues regarding letter-spacing (see above, top), positioning, tagline and consistency of use. This, combined with supporting graphics and imagery (see above), has elevated National Grid’s identity and now properly reflects the confidence within the organisation.

While I’m not in the business of criticising other people’s work, I do have to comment on the aforementioned logo. I have every respect for McConnell – his record speaks for itself, and it’s wonderful to see his iconic fashion branding for Biba back in business.

But I’m not a great fan of his old National Grid logo and can’t agree with Argent that, ’It concisely and sharply expressed the very nature of the organisation in a serious, authoritative, yet visually dynamic way.’ The electricity pylon logo of a decade ago cannot represent the real benefits that National Grid brings to us in today’s world, guaranteeing the supply of electricity and gas for all, supporting our vital services and making sure we can brew a cuppa in the morning.

Our work for the public-facing construction signage depicts, simply and graphically, this vital service and how something which is taken for granted affects people’s everyday lives. It expresses the nature of what National Grid stands for and is helping change the way employees see the company. So, yes, a logo is important, but it can never tell the whole story.

Peter Ward, Creative Director, Four-letter Word Design, by e-mail

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