“‘Unknown’ is one of the best designers in the business. Biscuit brand Tunnock’s has traded on its beautiful design for decades, but there seems to be no record of who created it. Household cleaning brand Ronson’s Oily Bird (1963) is the perfect piece of packaging design – you would have expected the designer to spend the rest of their career talking about it.
More recently, I believe the creator of the English Heritage logo is still a mystery, even though the logo only dates back to 1984 – strange that English Heritage doesn’t document its own design heritage.
Maybe D&AD should create a Pencil to the Unknown Designer, engraved with the names of all these brilliant creations – a humbling reminder that it’s not all about personal acclaim.”
“I don’t lose sleep over logos – but that wasn’t always true. The making of my two books, LOGO and Logotype, raised a good few logo mysteries. Who designed the logos of CNN or Esso, for example, or the Levi’s red tab?
The biggest mystery for me, though, is the thinking behind some companies’ identity decisions. My pet example is Miquelrius, the 175-year-old Spanish maker of spiral-bound notebooks. Their lovely, loopy logotype of old was tweaked over the years, but it was still a treasure. Now it’s been replaced by one of the most forgettable and anonymous wordmarks you’ll ever see. Why? They should be strung up by their spirals.”
“My love of cinema started back in the mid 1950s. Many of the films I was watching were reruns from the 1940s. Every film was fronted by a logo and it would set up a sense of anticipation. Some of those original logos are still with us, while many have long gone.
One of my favourites was RKO Radio Pictures, designed in 1929. It fronted many great films from Citizen Kane to It’s a Wonderful Life. The logo consisted of a giant transmitter sitting on top of the world, surrounded by dramatic cumulus clouds.
The studio name was animated in electric shock-style lettering, to the sound of pulsating morse code. I have no idea who created it, but I always get that childhood sense of excitement whenever I see it.”
Booting up the original console, gamers were welcomed by the Sony Computer Entertainment and PlayStation logos, merged together by an unforgettable wash of digital sound waves – like the hangar door slowly opening into another dimension of excitement and adventure.
Who created this logo’s sound and what was their thought process? I’m sure the answers exist, but for me, it is a mystery intertwined with too many memories to be solved.”
“In the internet age, there are very few logo design mysteries that can’t be solved by a quick Google – that is to say, well-known logos.
I often walk past a kebab shop in Archway, London, that in recent years was given a makeover, also adopting a new ‘logo’. Every time I walk past the shop, this new ‘logo’ annoys me.
The last A of the name has been replaced by a graphic depiction of doner meat on a skewer. My issue is that, however nice the graphic styling is, the word is ‘KEBAB’ – not ‘KEBUB’.
The mystery is – why replace the ‘A’ of ‘Kebab’ and not the ‘Y’ of ‘Archway’ with the graphic depiction?”
“I’ve long been fascinated by that Neighbourhood Watch sign [Mellor & Scott, which is working with Neighbourhood Watch, is currently trying to track down the original logo designer].
It’s such a politically-charged brief. How do you achieve the balance of cultures and ages, make it authoritative but not threatening, make the people content but not smug?
The previous version was less successful and now looks charmingly incongruous (I live in the countryside and we still have that old version dotted around).
Other approaches have included typography and even meerkats (long before Aleksandr), but none have been as enduring as that yellow roundel. I hope you find the illustrator – I’d like to pass on my congratulations.”
Can you help solve any of these mysteries? Do you have a logo design puzzler you’d like to see solved? Let us know in the comments section below.