Mark Spencer, forensic botanist

Mark Spencer forensic botanist logo

Mark Spencer is a forensic botanist. In other words, he helps police with criminal cases where plant-based evidence can make a difference. His visual identity, designed by London-based Fieldwork Facility, needed to be intelligent, simple, and memorably executed, and part of the challenge was to avoid any insensitivity to the gravity of Mark’s work.

“In forensic botany the main tools at Mark’s disposal are his observational skills and his vast botanical knowledge,” said FF’s Robin Howie, who created the vectorised logo from his photograph of a leaf with good “eye” qualities.

Mark Spencer forensic botanist cards
Mark Spencer forensic botanist logo

When not working in forensics, Mark is a field botanist, public speaker, and TV presenter. To cater to his varied lines of work, the word “forensics” was omitted from the logo lockup, allowing two phrases in the identity to hint at the different roles — “Plants Hold Secrets” used exclusively for the forensic work, while “Plants Tell Stories” used for Mark’s public-facing work.

Mark Spencer forensic botanist

“We commissioned photographer Robin Friend to join us with Mark Spencer on a walk through the British countryside simulating a forensic investigation,” says Howie. “For Plants Hold Secrets we photographed plants that are often useful in forensic investigations, and for Plants Tell Stories we photographed plants that are non-indigenous to the UK.”

Mark Spencer forensic botanist
Mark Spencer forensic botanist envelope
Mark Spencer forensic botanist letterhead
Mark Spencer botanist identity
Mark Spencer botanist identity
Mark Spencer botanist identity

Thoughtful, well executed design by Fieldwork Facility. Via CR.


The Pixar logo and the hopping desk lamp

Luxo Jr. poster, Pixar

Based in Emeryville, California, just across the Golden Gate bridge from San Francisco, the American animation studio came to life in 1979 when George Lucas recruited Ed Catmull from the New York Institute of Technology to head Lucasfilm’s Computer Division. Seven years later, in 1986, Steve Jobs bought the Computer Division from George Lucas, establishing the 40-person team as an independent company named Pixar. That was the same year Steve Jobs hired Paul Rand.

Pixar Animation Studios
Pixar studio gates in Emeryville, California.

That same year, Pixar completed the short film “Luxo Jr.” It was John Lasseter’s official directorial debut, and became the first 3D computer animated film to be nominated for an Oscar, in the category of Best Short Film (Animated).

With that, “Luxo Jr.” became an integral part of the Pixar branding, serving as the mascot and appearing in Pixar’s production logo before and after each film. When the logo’s shown in a film intro, Luxo Jr. hops in from the right, stops next the letter ‘I’ of PIXAR, and jumps on it until the letter’s flattened, just as the ball in the original Luxo Jr. film was burst and squashed.

The logo animation has differed slightly across the Pixar film catalogue. In Pixar’s WALL-E (2008), for example, the film’s lead character makes an appearance, changing Luxo Jr.’s light bulb.

In other films, everything in the sequence — the bouncing, the fade out, the light turning off — is timed to match whatever music’s playing at the time of the start or end credits. It’s that attention to detail that makes Pixar productions so brilliant.

Pixar characters

According to Lee Unkrich, the animation for the Pixar logo was done by Pete Docter, director of films such as Monsters Inc., Inside Out, and Up.

Pixar Studios lamp and ball
Luxo Jr. on the Pixar campus, photo via Blender Guru.

The logo was later reanimated, presumably for higher definition, but whoever did the work simply mirrored what Pete had already created. I introduced my 4-year-old to Pixar a couple of weeks ago when we watched Up together. She loved it, unsurprisingly. One of Pixar’s best.


Marked with thought

National Theatre logo NT Ian Dennis

National Theatre, London, designed in 1974 by Ian Dennis while at FHK Henrion’s London studio. The slight tweak of the stencil to combine the N and T is a lovely visual trick that stood the test of time.

Canada Snowboard logo

Canada Snowboard, designed in 2017 by Hulse & Durrell. So simple — turn the Canadian maple leaf upside down to form a snow-covered peak, and enclose it in a black diamond to represent “the most badass run on the mountain.”

ENO logo Mike Dempsey

English National Opera (ENO), designed in 1990 by Mike Dempsey while at Carroll Dempsey Thirkell. The logo has since been updated, losing some of the character of that big opera mouth.

Amnesty International logo

Amnesty International, by the late Amnesty member and artist Diana Redhouse. Barbed wire for darkness, candle for hope. An ideal mark.

A G Low Construction logo

A. G. Low Construction, by Rebecca Low. A simple mark that integrates negative space to play on the visual language of floor plans.

911 Memorial logo

9/11 Memorial, by Landor (New York). No words needed.

BAA logo

BAA (British Airport Authority), designed in 1986 by John David Lloyd while at Lloyd Northover. The three triangles in the symbol clearly suggest something airport related.

Oculus logo

Oculus, a collaboration between Cory Schmitz, Mackey Saturday, Nicolaus Taylor, and Jon Malkemus. The wide ‘o’ works wonderfully as a stylised VR headset.

Centre Pompidou logo

Centre Pompidou, designed in 1974 by Jean Widmer. An idea that captures the defining feature of the building — the escalator in the glass tube that’s visible from the outside.

Talk logo

Talk, by Morvil. Logos using speech marks can be found everywhere, so it’s a tough one to get right. The beauty here is how it looks like two people talking, as well as showing a smile in the negative space.

Garden Lighting Company logo

Garden Lighting Company, by The Chase. Depending on where a logo will be seen, the execution doesn’t always need to be minimal in appearance, as with this flower / light-shade combination that immediately made me smile.

Eagle Clean logo

Or this for Eagle Clean, by The Partners. Brilliant.

When you push your ideas that little bit further, or turn a thing upside down, or flip a letter back to front, you’ll find the solution that was just waiting to be discovered — something so obvious it makes our work look easy.


Cruz Novillo: Logos

Cruz Novillo logo book

Although the focus is on Cruz Novillo’s logos, he found recognition in a varied career as an artist, sculptor, graphic designer, publisher, and illustrator. Born José María Cruz Novillo in Cuenca, central Spain, in 1936, Cruz Novillo first studied law before, in 1957, beginning a career as a cartoonist at Clarín Advertising in Madrid.

Shortly after, he would begin to work in the field of industrial design at SEDI, years later promoting one of the first Spanish magazines that specialised in design, ‘Temas de Diseño’, whose editor was the architect Miguel Durán Lóriga. In 1963 he was selected to form part of the team of artists for the Pavilion of Spain at the world fair in New York. By 1965 he had reached the level of creative director and abandoned Clarín, opening his own design studio, where he created the corporate identities of many of Spain’s national institutions and companies.

His work is now so ubiquitous that it has become part of the fabric of visual culture in his native Spain. He was responsible for the identities of many public services including the post office (Correos), national police (Cuerpo Nacional de Policia), railway system (Renfe), and even the Peseta banknotes.

Cruz Novillo logo book
Quinto Centenario logo, to mark 500 years since exploring America, 1981.
Cruz Novillo logo book
Identity for TV channel TVE 1, 1981.
Cruz Novillo logo book
Icons for Madrid bar Font Romeu (left) and restaurant Ruperto de Nola (right), 1971.
Cruz Novillo logo book
Shield for Spain’s national police service, 1986.
Cruz Novillo logo book
Logos for Cines Luna, a cinema group in Madrid.
Cruz Novillo logo book
Logo for the Spanish Socialist Party, 1977.

Cruz Novillo: Logos is published by Counter-Print. Copies are available for £19.50.

Designed by: Leterme Dowling
Size: 205 x 210mm

Pages: 368

Publication: 2017

Binding: Softbound book with belly band


HOW Logo Awards winners

Troll logo development


GUND is the oldest manufacturer of soft toys in America, and their logo, designed by Cynda Media Lab, pays homage to the company’s tradition of capturing facial expressions in their toys.

Gund logo

Gund logo

Cochon Dingue

Cochon Dingue (crazy pig) is a chain of French bistros in Québec, Canada. With vintage-French-poster–inspired typography and the bleu-blanc-rouge palette, the redesign by Québec-based LMG clearly shows the French roots while adding some contemporary fun. Full case study.

Cochon Dingue logo

Cochon Dingue signage

Lela Buttery

Lela Buttery not only has a unique last name, but she has a unique set of skills to match it: biologist, food educator and organic food sourcer. Her new company needed an identity that played off the Buttery name in a contemporary and bold way while staying away from butter clichés.

Lela Buttery logo

Lela Buttery business cards


Merzatta is a husband and wife jewellery design team. Their work is inspired by elements in nature, but ones that aren’t immediately seen; finding joy in hidden treasures. Designed by Works Progress Design, the logo — a pair of squirrels facing each other — speaks to both the connection to nature, and to the warmth and love the couple put into each piece they make. The negative space between them forms the shape of an acorn, a nod to the little discoveries that only come to light when they come together. There’s a visual imbalance when the squirrels are shown in the lockup, but the symbol on its own is lovely.

Merzatta squirrel logo

Merzatta squirrel logo


The client name, Felix Trolldenier, was unusual. What seemed to him like a disadvantage, seemed to the designers at Pacifica to give added value. They abbreviated the name and used typography as a figurative element, giving it personality and expression. “A logo that is reactive, moody and charismatic. From the use of motion capture technology, it was possible to replicate actual movements and link them to the typography used in the identity, approaching the performance of an actor to a character. In studio and through a set of high-resolution infrared cameras, we recorded and and incorporated in the logo a series of actual behaviours, impossible to replicate in any other way.”

Troll logo

Troll logo

HOW Logo Awards

It costs $55 to register a logo entry, and $75 for entry into both the logo and identity applications categories. All entries to be in by October 30, 2017. More details on the HOW Awards website.


Moonpig ditches the space pig after 17 years

Personalised greetings card retailer Moonpig was launched in 2000 by Nick Jenkins, who sold the company in 2011 for £120 million. The space pig mascot had been in place since the beginning, but it’s now been replaced by a more contemporary wordmark, and a fresh new identity.

Moonpig logo evolutionMoonpig logo, before and after.

There’s a lot that’s great about the rebrand — from the bespoke type family and tone of voice, right down to the snout icon and having fun with the logo launch.

“For FAQ’s sake #97 ‘My 6 year old could have done a better job of your new logo.’ Have you seen our new Creative Director?”

Moonpig logo sketch

Moonpig logo

Moonpig identity

The identity was designed in-house in collaboration with Ian Styles, Simon Smith, Stuart Hammersley, and Rick Banks’ F37 Foundry.

Moonpig identity

“We worked extensively with British based type company F37 Foundry to create and develop a bespoke type family that would play a key role in Moonpig’s new brand identity. Both companies worked together using the F37 Ginger type family as the foundations, creating a new Demi weight called Moonpig Lift-Off.

“This weight features three styles of alternates with random programming, giving it a playful yet structured execution. It consists of four subclasses: a regular class for the normal design of the characters, one class for the ‘lift’ characters, another class for the ‘wobbly’ characters and one for the more complex group of characters — those that ‘shake’.”

Quoted from the Ian Styles project page.

Moonpig identity

Moonpig identity

Moonpig tote

Moonpig van

Moonpig identity

Via It’s Nice That.



Famous logos drawn from memory

In the words of the late Massimo Vignelli, “A logo gradually becomes part of our collective culture, in its modest way becomes part of all of us.” took 156 Americans between the ages of 20 and 70, and gave them half an hour to draw 10 well-known logos from memory, uncovering how accurately we can remember the features and colours of the symbols we’re surrounded by.

Adidas logo from memory
Adidas logo drawn from memory
Dominos logo from memory
Dominos logo drawn from memory
Target logo from memory
Target logo drawn from memory
Burger King logo from memory
Burger King logo drawn from memory
Starbucks logo from memory
Starbucks logo drawn from memory

The remainder are on Branded in Memory, from

Aside from the fact that there surely must’ve been a few graphic designers among the 156 participants, you’ll hardly be surprised that the logos with the most accurate recreations across the board, i.e., from top left to bottom right, are those with the simplest appearance (Target rather than Starbucks).

What’s obvious from the results is that most people are excellent at recalling brand colours — around 80 percent selected the correct palettes for their drawings, while shapes proved harder to recall. This highlights how beneficial it can be to assign logos with colours that are clearly different from competitors. Of course, it’s much easier to reach consensus on an unusual colour when working on a new design rather than something with existing brand equity (sometimes it’s more important to stick with what’s already in place).

While the study conducted was small, it kind of highlights the logo design challenge — to create a mark that can be easily remembered, while distinctive enough to stand out from the competition.

Via Debbie Millman.


New Belfast logo and the typical tabloid response

The new Belfast logo, designed by local firm McCadden, was a recent topic on a radio phone-in after “a disgruntled council worker” shared a low-res version of the mark (below).

Belfast logo 2017

Unsurprisingly, public responses were typical of a logo presented in isolation, and the Belfast Telegraph ran an equally typical tabloid-styled response.

Was new Belfast logo worth two-year wait and up to £50k of ratepayers’ cash?

Followed by this on the same day…

New Belfast logo: our graphic designer came up with these (for free) on his tea break. I’m not so sure of their “edgy and eclectic” nature (below).

Belfast logo alternatives

A few days later, McCadden’s managing director Glenn Stewart said it was disappointing that a single version of the logo was put into the public domain before a more informative launch could take place. Something I can certainly empathise with.

Glenn said his firm are billing around £45,000, and the fee includes web design, brand guidelines, and a continuing advisory role over the application of the identity — aspects that are often (conveniently) overlooked in media stories about new logos.

“I can genuinely tell you that in terms of how we would bill ourselves out, we have gone well over budget. We can’t charge for all the time we have spent on it.

“It’s not a big money spinner for us, but we are just so proud to be doing it. In our business it doesn’t get much better than branding your own city.”
— Glenn Stewart, McCadden

The Belfast “starburst” takes its shape from how the city appears on satellite images, even if some angles are a bit of a land-grab (and the Titanic Quarter has been cut from the top-right in reference to the city origins when that area was wetland).

Belfast logo 2017

The “logo as window” approach often goes down well with clients, letting the inside space relate to different promotional messages.

Belfast logo 2017

Variety of colour makes sense, too, so the mark can adopt the palettes of other bodies or organisations that it’ll sit alongside.

Belfast logo 2017

There are secondary versions with “Belfast” shown in Irish and Ulster Scots.

Belfast’s outgoing logo, designed in 2008 by Lloyd Northover, was a heart-shaped B idea that’s similar to a number of UK-based entities, so it made sense to look for something more original.

Belfast logo Lloyd Northover

City branding will never escape criticism as it’s generally paid for with the public purse, but the new design is more own-able and distinctive than the heart, and the application should be more interesting, too. I hope we don’t see too much of the logo being tacked onto pre-existing designs. Well done to the team at McCadden, both on winning the project, and on achieving enough consensus among council members to get the design passed. No mean feat.

Belfast logo


FireSigns: a semiotic theory for graphic design

FireSigns book, Steven Skaggs

FireSigns is a new book from MIT Press by semiotician, calligrapher, and type designer, Steven Skaggs.

Semiotics is the study of signs and significations, and as graphic designers we create visual signs (dubbed in the book as “FireSigns”) that are meant to elicit a certain effect in the mind. Quoted from the preface:

“A sign of fire: smoke over a tree line, a charred smell in the air, a glow over the meadow at night far from the city. But there is also this: a petroglyph scratched into a rock in New Mexico, a graphic emblem on a grill starter, a warning label on a fuel truck. Or metaphorically further: a website that excites you, a poster that enflames the imagination, and advertisement that really makes you want to buy that dress, a book whose typography and composition so ennoble its contents that you display it in your entryway. This kind of fire sign is a piece of graphic communication that stirs heat in your soul. That’s the kind of fire sign this book is about: something in a visual display that ignites memory, intellect, engagement. How does this happen?”

The author has spent 25 years among people from two professions — graphic design and semiology. Designers manipulate visual elements in order to prompt a response, and semioticians study how things are able to influence people. The books content is much broader than logos, and is heavily theoretical rather than practical, but there are some interesting points on the cultural associations attached to letterforms and symbology.

The following story is shared about a rejected logo proposal.

“I was once part of a team that designed a corporate identity program for a family-owned auto-servicing business. The company was having difficulty being visible in the marketplace, and our design research pointed to a solution that was minimal, bold, and (at the time) distinctive: a white “M” in a red diamond. The presentation of this proposed logo design was going fine until the youngest member of the family — a twenty-something Texan the matriarch introduced as “Baby Bill” — arrived (late) at the meeting, saw the proposed logo, and pronounced, “Them’s the Devil’s horns” to a stunned room.”

White M red diamond logo

The red diamond also reminded him of the deadly sin of gambling (playing cards), and this was confirmed for him by a red arrow that unmistakably pointed the way to Hell. There was no recovery: we packed up our materials and went back to the office to attempt to revise the mark. These were all conceptual connotations for Baby Bill, whose particular life experiences no doubt paved the way for his impressions. The point of this story is that it doesn’t matter how or why someone becomes primed for associate meanings or whether the connotations are logical or not. If a receiver interprets a display and has certain connotations, the connotations are real. There are no false connotations.”

There’s no telling what feedback our clients will give, and how that might affect the eventual outcome — something that helps to keep every project different. I’ve worked on plenty of designs where client feedback has helped create a more appropriate result, so although your initial idea mightn’t hit the mark, sometimes going back to the drawing board is an important part of the job.

And speaking of appropriate results, that’s one of four considerations Steven applies to the design of a logo.

MARVelous logoMARVelous identity design.

I’ve only had a chance to skim the content (as with most books I’m sent), but it’s clear from the theoretical writing that I’d need to take it in small chunks — it’s like a course in semiotics for designers. I’m sure there are bits and pieces within that could be used in the rationale of my design presentations, so I’m sure I’ll return to it.

FireSigns book book

FireSigns book

FireSigns book

FireSigns book

FireSigns book

FireSigns book

The author Steven Skaggs is professor of design at the Hite Art Institute of the University of Louisville, and FireSigns is available from MIT Press,,