essays, articles, & reviews

my thoughts on design, advertising, and the arts

Design: A Personal Journey

Segueing from my essay below about "Cosmos," I'm borrowing the subtitle of Carl Sagan's series (A Personal Journey) for this post, which is the first of many to come about design-related topics.  I'd like to use this page as a space to feature work that fascinates and inspires me, to the point that I want to write about why I love it.  Great design needs no explanation, but sometimes it requires rhapsody.  And no matter how much design work I do, a part of my heart will always be devoted to writing.  So to paraphrase Debbie Millman of the "Design Matters" podcast:  We can talk about design, we can design, or we can do both.

I really love logos.  Always have.  Something about the reductive elegance, the distillation of qualities, values, and ideas into a single symbolic representation.  My favorites tend to be those with a minimalist design, that suggest something physical in an abstract, linear way.

Here's a company that got me interested in their products purely by their logo: Gerber blades.  I'm a devotee of the Victorinox Swiss Army brand, not only for their quality construction, but for their sparse, classic design aesthetic.  It took an equally striking logo for me to notice Gerber and want to own one of their knives, even if only for the design.

The typeface is perfect, with its angled edges, and the logo is strong and solid.  The sword is well used for its connotations of nobility and valor, set in a symbol that suggests both a sheath and the letter G.  The overall shape also resembles a shield, and it looks like something you would see on a crest or an ancient flag.  It has great balance and line composition, and the orange on black is a striking choice.

I liked it even more when I discovered that it's a redesign of this logo.

I can see now that the two angled lines in the redesigned version are meant to symbolize the mountain/stone—a perfect example of the minimalist, abstract design I love.  The change in typeface is also interesting.  A bit less refined but more to the point, so to speak.

Although I do love the old logo as represented with this tagline.

Their official slogan is "Legendary Blades," which explains the use of the sword and the evocation of Excalibur.  And here is a whole history of their brand identity, which I always find fascinating.  Their logo has become progressively less realistic and more symbolic, as many do over time.

Bottom line: it takes a damn good logo to make you read the name "Gerber" and not think of baby food.

Greg MorrisonComment