I've been fretting about the new, vast Auckland and the plethora of shibboleths that will ensue therefrom—especially the logo

In the modern drive to re-define and re-name entities, almost the first task of any new one is to commission a logo design.

Part of the logo design team’s brief will be the need to write a hand-on-heart ‘mission statement’ assuring the clientele of their paramountcy, which will be framed and hung in all corporation offices. (This, of course, will lead inevitably to the recorded message that assures all telephone callers that great demand has caused the lines to be busy but that the organisation really, really cares).

Response to these briefs will usually take the form of a single symbol—no alternatives offered—which will purportedly transmit, instantaneously, in fashionable graphic terms, the whole image of the organisation. An extensive report will explain what it all means, how it’s to be used (with examples showing it on stationery, signs, swipe cards, vehicles, scarves and neckties) and the results of city-wide random surveys with margins of error of plus or minus 3.5% in 95 out of 100 cases, and of ‘qualitative’ research using ‘focus groups’.

The new corporate identity will be revealed using white boards, overheads, video clips and enthusiastic presenters at a meeting over coffee and toffee pops with top brass from both design group and client after which it will become an internal travelling road show to impress the troops and to reassure them that change is a good thing.

Wonderful.

But it’s the ridiculous costs usually associated with these new images that bothers me. In recent times we’ve read of accounts being rendered by design consultants often running into many thousands of dollars on the assumption, I think, that the higher the price the better the work. Well, I would say that any logo would need no more than 20 hours development by a half decent designer which, even at suburban lawyers’ rates of, say $350 an hour would only total $7000.

Most logo designs, like the emperor’s new clothes, rely more on belief than reality. Any symbol will eventually become associated with the organisation it represents. For example, crosses of various shapes mean important but different things at different times to different people: Christianity, Red Cross, multiplication, Switzerland, railway crossings, German military aircraft, St. George... but I suggest that none of those ‘designs’ ever cost the megabucks we pay for modern logos whose recognition and association, no matter how cleverly wrought, depend entirely upon how much exposure they are given in the public gaze.

I remember when the Income Support Service emerged as Work and Income New Zealand—Te Hiranga Tangata. I had just got used to the Income Support Service’s logo, a totally non-symbolic blue and orange thing that looked vaguely like a pumpkin in a canoe—God knows what that cost—when I found myself dealing with Work and Income whose logo appeared and still appears to be the absolute antithesis of the organisation’s function—it shows a voluptuous person apparently running across the sand with a beach ball under its arm!

As for any new logo that might be developed for Greater Auckland it can only be an improvement of that moth-eaten ‘A’. If Banksy, Harvey or Holmes or whoever gets to do the prancing wants a perfectly workable design done on the back of an envelope for the cost of a week’s groceries and a case of pinot noir, just call me.

Comments (4)

by Chris de Lisle on June 05, 2009
Chris de Lisle

I don't understand why city councils don't just use their coats of arms as logos. They belong to council rather than city, have some actual meaning (If only from age) and have already been paid for.

by Aaron Kirk on June 05, 2009
Aaron Kirk

Don, could you re-post your image/logo.

by Peter Sim on June 06, 2009
Peter Sim

I am seriously worried.

It is "the back of envelope" thing.

Urban legend has it that Spencer drew the "Beehive" design on the back of an envelope at a state banquet hosted by PM Holyoake.

Their collective sobriety of has to be questioned given the result.  Just ask the poor sods who have to work in there!

Please do not use the back of an envelope.

A Bank sheet of paper should do just fine.

by Don Donovan on June 06, 2009
Don Donovan

Thank you Mr Sim, I'll try to stretch to A4!

I've always liked the Beehive although, as with the Sydney Opera House, it's said to be functionally inadequate. But I'll take imagination over comfort any day! It's what comes out of the Beehive that bothers me.

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