What’s in a Logo?

Companies spend large money developing a logo that speaks to the world. They are an integral part of brand recognition – who in the world doesn’t recognize the Coca Cola logo, even if they don’t speak English or use Roman script?

Image result for coke logo

Who in the world doesn’t see the “golden arches” and immediately know that McDonald’s is close by?

Image result for golden arches

These logos and these brands are worth millions if not billions of dollars, and they are ferociously protected and actively marketed around the world.

Some logos, however, are more than eye-catching; they’re supremely clever, some from equally powerful companies and some from local enterprises.

amazon

Amazon, of course, ships everything from A to Z and a lot of stuff in between. The arrow, in addition, looks very much like a smile, suggesting how pleased you’ll be with your order. Just don’t talk to the people who work there – they’re not terribly happy with their job conditions.

Baskin Robbins

Baskin-Robbins prides itself on its 31 flavors (seen above in the logo) but not on their value as health food. Duh. John Robbins, son of founder and owner, left the empire for more wholesome pastures, and encouraged his father to step away from the inevitable when he got him to live a healthier lifestyle after the father had been diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Years before, partner Burt Baskin had died from a heart attack.

Anyone who grew up with black-and-white televisions and saw color for the first time probably saw the NBC “proud as a peacock” logo:

Today’s stylized logo retains the peacock, even if you have to look for a bit to find it:

CBS

One of the cleverest logo inclusions is the one FedEx (or their designer) came up with. They want you to know that your package is on the way, and so that little subliminal arrow helps you understand that they move stuff, and quickly.

FedEx1

Never seen that arrow? Here it is:

FedEx2

Spartan golf clubs are represented by a man with a powerful swing – but if you look at the entire picture in a different light, you see a Spartan warrior in profile with his iconic helmet.

Spartan

This is one of the most delightful recent designs I’ve seen, with a very creative use of positive and negative space – the swan, the mallard, and the ampersand (&) all combined into a very pleasing and evocative image. Artwork was created by John Randall.

Swan and Mallard

Ever look closely at the Toblerone logo? Seen the bear in that mountain? Berne, Switzerland, is notable for its bears, icon of the city.

Toblerone2

But wait, there’s more!

Toblerone

Yes, the home city of Toblerone is also found in the name.

Then there’s the Tostitos logo. Look closely and you’ll see two folks sitting at a table with salsa, sharing a tortilla chip.

Tostitos

Le Tour de France logo clearly represents a person on a bicycle, with one wheel yellow, probably evoking the yellow jersey that the winner gets to wear. Unless he’s outed for massive doping, but that’s another story.

Tour de France

The official Toyota explanation of their logo is as follows:

In 1990, Toyota debuted the three overlapping Ellipses logo on American vehicles. The Toyota Ellipses symbolize the unification of the hearts of our customers and the heart of Toyota products. The background space represents Toyota’s technological advancement and the boundless opportunities ahead.

But whether or not they intended it, the image has an additional fillip of intrigue:

Toyota

One of my earliest PC-type computers was a Vaio – and their logo is a brilliant blending of the analog computers of the past (represented by the sine wave seen on an oscilloscope ( and the digital computers of today, represented by the “1” and “0” of binary bits.

Vaio

Yoga Australia managed to work the shape of their homeland into the image of a young lady in a yoga pose – Oi oi oi, mates!
Yoga Australia

Lastly – and there are many others that I haven’t touched on in this post, but these were some of my favorites – is the logo for Hitachi, which I have written about in detail.

Hitachi was once one of the most well-known brands in electronics; for more about this fascinating logo, click through.

Naturally, there is the other end of the scale – logos which are awful for any number of reasons.

Image result for terrible logo designs

This one just hurts to look at because of the clashing colors.

Many of the ones which have been called out can’t be shared here, as I try to keep this blog on a family-friendly plane – but if you’re interested, just do an image search on “the world’s worst logos” and you’ll see what I mean.

Logos, like domain names, can contribute to the success or failure of an enterprise, which is why companies are willing to spend significant amounts having their logos designed. If the stars align, a logo can be a tremendous and memorable success.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


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Winter is Coming, whether HBO likes it or not.

Winter is Coming.jpg

This beautiful painting by a 13-year-old girl, who just happens to have some autism to deal with, was posted at the arts and crafts site, RedBubble. She called it “Winter is Coming.”

Lawyers at HBO, afraid that this image and its appurtenant title would do irreparable harm to their beloved Game of Thrones¹, sent a takedown letter, which RedBubble  – sadly – immediately complied with.

I’m not so charitable. HBO is a douchebag, and these lawyers are douchebags. They can all go sit on a cactus. Sit down hard, on a cactus, and spin.

cactus

You see, lawyers and corporations think they can patent or trademark anything to “protect shareholder value.” Well, winter is coming whether they like it or not. It will arrive on December 21st this year.

What are you going to do, boys and girls: sue the calendar?

Grow up and get a life.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ With respect to George R. R. Martin, whose work has inspired a huge following, I’ve never seen the show, and couldn’t get past Chapter 1 of the first book. It just didn’t resonate with me.

Amhaeng-eosa: The Secret Shopper of the 16th Century

Around about the time my wife was 11 years old, her mother acquired a set of what she referred to as “brass coasters.” There were five of them, but over the course of years since 1967, and through many moves, all but one was lost.

coin

Each coaster had a different number of horses, from one to five. My wife told me that she’d really love to have the complete set again, and so I put it out there to my Facebook community, and as fortune would have it, one of my long-time friends – and one intimately acquainted with Korea – recognized it. He wrote to me:

“It’s called a Map’ae (馬牌); it was issued to undercover government inspectors during Korea’s Yi Dynasty. [Note: the Jeoseon dynasty was founded by Yi Seonggye]. These secret inspectors were charged with roaming the countryside to ferret out corrupt officials. The number of horses imprinted on the Map’ae equaled the number of horses the inspector was authorized to commandeer from state stables located throughout the country. A 5-horse inspector was a powerful man and could pronounce death sentences on high provincial officials (high government officials in the central government had to be tried by a specially convened tribunal).”

With this, I was able to find out that in English these are called “Horse Warrants,” and through a wonderful bit of synchronic serendipity, I located a single set for sale on eBay:

Map'ae

My wife was, as can be expected, surprised and delighted that I had been able to find something that for her had great sentimental value, and indeed, so quickly.

A bit of research gave me a lot more information about these curiosities. From Wikipedia:

The secret royal inspector, or Amhaeng-eosa (암행어사, 暗行御史, Ombudsman) was a temporary position unique to Joseon Dynasty, in which an undercover official directly appointed by the king was sent to local provinces to monitor government officials and look after the populace while traveling incognito. Unlike regular inspectors whose activities under Office of Inspector General were official and public, the appointment and activities of secret royal inspectors were kept strictly secret throughout the mission.

My friend outlined for me the structure of the script on the back:

The Chinese characters read, from right to left, the name of the ministry to which the secret inspectors were attached; the top two characters of the second column are the name of the holder, followed by the character for name. The next three characters specify that the medallion is a three horse medallion. The final column indicate that the medallion was struck in March of 1623 (note that the Koreans used the Ming reign date to designate the year–a common practice in Yi Dynasty Korea) To the far left, of course, is the royal seal.

Position Description

The royal inspectors were sent out with letters of appointment (bongseo, 봉서), a description of their destination and mission (samok, 사목), and “horse requisition tablet” called mapae(마패), which they used to requisite horses and men from a local station run by the central government. The would carry out their inspection in secret, and then reveal themselves with bongseo or map’ae and perform an audit, the results of which were reported back to the king.

This was an extremely dangerous job, with – according to some historians – a survival rate of only around 30%. They often fell victim to assassins sent by corrupt officials, bandits, or wild animals – and they had to pay their own expenses before being reimbursed by the king. Young men were generally selected, along the lines of the apocryphal advertisement for the Pony Express: “Orphans preferred.”

How-you-recruit-a-horseman

Originals of these Map’ei are worth thousands of dollars and clearly belong in museums, but I’m pleased that through a happy confluence of circumstances I was able to restore one of my wife’s early memories, and learn an intriguing tidbit about Korean history at the same time.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Holding back the grim reaper

Two relief sculptures on the side of the Fulton County Public Health Department in Atlanta, Georgia.

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The first is straightforward: the physician warding off death. It’s what they do, to the best of their ability.

WL3y1Yf

The second image is a bit more arcane, not shared as often but equally symbolic.

With thanks to redditor /u/queenbrewer:

“This counterpart bas relief clearly depicts a woman, presumably a nurse, holding a sword. The sword depicts Hygeia , Asclepius’ daughter and the goddess of hygiene, who holds a snake drinking from a bowl, typically symbolizing pharmacy. She fights against a man (perhaps Father Time) holding the mask of tragedy representing suffering in one hand and an hourglass representing aging in the other.”

The TL;DR here seems to be a variant of what I’ve heard around the medical community: “Doctors diagnose, nurses heal.”

Beautiful tributes to all dedicated healthcare workers.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Ralph Fasanella, New York City, 1957

Ralph Fasanella, New York City, 1959

NEW YORK CITY Ralph Fasanella, 1957, oil on canvas, 50 x 110 in. Collection of Nicholas and Shelley Schorsch Oil On Canvas

The nine-foot long mural depicts the 59th street bridge at center, combined with other favorite landmarks. Of this work Fasanella said, “Every night this painting would be in my head. I was going through my whole life.”

If New York weren’t so expensive, I’d be back to live there in a heartbeat. You can take the boy out of the City, but you can’t take the City out of the boy.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Simple People from Egypt

I recently posted about Robert Hay’s engravings of Cairo, While cleaning out some of my own files, I came across a calendar from 1995 – “Simple People from Egypt” – that had been given to me by a friend and colleague, Elhamy Naguib, whom I met in Cairo while working on a translation project.

I have always loved these images, and now that digitization and sharing is so easy, I thought it time to share with others.

Elhamy worked hard to develop his talent, and has done a wonderful job in an impressionistic way of rendering the nature of Egyptian street scenes. I especially love the faces. They capture the good-hearted nature of the people of Egypt, who – like many of the people of the Middle East – illuminate their country and are not represented by the fanatical, misguided loons who are getting so much media attention these days.

Having spent a fair amount of time in Cairo and other places around the Arabic-speaking world, these images speak to me; somewhere in the world, the originals of these paintings exist, it is to be hoped. I would be honored to have any one of them hanging on my wall.

All images copyright ©1994-2015 Graffiti, designed by Elhamy Naguib

———————-

SERENITY

Coming home from school as a child, I passed by a man and his wife on a street corner by my parents’ house. They were selling water cress, radishes, parsley and dill in small quantities. Their simple inventory stayed practically the same for over thirty years, until they died one after the other. My attitude has changed from irritation at their complacency to an admiration of their contentment and serenity.

In the rat race of the big city, I looked for people like them on the streets and asked myself the same question over and over again: “How does one achieve such serenity?” My feelings for them are a mixture of love, sympathy, and envy. In these paintings, I pay tribute to the couple mentioned above and to others like them. I cherish all the lessons they teach me.

-Elhamy Naguib, 1994

Tea Break

Tea Break

Fly Swatters

Fly Swatters

Serenity

Serenity

Shop Keeper

Shop Keeper

Shishas

Shishas

Spices

Spices

Learning

Learning

Baskets

Baskets

Flowers

Flowers

Clay Water Bottles

Clay Water Pots

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin Seeds

Matches

Matches

As Elhamy cherished the memories of the people he encountered in his life, so I cherish my memory of him. These beautiful paintings serve to remind me that my own memories of Egypt are ones of peace and beauty.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Six Views of Cairo – Robert Hay

The six lithographs below were published by the American University in Cairo Press in 1983. They were found among my mother’s possessions; she spent years in Egypt on various assignments from World War II to the 1970s.

Description

A - Sabil Kuttab

Description A

B - Bab Zuwayla

Description B

C - Bayn Al Qasrayn

Description C

D - Minaret, Ibn Tulun

Description D

E - A Circumcision Procession

Description E

F - Barquq Mosque

Description F

What would be really interesting would be some contemporary street scenes from Cairo showing what these locales look like today.

The Old Wolf has spoken.