What is a logo?
We see them everywhere. Using M. Heidegger’s phenomenological approach, I will try to explain its meaning from a philosophical perspective.
Logos – The word that explains
Logos (λὀγοσ) is a Greek word that can be translated as “the word that explains”. Logo, as we have come to understand it means to produce meaning and which unifies a concept with a visual design. In ancient Greece, for Philosopher Heraclitus “Logos” was the place where the universal belongs. The universe can be seeing as chaos, as a river that flows constantly and never repeats the same pattern. But if we all head towards the “logos” we would achieve a universal way to understand the world. In order to see things in the same common way, we should “homo-logate” (ὁμολουεῖν) become one to the logos (homogeneous).
In post-industrial times, Logo is the word that unifies a group of people working in a project under a name, usually represented through an icon, which is easy to identify.
Heraclitus was worried about each one having its own logo so as to avoid chaos. In modern times, a business, a company, a project requires the same unification or “homogenisation” in order to ensure that all the people involve are on the same boat. For a project to run properly, it needs “Logos”.
When a graphic designer creates a logo, is not simply doing a nice drawing to promote a company; instead, it is discovering that universal symbol that belong to everyone involve in the project and unifies the project itself. There is nothing about aesthetics or make up; instead, it is the ultimate creative process, the beginning of the universal value that produces identification or “homogenisation” for the group. For this reason, an assembly line would never fit into an artistic conception; as in nature and life, there is no order in what should be first or second, instead, everything works and belong to a coherent collaborative process: The artist discovers the symbol that drives us all towards the universal and in this light it is where everyone can see themselves as belonging to the same thing.
Another linguistic particularity is the word “project”, commonly used in our times. “Pro-eject” means to head towards something. If “logo” is the symbol that identifies the group, a “project” should be coherent with the logo, with its symbol. For example: an olive tree can identify a company that produces olive oil. There is a direct correlation in what this company does and its symbol. But we do not always find this obvious and direct relationship; usually, logos and promotional images are based on the concept of manipulation, distortion of the reality and many companies use their logo as an aesthetic camouflage. A very clear case of this is commonly identifiable in Petrol companies, most of them use green flowers or vivid environmental colours to mislead consumers into thinking their products are environmentally sound.
The idea of manipulation thought images evolved with the time responding to consumer’s expectations. Few decades ago, petrol companies where identified with symbols of power/energy while these days the new black is green.
Beyond moral, a designer is a communicator, not a manipulator. When Heraclitus invokes Greeks to follow the Logos (λὀγοσ) I guess he was hoping for a more creative world. A true artist should be a demiurge, someone capable of finding creativity between two worlds: the fluent chaotic river and universal beauty of the tree on the other side of the river.
That is what we become when we advocate to a pro-eject.