I remember the early days of the web when we had poor screen resolution and were just getting to grips with anti-aliasing. ‘Jaggies’ – saw-edges on diagonal lines were a common problem and designers avoided the use of italic type and angled logos. In fact some major brands subtly altered their corporate signatures to ensure good screen reproduction.
Then we saw web graphics impacting upon print design. Logos started taking on button form with radiused corners, 3-dimensional shines, glows and drop shadows.
The latest phenomenon seems to be an increasing use of logos which will fit into a generally square format. Behind this is the influence of social media. Identifiers on Facebook, Twitter et al, were initially photographic head-shots – ideal for a personal, social medium. Now that commercial organisations are increasingly using social channels, they need brand signatures to fit.
For a long time, western corporate signatures were generally horizontal – perhaps a symbol and a brand name. This was ideal for print media. The signature fitted comfortably at the foot of an ad or the top of a letter, along a shop fascia or a vehicle side. However, recently we’ve been required to create adapted signatures for a number of brands (including our own) which fit to a 1:1 shape, for use on Facebook pages etc.
It seems like we are coming full circle. The earliest trademarks are reputedly those of blacksmiths making swords for the Roman legions. These were applied by punches. In the days when few tradesmen were literate, punches, seals, stamps and other marks would be used and would generally fit in a square or circular area. It was only with the growth of literacy that more horizontal ‘signatures’ became common though often used together with a symbol.
The first registered trademark in the UK is the Bass Brewery mark – a red, equilateral triangle – which would fit in a 1:1 area.
In the east, pictograms already fit tidily into rectangles. Elegant examples are the artists ‘chops’ used on japanese prints rather than western style signatures.
New technology once again coaxes us back into old approaches, and once again it is becoming cool to be square.