Hot Design Trend: Taking the Knife to Logos

By Chris Dickman
Founding Editor, Graphics.com

Note: You'll find updates to this post at the end.

The Golden Age of graphic design is upon us. Never before has the profession been swelled by such a talented crew, with training, experience and a breadth of vision unheard of even a decade ago. Couple that with a growing awareness on the part of corporations and institutions in the value of a design-driven approach, with budgets to match, and it's no surprise to observe the torrent of excellent design and branding that's quickly sweeping away an entire generation's idea of what constitutes great work.

And yet sometimes I come across logos or branding collateral that makes me wonder how much time and thought really went into them. It all began when I stumbled across the Cutting Edge Logos blog, which asks, "How to design a logo?" It then responds, "1. Set the name in a retail typeface. 2. Cut off some corners in Illustrator 3. Cash a big check." Yikes! Seems a bit far-fetched at first but the blog lays out example after example of a "logo" that's simply an off-the-shelf sans serif font to which the designer has given a modest trim here and there. The one below is typical.

Of course, once someone points out something to you, you can't stop seeing it. So I soon came across further examples of this slice and dice approach to logo design. In fact, I started noticing a particular variation, the practice of removing the crossbar in a capital A. In theory, there's nothing wrong with hacking away at a defenseless crossbar. But in the examples below, was it always the best design decision? Point me to additional examples in the comments and I'll be glad to add them.

Absolutely unoriginal.

Reasonable, no. Revolting, yes.

Extra points to the designer for hacking up the E and lining up the colored Xs. Let's hope it's a galaxy far, far away.

The designer thought extreme letter spacing would save this mess. Wrong!

You are. Something. Embarrassing, mostly.

When there's a V and an A in the same logo, designers just can't resist the obvious.
Maybe this whole thing is NASA's fault? Although here it actually works.

The above three examples are all from Al Jazeera video productions. Some designer there really likes this type treatment.

An obscure software developer contributes a variation.

A recent rebrand of the American Association for Cancer Research hacked out about a third of the crossbar, for some reason. Although more disturbing is the encroaching green crossbar of the R.

This loyalty management (think frequent flier) firm is a double offender.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, also joined the elite Double Offender Club for its rebrand. There's just no love for lighthouses anymore.

Why stop at logos? Designers like to remove the crossbars in all kinds of things, in this case the title of a film.

The logo for a "futuristic space engine" called the Cannae Drive.

Yes, that Havas, the French multinational advertising and public relations company.

This French DJ and producer may be creative but his logo says otherwise. Proof? Same sliced A treatment as the logo below for a cheesy online gambling site.

Consistent with the theme of death, the designer of this poster killed three crossbars. Thus, I give you Dickman's First Law: the greater the number of capital letter As, the higher the chance that the crossbars will vanish.

Another three bagger, this time for a design contest! Oh, the irony.

You'd think a guy as hip as Jean-Michel Jarre would know better. Because he's sharing a lame design meme with the performer below and many more in the music biz. So much for branding.

Not much to adore about this type treatment.

There are quite a few firms that use Via in their names and more than a few have chopped out the cross bar. I don't know what's worse in this example, the mutilated A or that out of control V.
So is it ever okay to slice up letters? The example above shows how.

Which brings us to Canada's train service, VIA Rail. The logo perfectly captures the sense of converging train tracks, thus making it the best logo I've come across where eliminating the crossbar really works. Although, what's with that pathetic little Canadian flag?

Okay, a final example, because it's simply too bad to leave out. In contrast with the VIA Rail logo, the designer for this French business incubator not only carved up the As but lopped off the bottom of the entire type treatment, before finally changing the color of some of the letters. No doubt it made sense at the time.

I lied, here's another that was just too weird to not include. I had my blood tested recently (don't worry, I checked out fine) and when I went to the web site to view the results, this is what I found. Every letter has been chopped up, with the R getting a particularly extreme surgical treatment. I double dare you to find a worse example of arbitrary letter mangling than this.

Updated April 20, 2016

Five examples of Dickman's Second Law: If a logo has both a sans serif V and an A, then the A must get a lobotomy.

The designer inexplicably left several letters untouched.