Summer 2022

The joy of logos

Logo Beginnings

By Jens Müller. Taschen, 2022, £60.
Logo Beginnings

Designed and edited by Jens Müller, Logo Beginnings (Taschen, £60) is a well researched and beautifully crafted tome. Many logo books have potential for interest and inspiration, but they can lack a curatorial touch or depth of thinking. Happy exceptions include Marks of Excellence (Per Mollerup, 1997), Logo (Michael Evamy, 2007) and Richard Baird’s ongoing LogoArchive / BP&O.

Logo Beginnings definitely falls into this category: it has a clear brief and scope to show ‘the early days of the modern logo’. Following on from Müller’s Logo Modernism (Taschen, 2015), which focuses on the period 1940-80, this book sets out to unearth historic logos from 1870 to 1940. It classifies logotypes according to shape, graphic symbolism and area of activity, such as ‘people’ logos (see spread above).

Such categories of endless, beautiful logos are punctuated by more in-depth spreads that show the evolution of many well known symbols, bringing their stories up to the present day. These sections – for example, the long evolution of Pathé’s rooster since 1898 (see spread below) and the many iterations of the Olivetti logotype since 1909 – are of particular interest.

Logo Beginnings

Amid the beautifully crafted illustrations and engravings, it is fascinating to see that Modernist principles in logo design began to emerge in the nineteenth century – much earlier than one might assume. There are many delightful logos, full of personality and charm, that I had not seen before. The thoughtfulness of the book is demonstrated by a same-size reproduction of the simply titled Wahrzeichen – Warenzeichen [Symbols – Trademarks] (Fritz Helmuth Ehmcke, 1921) – possibly the first publication to review logos. This is fascinating – a logo book within a logo book.

Logo Beginnings prompts the reflection that we may have lost some of the art of craft and personality (and joy) in our drive for rationalisation. It is a book that will make graphic designers consider their own work within the industry.

Logo Beginnings cover

Jim Sutherland graphic designer, London

First published in Eye no. 103 vol. 26, 2022

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.