Logo design is a unique art.
There are some logos that are pure genius – especially the ones in which brand messages are hidden, such as the Spartan hidden in the Spartan Golf Club design, or the Bronx skyline within the Bronx Zoo logo, and of course, the arrow within the FedEx logo.
Then, there are logo designs that are so egregious, I simply cannot fathom how they passed what had to be at least a few layers of approval.
Embarrassingly, one such design has emerged from an elementary school in my hometown of East Cobb County, Marietta, Georgia and is (rightly) causing a PR headache for the district.
It seems East Side Elementary School either has administrative staff who are utterly oblivious to history – which is not a good sign for educators – or their staff deliberately embraced Nazi imagery considering their new logo is a near exact replica of the Nazi War Eagle. Even the “ES” for East Side looks like a swastika in the context of the Nazi eagle.
There are so many things wrong with this logo – the first, of course, that it is a Nazi symbol used at a time when neo-Nazis march freely through the streets in this country shouting their hate.
Of course, the school says this similarity is accidental. A district spokeswoman issued the following statement:
“Yesterday, we learned of concerns about a new logo at East Side Elementary. The roll-out of this logo has been halted, and we are immediately reviewing needed changes. We understand and strongly agree that similarities to Nazi symbolism are unacceptable. Although this design was based on the U.S. Army colonel’s eagle wings, stakeholder input has been and continues to be important to our schools. We appreciate those who took time to share their thoughts and will make sure all input is reviewed as changes are considered.”
This leads me to the second thing that’s wrong with this logo: ignorance of the past.
Now, if the school wants to put the blame on a junior designer, something they claimed in earlier statements, that just proves the need for continued education and to stop the current whitewashing of history.
This is the take of Dov Wilker, the regional director for the American Jewish Committee, who doesn’t think the antisemitic imagery was intentional.
“What it demonstrates to me is a lack of overall education about global issues and historical facts. The ignorance that we see when symbols like this are adopted is really scary and something that we should be very concerned about for our community and for the future. My question for the school district really is: ‘How are they going to use this as a learning opportunity for the schools — and the students and the teachers and the employees of the district — as they come back to school?'”
I’d also add that even if a junior designer who was ignorant of the logo’s meaning created it, does that mean the principal and school administrators were equally ignorant of the symbol? If so, then Wilker is absolutely right that education is needed for the teachers as well as the students.
Beyond that, I’d add that the logo design itself – even without the Nazi similarity – does not fit the audience, which is the number one mistake in logo design. The district claims the logo was based on a “U.S. Army colonel’s eagle wings.”
But, this is an elementary school. It’s not a military school. These are little children. Generally mascot designs for elementary schools are more cartoonish. They are usually fun and colorful.
This design is harsh and cold and – as the district said – militaristic. None of these adjectives fit with an elementary school.
So, what’s the lesson here?
1. Always design for your audience. If your audience is children, keep the logo light, bright, colorful and fun. If you’re designing for a corporate brand, make it eye-catching and professional, but always consider the message you want to convey. Whatever your brand, you want to ensure your logo is appropriate for your business.
2. Think about the meaning of the colors you use. If you want to evoke trust, use blues; for energy, try red. In fact, consider the psychology of color design when selecting your design.
3. Keep it simple. Your logo needs to be memorable and easily understood at a glance. Good logos deliver something unexpected and are unique without being complicated.
4. Avoid trends. An effective logo should be timeless and should avoid trends. It should last the test of time. How will your logo look in 10 years time?
5. Keep it versatile for resizing. A good logo can be used in a variety of sizes and should still convey your brand’s image in back and white.
6. Always consider the implications of your designs – think about what your design evokes, something the East Side Elementary School certainly should have done.