It’s a thrilling feeling to go to a bookstore, grab a book filled with diferent types of of logo designs, sit down, inhale that new-book smell and absorb the goodness.
But knowing where all of these designs, fonts and creative elements have come from should be at the top of the list of awesome things. In this article, we look at modern art movements and a series of diverse logos inspired by those movements.
You may be surprised by how easily these colors, shapes and strokes can be adapted to logo design. Have a look, see how logo design works and maybe even draw inspiration for your own creativity.
In 1919, the Bauhaus school was founded in Weimar Germany. More of a lifestyle than a school, Bauhaus was based on the static rules of Art Deco. One basic idea of the Bauhaus was to remove everything superfluous and break a design down to its essential elements. This static minimalism changed everything and can still be found in design today, such as in the logos of Faboo Taboo and Axion.
From an artistic standpoint, Bauhaus shares elements with Russia’s constructiveness movement in its simplicity and boldness. According to the aesthetic, designs should be simple, daring, bold and uncomplicated. These designs stick out in your mind because of their lack of ornamentation and beautiful, brutal simplicity. Red and black are favoured colours; some goofing around in Illustrator should yield the right washed-out shades. For inspiration, look at Wes Anderson’s films, especially The Royal Tenenbaums, which make extensive use of Bauhaus’ Futura font and have a modernist aesthetic.
Art Deco began parallel to Bauhaus in the 1920s but originated in Paris. Both schools share an elegance of form, sparsity of material and strength of colour. Art Deco is distinguished for its stylised representation of shapes. Art Deco artists seemed to use the geometric rules of architecture. One of those artists was A. M. Cassandre, who became popular for his logo design for Yves Saint Laurent. His poster design Pivolo is highly representative of Art Deco. The aesthetic has been adopted by Miau and Machine for their corporate identities.
Principal elements here are a celebration of geometry and a near-fetishization of the machine. Pay particular attention to big sweeping curves, which have a luxurious quality to them. Art Deco reached its nadir in the 1920s and shares that era’s opulence and wastefulness. Designs share the Bauhaus school’s fascination with form but celebrates form as a means to a “new” aesthetic, rather than trying to reconcile it with function. Art Deco’s most lasting influences can be found in grandiose architecture and industrial design
Hard-Edge painting was a contemporary art genre popular in the 1960s, best represented by the American artist Frank Stella. As the name implies, the genre is about planned, simple forms and stripes that contribute to an overall colorful picture. This polychromism and color intensity, as done by Frank Stella, can be found in diverse logo designs today, such as Optik: Split Stitch Division.
Harsh angles in art, as a semiotic shorthand for conflict, has existed for centuries, but only during the 20th century did it assume its status as an artistic tool in the new abstract painting schools. Stella, among others, adopted Hard-Edge as a reactionary style against east-coast America’s abstract expressionism in the 1960s. Where abstractionists preached free expression of emotion and impulse as an art, the hard-edgers practised a highly impersonal, extremely purposeful style of painting. The alienation of the viewer forces a critical appraisal of the work, similar to Brecht’s “Verfremdungseffekt,” or distancing effect. To force such an effect, the designer must put design above purpose. Design for the sake of art is a nearly foreign concept because it violates the rule that corporate design must raise awareness of the brand. Design that puts art first alienates the consumer, who then approaches the work with a critical eye, as they would for a Hard-Edge painting.
Pablo Picasso and photographer Gjon Mili might be the first Light painters in history. Picasso’s self-portrait in 1949 opened new doors in the world of modern art. To create this special effect in this Light painting, Picasso chose a dark room and diverse light sources, along with the help of the longer exposure time of photo cameras. By moving the light, Picasso created mind-blowing images, which could serve as great inspiration for logos. Use lines side by side to build objects, letters and even words.
Light painting is like graffiti and theater mashed up. The spirit is of street art, with the freedom to make anything a canvas. The ephemeral nature of the execution comes from performance art: while the process can be documented, it can never really be accurately recreated. The aesthetic elements are easy enough to emulate in Illustrator, but the real appeal comes from channeling the spirit of Light painting. While it would take some effort, animating a static logo would make it a real attention-getter.
Early African artists created beautiful sculptures, mostly out of wood. That canvas did them little service, because the climate and elements made the sculptures susceptible to termites and other vermin. This makes any African art older than 150 years very rare. The art was influenced by native African myths, celebrations and rituals. The world of ancestors and gods is kept alive in this artwork. That’s why artists mainly used masks and figures, which protected people against diseases and evil spirits. The artistic approach is deeply spiritual, and its forms can be applied to logos and corporate designs.
To channel the aesthetic of African tribal art, use heavy abstraction to create simple, effective shapes that catch the eye. Abstraction and bright colours are key. Conversely, you could scale back the abstraction and use natural, familiar shapes that evoke African art. Something as familiar as a woman’s profile can take on additional layers of meaning when they are given colours and patterns common to African culture.
Pop Art By Roy Lichtenstein
Aside from Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein was the most popular representative of the genre known as Pop Art, which originated in the 1980s. His style, reminiscent of classic newspaper comics, was truly groundbreaking. In the early 1960s, Lichtenstein began to experiment with this form, which unexpectedly exploded into a full-blown movement. The “lowbrow” style makes for a distinctive image and is a good way for a company to get attention.
Lichtenstein’s Pop Art was different from Warhol’s in that it celebrated the commercial designer and focused on art that we’re already familiar with and ignore. These are works we automatically recognize and take for granted. And just what are we as a society taking for granted? This critical examination of everyday art and design in the vein of Duchamp solicits more than a nod of recognition. The simple, fast and effective communication practiced by commercial designers and artists is strongly codified, and these logos channel these conscious and unconscious levels. A familiar “Click” logo is made more powerful and memorable by comic art’s ubiquity among consumers.
Pop Art By Andy Warhol
No one has missed Andy Warhol’s polychromatic Marilyn Monroe portraits. For years, Warhol created variations on the theme that influenced not only art but the fashion world in innumerable ways. We can’t be surprised that this style is still an inspiration for simple, effective corporate designs.
Warhol famously refused to analyse his own works in public. He suggested that any meaning of his work should be obvious from the outset. The Marilyn Diptych was originally thought to be a commentary on the life and death of the actress, though the more colourful “life” half is remembered better. Don’t just create simple colour squares; choose instead subtle variations. Something as minor as a rounded corner or adjustment in shape can speak volumes to your audience, though it’s ultimately up to them to figure out what it means.
- When creating your designs, look anywhere and everywhere for inspiration.
- The further you look from your industry, the more original your designs will be.
- Don’t be afraid of where you draw inspiration from. Paul Rand said it best: “Don’t try to be original. Try to be good.”
- Modern art can provide a lifetime’s worth of inspiration for design.
- For a more original design, draw on abstract elements from various images; such as the colour from one image, line work from another and composition from yet another.
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