Friday, February 18, 2011

Does it Fax?

This is an old phrase used in logo and brand design. It meant that you need to keep in mind how that 7 color process logo (looking at you, Apple Computer) looks not just one color, but when stretched, muddy and generally screwed up by fax. But it also became shorthand for keeping in mind how it works in anything sub-optimal. How does it look in newsprint? Or on TV? Sadly, on places like the Brand New blog comments, it's now moved to a joke. "Who has a fax machine" they ask. I say, way too damned many people. All sorts of financial institutions still use them. But more importantly is the meaning behind it. It used to be that every logo was designed as a one color exercise. Black on white. You made a shape, and made it perfect. You could (and should!) also make color choices, add gradients and decoration as appropriate, and generally design it as part of a system. The perception that everyone has a high resolution digital display has slipped into logo design being a single-point exercise. Its made to look good comfortably large on the computer. And that's it. Applications are maybe adding different type to the logo for the branches of the organization. Or by adding animations. But I still ask, basically, "does it fax?" What's it look like on a badly calibrated monitor? How about tiny, on a phone screen, in glare? How about as a logo in the corner of a crappy TV screen? What about as a favicon? What if your client prints your tabloid documents letter sized, then photocopies them? Does it look good then? Brand is an often forgotten, but key part of developing relevant interactive design. Every part of the brand matters, and if you give me a crappy logo, or no guidelines for implementation, it's not going to work well. Online doesn't give you a pass for making good branding.

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