Famous logo links past and present?

Do you recognize this typeface?

Catull is a calligraphic-style font created for Berthold in 1982 by type designer Gustav Jaeger. Its faintly curved strokes and flat-nib serifs and terminals are natural characteristics of handwriting and convey a sense of age, warmth and intimacy — the opposite of cool, modern and digital.

Which is something that designer Ruth Kedar had in mind in 1999 when she chose Catull for her famous logo . . .

Said she, “Catull borrows elements from traditional writing instruments such as the quill and chisel, with a modern twist. Search, by nature, is an activity that requires we look into the past. Therefore, Catull’s historical ties seemed appropriate, as did the bridging between the old analog world and the new emerging digital era.

“It must be remembered,” she told Haaretz.com, “that at the time, many people were afraid to use the Internet, and it was important to broadcast something user-friendly both on the home page and in the logo. Something simple, that you didn’t need to be scared of, something catchy and full of life.”


I see the reasoning, but . . .

Had you made Google’s connection between new and old? I hadn’t. Not even subliminally. The cues are too subtle. A word that looks like goggle and sounds like oogle and feels like giggle in colors like kindergarten isn’t going to connect historically unless the connection is obvious, more like this . . .

I exaggerate, but only a little.

It’s something to keep in mind. This is a case where the appeal is in the word itself. G-o-o-g-l-e. When you find yourself here, generally speaking you don’t want to add a visual trick. And understatement, as in this case, rarely works either.

I think Google would be better off with a typeface that looks, well, googly.

For more on the development of Google’s logo, check out Wired magazine.

For more on how to design a text-only logotype, check out our article.


This entry was posted in Branding, Critique, Design, Logo design. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Famous logo links past and present?

  1. Peter B says:

    Interesting Wired piece on the Google logo, but that first sample is not Adobe Garamond, as the article says, but Granjon. The l.c. “g” is the giveaway, with that funny ear. I dunno why I can do this, but I’d have more room in my brain for useful stuff if I couldn’t. 8^)

  2. Ryan Parker says:

    Fascinating. I see this logo dozens of times each day, and I didn’t recognize the typeface.

    Kedar’s reasoning makes perfect sense in context — that is, once we know the context.

    I’m of the opinion that in identity development, it’s important to have touchpoints like this, regardless of how they are revealed (or not revealed) to the viewer.

    In looking at previous iterations of the logo, I wonder if we would feel the same about it in one of those other forms. The intricacies of Catull make visual sense to me; the typeface feels balanced with the simplicity of a text-only treatment.

    The identity simply doesn’t need anything else to tell its story.

    I wonder if it would have worked out that way in Garamond. Thoughts?

  3. Phil Campbell says:

    Interesting. I have never really liked the Google logo, and didn’t think much of any of the earlier design iterations either. How about you workshop this further and see what happens?

  4. Wendy says:

    I won’t look it up, but the word google has its roots in mathematics. It’s a homonym for googol, which is a really big number — 1 followed by 100 zeroes. A clever name for a company that stores huge amounts of information, actually.

    I’ve satisfied my geek quotient for the day . . .

  5. Eric Bernal says:

    When I first saw the Google logo I just assumed that a programmer designed it, and that they had not consulted a designer, and that they did not have any design people on staff.

  6. Paul says:

    This article speaks to me more about the success of Google than the design. If Google had crashed and burned in a year, we would hardly be oohing and aahing over the “process.” I compare it to the Nike logo — nice swoosh and all, but the way in which Nike used the logo and the company’s success made it the design icon it is. More of a case of driving the vehicle well than the vehicle itself.

  7. Karina says:

    The first moment I saw the Google website I was positively surprised. The entire site, white, just one word “Google,” and search engine field.

    It conveyed to me all that the creator intended. I was relaxed, as finally I was not bombarded with useless clutter, and the logo was unusually positive and yet — even a bit elegant. The whole experience was gentle and inviting.

    To be honest, from a personal design point of view I think I would have never chosen the colors — yet, I must admit, that subconsciously I felt a positive vibe.

    The white space, though, was just as important as the logo — without that, it would not have worked. The entire concept conveyed . . . ease and sophistication — perfect combination for a search engine.

  8. Toshko says:

    I’d say that that Kedar’s considerations regarding the meaning of the logo elements and their evolution mean something only to her and perhaps to the guys who commissioned the logo. They are subject to rather arbitrary interpretations by the designer community and usually mean squat to the general public. Most people just perceive balance, colour gamut, focus. It is interesting, however, to see how Google’s self-understanding evolved and logo variations followed. And better self-understanding led to mature simplicity. It would be nice to achieve such maturity from the start.

  9. Sean says:

    Anyone else not buying this? I doubt that any such consideration went in to this logo. The sort of designer that really does put such subtle cues in a logo does not use a drop shadow, do they? Seriously? This looks like, “knock up a quick logo now and . . . oohh, the company has become successful, so quick, invent a back story to support the font and colour choices.”

  10. Funny, even though the logo never impressed me much from a design perspective, I have to say I’m not reading as many objections as I thought I would.

    So let me voice this:

    I think it’s incredibly good in its simplicity. I think having a more “googly” font would perhaps have undermined its use in the business world at the start.

    It is simple enough to not be intimidating, the font is human enough to not scream geek and again intimidate, and the use of colours subtly says we aren’t too serious, and keep it simple.

    I think we are all looking at this logo, seeing Google as the giant they are today, but they didn’t start that way. They gained that momentum, and they did it without looking flashy or fly-by-night. This logo and font has real staying power, avoiding something trendy. To me, the simplicity says we are a simple search engine to find what you need. What more should it say?

    They’ve since treated this incredibly simple logo to their daily illustrative changes with incredible effectiveness. I’m not sure that it could be done with a more ornate typeface.

    I’m a logo systems designer, and while I like something more descriptive, I have to say that I think they thought this through and made the right decision for their company brand and their marketing direction.

    Sometimes it isn’t about award-winning, clever designs; it’s about attracting the target you want and getting the return you want. They’ve clearly done that, and their logo is a strong part of it.

  11. Tom Semmes says:

    I always assumed as others had that the Google logo wasn’t designed, that there was no thought involved in choosing the typeface at all. And that was why it worked. The message is that Google is not a destination but only a stopping-off point to somewhere else, so why spend any time or money making it nice? Like a waiting room in a bus depot.

  12. Kerry Clark says:

    I’ve never been a big fan of Google’s logo. However, because the company is successful, the logo is successful. Enron has a decent logo. The Nazis had a strong, iconic mark. But they each suffer because of what they represent. Logos can be wonderful visual expressions of an idea. But they are only signatures or silent ambassadors for the entities they represent. The logo, when done as part of an overall brand experience, is more complete when brand promises are kept.

  13. Joan Auclair says:

    I’ve always liked the logo and the colors, and at this point I consider it exempt from stringent design critique. Certainly changing the logo now won’t affect the company one way or the other.

  14. Tycho says:

    The colors and 3D shading very specifically recall Fisher-Price type preschool toys to my mind. For those of us who recall the burdensome task of internet search engines before Google, back when html itself was the big step forward, this “kindergarten-simple” styling seems very appropriate to their claims of easy searching. This also confers an element of “designed to be used” and therefore not likely to break anything. It was so easy to crash your system in those earlier days, and it was a lot easier to trash your file system, so these were powerful messages.

  15. Amber M. says:

    The very first time I saw the Google home page, it blew my mind . . . there were no other search engines — or many sites in general — that had clean, sparse designs. “No banner ads? No articles? Whaaaaat?” That was a bigger deal than the typeface and colors in the logo.

  16. Liz M. says:

    Designed with purpose or by accident . . . doesn’t matter because it works.

    I agree that the primary colors make you think of Fisher-Price, and that’s what’s so genius about it. It lets you know that you can use the tool without breaking it. The white space is non-threating and allows you to step right in — I wouldn’t step into a cluttered store (Bing).

  17. mary ramirez says:

    1. Branding is the voice of a company. Your brand identifies you to the world, and whether or not you are successful, your brand is your introduction and continues to speak. Look at some other branding that we automatically associate with the company or product: AT&T, Coke, WalMart, Chevrolet, the post office . . . the list goes on and on. Even if the press is bad, we still identify and recognize the logos. So whatever the logo design is, it becomes a visual shorthand and ultimately the brand.

    2. What is all the noise about drop shadowing? I think that the subtle use of a drop shadow (especially in Google’s logo) helps bring the type into our real world, gives it a dimension as if we really could pick it up and hold it in our hand. The cyber world seems ethereal and at times unfathomable, so Google’s simplicity makes many of us feel more comfortable.

    3. Consider how fascinating it is that Google has evolved from a funny word to not only a noun, but also a verb.

  18. kirsty says:

    One thing I really like about the Google logo is that, because it’s just basically the name typed out, they can then do all these amazing artworks based on it. I collect them!

    If the logo itself were more interesting (e.g. some of the earlier ideas) it would be hard to play about with it so much and still be recognisable.

  19. Paul says:

    Remember that the volume of users viewing this page would have cost them a fortune in bandwidth at the time. Plus most sites were very bland text only — then Google brought a splash of colour and stuck with it. The seven-year redesign has passed, but they have resisted to used it.

  20. Funny how a name as huge as Google turned out to be such a household word so fast. I can not see it without thinking of the cartoon character Mr. Magoo! I think that says it’s as non-threatening and easy to use Google for anything as it is to turn on a kid’s TV show. The primary colors, the softly embossed font and saying ‘oo’ every time you pronounce the name Google is just fun!

  21. Diane Hokans says:

    I agree with Sean that the backstory was invented. This logo does just not seem to have that much consideration put into it. Not that it’s horrible — it just isn’t that thoughtful.

  22. Rex Kwondo says:

    No disrespect to the designer, but that Google logo is a good example of just another college-level logo made famous by the marketing budget behind it rather than any creative design brilliance.

  23. Joe Makala says:

    I agree with Rex . . . the logo seems juvenile with not much imagination. The logo is famous because of the company’s success. It’s about time they hired a professional designer to upgrade their logo.

  24. rexmariposa says:

    Logos are for companies. Google’s logo is very famous.

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