How are used for the graphic signs of Shell, Rolling Stones (the rock band), Dolby, DVD Video, MasterCard, TÜV Certification, Iram, Conferencia Episcopal Española, 50º Aniversario de la Conferencia Episcopal Española, Chupa Chups, Reciclable product, Energy Star, Conformité Européenne , México, Lycra, Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Ministerio de Educación del Ecuador, etc.? Evidently, all its graphic signs are created as a visual reference for the aforementioned entities, of such diverse nature: enterprises, institutions, places, government divisions, products, certifications, communication campaigns, events, commemorations, artists, etc. But if we individually analyze each instance we'll find that is possible to desegregate this notion of «visual reference», into much more specific functions. The Dolby System logotype, for example, applied to a sound equipment, does not work similarly in the same equipment as the Sony logotype: the first one indicates an attribute or characteristic of the equipment, and the other tells us who its manufacturer is. Likewise, the Lycra logotype fulfills different functions when applied to packaging of the material than when used on the label of a product of another manufacturer made with Lycra: in the first instance the logotype points out to the package contents (Lycra), and in the second describe the characteristics of another product (made with Lycra).
If we analyze the more common uses of all kind of graphic signs, we notice eight well differentiated functions:
This soap bar is Lux and this other is Dove (in the package and the product itself).
This beer is Corona (in the label).
These pants are Leviʼs (on the back pocket and in the label).
This blanket is the property of Alitalia (in the blanket on board).
This is a DHL vehicle.
This is Telefónica's home office (on its tower).
This is a Zara store (over the entrance).
This is a Movistar town (in a highway billboard).
Hilton is in this country (in an airport sign).
This is a Samsung advertisement (at the bottom of a newspaper ad).
This is a Claro document (in the cell phone service monthly bill).
This is a Unilever product (on the back of the Dove soap bar package).
This wine is from Concha y Toro cellars (in the «Casillero del Diablo» label).
This park is looked after by McDonalds.
This event is sponsored by Coca-Cola.
Characteristic. Sometimes the graphic sign performs the function to qualify or express a feature of its own or of another entity. To witness:
This enterprise is 50 years old.
Garbarino, «confidence guaranteed».
Carrefour, «the lowest price or your money back».
This is Rioja wine.
This is a Cuban cigar.
This product includes NutraSweet.
This dessert contains Oreo cookies.
This computer has an Intel processor («Intel inside»).
This product is made with recycled materials.
This is a ISO 9002 company.
This product fulfills DIN specifications.
This app is available for Android.
This program is made for Windows 10.
This picture won a Cannes festival award.
Opel Astra is named «Car of the Year» in Europe 2016.
As can be noticed, for a rapport to exist in which an entity qualifies or expresses a characteristic of another it is necessary the interaction between both graphic signs in the same statement or visual context: one will be the characterized sign of the entity and the sign of the other entity will act as characterizer.
We will then have eight functions clearly separated. Let's now analyze which of these functions is generally helpful to different kind of entities. And which kind of entities would be possible? To expedite the analysis I propose five clusters that, essentially, include every possible case:
Next we enlist the kind of entities included in each group and, at the same time, we state which of the 8 functions would be appropriate for each one of them:
Enterprises, institutions, government organizations, political parties, government, government actions, etc.
Cities, countries, regions, tourist names, origin denominations, etc.
Products, services, events, government programs, management or institutional programs, etc.
Functions: denomination, firm, sponsorship, characteristic
Advertising, promotions, public interest, proselytizing, welfare or any kind of undertakings, etc.
Functions: denomination, firm, characteristic
Guarantee seals, compatibility indicators , norm compliance indicators, commemorative signs, rewards, ingredient lists, features lists , materials employed, etc.
Functions: denomination, characteristic
|3. Physical location||●||●|
And so we arrive to a sort of «possible functions map» for the graphic sign for each kind of entity. Of course the analysis of required functions must be done for each particular case. That's why we said they are functions that «could» turn out to be applicable, because that will depend of each instance: not every organization need for its make indicate ownership, because not all own property; not all products need to show its endorsement to other brands; not every communication campaign need to boast presence, because most of them do not work in physical spaces; not all places need to sign its messages, etc.
What could be the use of the graphic identity function analysis we have gone through? Certainly to design better, to have more precise technical parameters before starting to develop graphic proposals, to evaluate existing graphic signs. In short, to know that a graphic identity must fulfill some definite functions, and not others, is a vital piece of information to determine a number of technical requirements it must comply with. Designing a sign that is simultaneously good to close commercial messages and to indicate ownership implies considering graphic renderings, different to those of a brand that only need to act as backing to other entities. The awareness of these functions can be determining (though surely not enough) to establish concrete graphic guidelines for the brand; how to limit its color palette, decide its identity typography and adequate graphic environment, or define its characteristics regarding other technical parameters (versatility, life span, reproducibility, legibility, call to attention, singularity, etc.).
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Great article, very interesting. The analysis you are making is pretty good which help every designer. Everyone should take this characterists in consideration because they would help us design better just like you say. The graphic identity is one of the main things graphic designers do, so itʼs very important this analysis you did.
El diseño favorece la atención al ofrecer detalles a la percepción haciendo la existencia más florida; pero por esa vía el diseñador puede convertirse en un personaje inocentemente siniestro al prestarse a manipulaciones oscuras.
Síntesis de la lección magistral pronunciada con motivo de la apertura del Curso Académico 2008-2009, Universitat Abat Oliba, de Barcelona, el día 1 de octubre de 2008.