Learn Logos

Posted on May 14, 2012 in Brand/Identity, Our Stories
Learn Logos

Macmillan is the new face of a company with a rich history in the publishing industry. We work with Macmillan’s College  & Academic Publishers and their Research and Design group, providing visual design standards for the company’s educational publishing and learning content management system. In addition to our work in the application interface, our client asked us to explore logo design concepts for their emerging technology initiative. The initial goal was to create a mark that would reside in the footer of the application, providing reference to the underlying technology platform as deployed by any participating Macmillan publisher.

In preliminary discussion, we confirmed our mutual understanding of the differences between brand, identity, and logo; e.g., “your logo is not your brand, etc.” We agreed:

  • Your brand is the perceived emotional image of your corporation as a whole.
  • Your identity is comprised of visual artifacts that (taken together) serve to define the overall brand.
  • A logo is generally considered to be the most simple, elemental representation of a company or product, and it is usually presented as a mark, flag, symbol, or signature. Most importantly, logos don’t sell the company or describe the business. They derive their meaning from the qualities of the thing they represent. They identify, they don’t explain.

We started with sketches for the “Macmillan Learn” logo, taking our cues from Macmillan’s “new face” and exploring the idea of an “R&D seal of approval”.

Our client responded with the decision to abbreviate “Macmillan Learn” and we proceeded with additional concepts for the condensed version “MLearn”. We returned to our studies of the dot-mark and provided a series of concepts that integrate the Macmillan “M” with reference to the company’s focus in education and publishing.


We concluded the series with a typographic solution that identifies the platform by name, with an alternate abbreviation for constrained space applications.

Logo design is great exercise. Citing the often-referenced “5 Principles of Effective Logo Design” a successful logo should be simple, memorable, timeless, versatile, and appropriate—and that is no small feat. We appreciate Paul Rand’s perspective:

Surprising to many, the subject matter of a logo is of relatively little importance, and even appropriateness of content does not always play a significant role.

This does not imply that appropriateness is undesirable. It merely indicates that a one-to-one relationship between a symbol and what it symbolized is very often impossible to achieve and, under certain conditions, objectionable. Ultimately, the only mandate in the design of logos, it seems, is that they be distinctive, memorable, and clear.

We continue to learn.