SA’s New Logo: The People Divider

SA's New Logo

SA’s New Logo

South Australia’s new “brand” has done a great job at polarising people: sharply and not at all evenly. It seems, but I could be wrong, that the majority of punters don’t just dislike the new “brand” but vehemently hate it–to the point of wanting to gouge out their own eyes. Perhaps it is underwhelming. Perhaps it isn’t very good, even. But I’d like to challenge a few popular points.

A logo isn’t a brand. Stop calling the logo a brand! It is part of a brand. No brand strategy can get by on its logo alone. There is more to this strategy people than the poor little logo.

Does the logo have to be explicit? A lot of the criticism surrounds what the logo is meant to convey. In her article in the Sunday Mail, Lainie Anderson asks some contacts overseas what they think of it. An ex-pat Aussie in China shared the views of some Chinese folk. They didn’t “recognise the shape as Australia”. Another respondent opined “If I was forced to guess, I would have thought this was the logo of a real estate agency or mortgage broker”. This sentiment made me wonder about the logos of other Australian states. Check ’em out:

Tasmania's Logo

Tasmania’s Logo

NSW's Logo

NSW’s Logo

NT's Logo

NT’s Logo

QLD's Logo

QLD’s Logo

Victoria's Logo

Victoria’s Logo

WA's Logo

WA’s Logo

Are any of these logos more or less explicit than the new South Australian logo? Do we hate them any more or less? Do they serve their purpose? And more importantly, how successful have they been as a part of their respective branding strategies.

Logos can be too clever and set out to achieve more than is required of them. What is the purpose of a logo? Is it to tell a 1000-word story or to add polish to the overall brand? I tend to side with the latter. A logo needs to be relevant, for sure. But it shouldn’t be too much. If it is too clever it can be overwhelming. If it is too clever it can be confusing. Are logos meant to be a practical equivalent of a Blexbolex or something less than that?

For the most part the new SA logo is going to be used with the words “South Australia”, no? And even when it’s not, the point is to create synonymity between the symbol and what it stands for–a representation of South Australia. Consider all the other seemingly unconnected symbols out there in the world of marketing and how they have become synonymous with a word or philosophy.  Nike’s “tick”, anybody?

A 5-year-old or yourself in MS Paint didn’t and couldn’t have done the same. I have some formal art training. I did a certificate through TAFE SA and was thankful that the course covered both traditional and contemporary mediums. We got to draw, paint, splash ink on a canvas; do all sorts of cool stuff. Some of the results were technical and outstanding. Others were more abstract and messy, though thoughtful and with base all the same. I remember working hard on typography exercise. It was very much about visual communication, so design with utility. I was proud of my work and got a brilliant mark. I took it home, showed my family and some friends and many of the comments were that it looked like something my niece could throw together. I was livered. Many of them drivers: A monkey could be taught to drive a car, right? Or, given enough time, rewrite Shakespeare’s Hamlet, right? As simple and effortless as a design may appear, it isn’t all about execution. It starts with an idea. A narrative. Some sort of inspiration. It has to evolve. For something to be just right takes an investment of time and thought. To make something that is more than just a drawing requires more than just the act of drawing itself. That’s why, I guess, we don’t see kindergarten students pumping out poignant, visual representations of Plato’s “Second Alcibiades” on a regular basis.

I might add, anybody can reproduce a work but having the idea in the first place is more complex. Life drawing–we draw what we see; most people are okay at it. Drawing something from scratch–what to draw? why draw it? how to draw it? This is why people–from small business owners to CEOs of billion-dollar companies–pay designers.