04 July 2006

[logo_design] Stark's Vacuums

The logo in the illustration should have instant associations for anyone who's either a)Painfully Portland, b)grew up during the glory days of heavy metal home appliances, c)has a good vacuum cleaner, or d)any combination.

In the Portland commercial landscape, Stark's is a stalwart. We don't know if it has any connection with Benjamin Stark, for whom Stark Street is named, but it wouldn't surprise us.

We wanted to hold off on this for a few more days until we were able to visit the building and get a few piccies of that, but figured our all-Gordon-Ramsay-all-the-time approach needed a bit of (dare I say) leavening. So, back on the design train it is.

Stark's sells vacuums, of course. It does it very very well indeed, since 1934, as a matter of fact. There are eight stars in the Starks constellation, but the flagship at 107 NE Grand Avenue in Portland deserves special attention, if only for the whimsical mural on the Grand Avenue side, but it does boast the only Vacuum Cleaner museum that we know about (and, sadly, have not yet visited, but that's on the short list).

The logo is genius, and we know it's easy to throw that word about, but look at it! What else can you say? The script is reminiscent of that time, in the 50s, 60s, and into the 70s, which I think of as "The Golden Age of Heavy Appliances". It was a brave era, on the edge of the Space Age, when women used appliances but men moved them. They were built heavy but they were made to run for, seemingly, hundreds of years.

Its retro hook recalls the industrial style of the Hoovers and the Kerbys as well as the script badges of old classic cars from even earlier, somehow avoiding the quaint dating that such design moves can sometimes produce. The visual coup de grace is the extremely clever working of the stem stroke of the minuscule t into–what else–an upright vacuum cleaner. I think we actually had that model when I was but a neat thing.

What this does is deftly plant the idea of "this is the place to go in Portland for a damn fine vacuum cleaner". Where else? The logo is also well-done for a variety of functional reasons, the most important of which being that the simplified shapes and strong line thicknesses will look good at just about any size, from on the side of a building to a salesman's business card. This is one of those designs I wish I'd thought of.

The simple yet sophisticated design style is continued at Stark's website (http://www.starks.com–one wonders what they had to go through to get that gem of a URL) that replicates the feel of the logo throughout the page headings (a similar-feeling though not identical script) and over all apt design–navigation clear and quick, even for dialup customers, apt font and illustration choices through out. There's nothing about thier web presentation that doesn't just work. I don't know if there's a web design competition, but if there is, they ought to submit.

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Jeff Fisher LogoMotives said...

The Stark's logo is one of my favorite local identity designs.

- J.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

I've always thought it was brilliant, but that should be obvious. B-)

To me, a logo is 'great' when I look at it and it involves me to the point that I say to myself "Geez, I wish I'd of done this." The Stark's logo is like that for me.

Tammy Ames said...

This is my firt visit to The ZehnKatzen Times (congrats on the SOB ranking!) and Liz was right, you are doing a great job ~ I am not a designer but I have a deep admiration for design. The Starks logo is amazing - new to me! I especially love what they did with the header on their website. The header actually looks like the side of a cannister vac from the 1950's. The script on the electrolux cannister vac was like that similar grooves where the white lines are on the header. It's indeed sharp!

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...


Thanks for stopping by. I'm pretty glad I've found Successful-Blog, that's for sure.

Your observations about the Stark's logo are incredibly apt and quite handily prove my points about it's power. Logos carry a considerable amount of emotional baggage and whoever crafted Stark's was dead brilliant, evoking a sense of when manufacturers really manufactured, when "Made in America" automatically implied quality and durability, and a signature style that is retro yet incredibly charming.

While not every is (or wants to be, or should be) a designer, I'm convinced that everyone knows design. Designers are trained to use these tools and concepts with knowing, but the average Jane and Joe will respond better to apt design than inept design. Moreover, the vox pop may not explicity know bad design, but they do implicitly; it will ring a sour note in the subliminal consciousness when they see it.

Again, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the input!