19 May 2009

Can You Find The Eleven In The Big Ten?

2062.There's a artistic trick called trompe l'oeil (close-enough English pronounciation "trump loy", literally "trick of the eye"), which is an artist's way of using implied perspective to make a flat thing look three-dimensional; the painting actually seems to offer a window into another world, to tell a deeper story, to mean more than it seems to mean.

Logo designers go for this. It's not necessarily a triumph of design to have a logo tell a story, but it is wicked clever to have them do it subtly. The inimitable Larry Fire of The Fire Wire pointed me to an article at the Graphic Design Forum that illustrates logo design trompe l'oeil-age.

For instance, consider the design of the Big Ten Conference's logo, pictured right. The oldest Division I collegiate athletic association in America, it has a brand-recognition second to absolutely nobody (except maybe the Ivy League). But in 1990, Penn State joined the constellation, making the membership not ten schools, but eleven.

Big Eleven conference?

Well, no. Just like 20th Century Fox didn't change its name in the year 2001 (and the 20th Century Lanes here in SE Portland off SE 92nd Avenue and Powell Blvd retains it suddenly-rustic name) you don't mess with success. You design it into the logo. By now you should see the number 11 in the BIG TEN, but if you don't, look at the negative space on either side of T.

There you go. Logo trompe l'oeil. It tells a bigger story and makes the logo appropriate even if the name is no longer.

Via Larry Fire, then, here's a bunch of similar logos. It's pretty cool tour, and not all of them are of Randian brilliance, but many come close, and have the same deft subtletly that allows the logo to tell the story without a lot of fuss, bother, or mess (including the Toblerone bear, which I documented as well).

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