23 October 2016

[logo] Kodak Is As Kodak Was: What Does 'Kodak' Mean, Anyway?

As reported by many outlets that look at such things, the Kodak logo has been changed again. The new looks a whole lot like a certain golden age.

b. 1971, d. 2006
From 1935 to 1970 the company had been using the word Kodak in a thick-stroke, slab-serif (or, 'Egyptian') style, with the word in red and the background in yellow. The only change in that time was for the background yellow to go from a rectangular cartouche to a right-triangle in about 1960 with a curl suggestive of peeling the cover paper from one of those self-developing Polaroid photos that were the rage before instant photography became viable.

In 1971 the company went modern with an abstract approach that made the arm and leg of the initial K into a symbol also reminiscent of the way light converges to a lens. The word mark's typography was updated and found a home inside the arms of the symbol, which legend said was turned into a rounded quadrilateral meant to recall the visual outlines of a viewfinder.

The company stayed with this until 2006, when a sort of return to an earlier form was called for: the logo again reduced to a word mark, Kodak, in a serif-less red font that looked bespoke. The yellow was similarly reduced to a bold underline to this word, when it appeared at all.

born again, 2016
This year, what's old is newish again; that 70s logo has returned, as reset by the creative team at Work-Order, the wordmark is rearranged. Ten years after, and about nine years after I was taught that stacked type is a graphic design no-no, I am reminded that there are exceptions to all rules. as the stacked type works pretty well here. Not only that, but it brings to mind the sprocket holes of old 35mm camera film, evenly spaced along one side. Kodachrome, it gives you nice bright colors …

Wait. They took our Kodachrome away in 2010. Well, at least we have memories. And this. And Kodak is getting back into consumer photography, bringing back its signature Ektra as a photography-oriented smartphone, which is perfect if you have Paul Simon on speed-dial.

Which brings me round to another aspect of Kodak branding: while it's known that the "Polaroid Land Camera" was named for Polaroid's inventor, Edwin Land, the word Kodak seems inscrutable. That's a part, if accidental, of the design; the founder of Kodak, George Eastman, happened to just like the letter K. He found it strong and incisive (a perceptive man, said the author with a name beginning with K). The word itself was created by playing with letter tiles from an anagram set, and had to fit three criteria: 1) short, 2) cannot be mispronounced, and 3) impossible to be associated with anything else.

Coincidences may be coincidental, but George Eastman anticipated the concept of the word Exxon over 100 years before it even was possible.

And now you know. 

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