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Logo in real life - A conversation with Michele Galluzzo



Diving right into the field of piracy and counterfeiting, I can only get in line and borrow the first question straight from the description of @logo_irl: "What happens to logos when they leave corporate identity manuals, and start living in real life?” In other words, if brand manuals are a designer’s "earthly paradise", what is the original sin of a logo?

Corporate identity manuals often don’t tell us what’s going on behind the scenes. In conducting historical research on graphic design, over the years I managed to meet designers who designed them. More often than not, I would hear the same frustrations from them in seeing these guidebooks remain unused, ignored or, misunderstood, collecting dust on some office shelf. In other words, these manuals that explain the heroic history of national and international graphic design were often seen by company employees in the same way Fantozzi* watched the Battleship Potemkim. (*Ugo Fantozzi is a fictional character, appearing in Italian literature and film).

Common scenarios are usually presented in manuals in a maniacal way. While guidebooks offer the essential code for the creation of the visual identity of a company, an entity or an event; they can also be the quintessence of a fear of losing control. In what you call "earthly paradise", the role of the forbidden apple can be represented by the "dos / don'ts" pages canonically present in every self-respecting manual. In those sections, manuals explain how a logo should not be used through examples of distortions, incorrect pairings, and inappropriate color codes. In these sections, it’s as if the fears of a corporate board of directors seem to materialize regarding the loss of control in the multiplication of the brand. Therefore, the original sin of a brand can be described as the voluntary or involuntary possibility of a company employee that distorts and deforms the company logo. Quite iconoclastic.

On the other hand, with coordinated image manuals and brand guidelines, companies generally assign and elect a director of its visual identity, along with a graphic designer, a studio, and the agency that implements the corporate identity. In this way, end users of the brand manual are seen as mere executors of a supply chain.


Conservatives or revolutionaries? Are we seeing a shortcut of the creative process? Or a sort of ‘robin hood-esque’ subversive act?


Subversion is inherent in the choice to appropriate a brand and change its meaning. Perhaps one of the most interesting examples historically - specifically from a "robin hood-esque" perspective - is the famous one by Dapper Dan, a Harlem merchant who in the seventies began counterfeiting haute couture garments, not only to make them more affordable to black communities in New York ghettos, but also to support the political struggle of black minorities through the subversion of brands – including Fendi, Gucci and Louis Vuitton – that represent rich, white societies.


Even the distortion of the logos that occupy our daily gaze in the public space is an act of resistance and cultural interference - of "culture jamming" in the expression coined in the mid-eighties by Don Joyce of Negativland. I’m thinking of a leaflet produced by the militants of the Italian extra-parliamentary left in 1968, which suggested possible "corrections" to the coats of arms of fascism on walls, showing how they could be modified. Subvertising, born between the seventies and nineties and which found billboards as its preferred means of communication, gave life to anti-advertising starting with logos: By modifying the corporate logo of Coca-Cola, into “Climate-Change”, it was possible to denounce the company’s negative impact on the environment. The consequences of the junk food distributed by the McDonald's chain could be highlighted by transforming the logo into “McDiabetes”.



As a professional and researcher in the field of Graphic Design, what place could "counterfeit" logos occupy in the history of visual communication? What do we have to learn from them?


Beyond the individual cases addressed, one of @logo_irl's objectives is to build an archive accessible to everyone, offering a less designer-centric point of view on graphic design. The history of graphic design has often placed the designer at the center of its narratives, omitting the lives of the works when – after leaving the studio, the laptop, the printing press – they begin to live in the "real world". Maybe we should talk about “Social history of design” as recently suggested by Aggie Toppins. It’s a road I’m thinking about.

LOGO IN REAL LIFE tries to show how logos - usually considered as the quintessence of the graphic designer as a director and protagonist - can be reused, modified, memeified, and subverted. Talking about these stories too can become useful to understand both historically and in modern times, the relationship between designer and society. Otherwise, if in graphic design courses, stories continue to focus only on virtuous relationships between designers and companies, there is a risk of transferring to students and professionals an obsession with protagonism or set them up to be profoundly frustrated.



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