It’s seems hard to believe but 2016 marks The Logo Factory’s 20th year of producing logos and brand identities via our online studio. A quick look back at our humble beginnings and plans for the upcoming year.
Birthdays come every year, but there are certain milestones we mark. Twenty years is certainly a good one and whether we refer to it as a birthday or anniversary it seems like a pretty good reason to celebrate. Accordingly, and over the next few months, we’re going to run a series of features, blogs and articles that take a look back through those 20 years – in terms of our studio in specific and design in general. I guess a good place to kick off would be how our own logo has evolved over the years. For that, we’d have to start with my old personal webpage from back in the day:A section of that site (circa 1996) is ground zero where The Logo Factory officially began. How we get from there to our current incarnation is a tale in of itself (and involves getting every website on our ISP banned from the then major search engine Infoseek), but for visual brevity let’s just cut to the chase – here’s how that artwork looked when it transitioned to our first official brand mark: Here’s the thing: the little factory was never meant to look like a factory at all – I designed it based on my old house. I had just started The Logo Factory in its new incarnation and was working out of my cramped dining room faux office. Business over the internet was booming, and I was designing logo after logo – that would be the boxes.
Ode to the kids
My children Matthew and Amy – then 4 and 5 – were always complaining that I was working too much, so I tended to work in the wee hours of the morning when they were in bed. That’s the solitary light when all other windows are dark (my dining room office was on the first floor, but that was an accuracy that was overlooked for design purposes.) There was no real rationale or symbolism for the colors – purple and teal was a popular combination in those days and purple happened to be my (now) wife’s favorite. Our original colors weren’t even web safe (some irony there), something that would haunt us for years as the style sheet logo upper left and middle clearly illustrates.
Homages and hat tips
In terms of font selection, computer design was really hitting its stride around ’95, and many fonts were sleek, slick sci-fi treatments. I wanted to emphasize my illustrator background, and was bored to death with techno-fonts. I selected Loveletter, a broken typewriter lettering that was customized into the text portion of our logo (it’s also a homage of sorts to Cheap Trick, a fave band of mine and a logo that I loved.) That font remained unchanged for many years, but the sizing and aspect ratio relationships were altered in order to accommodate various uses, web addresses what have you. It became rare that we used the house icon and text together, other than our core material like letterheads, business cards and use on web and blog headers. While I’ve used variations of The Logo Factory as a word mark since 1993, we officially registered the trademark – name and art – in 2001. Since then, there’s been lots of design tweaks and micro-edits (the last major overhaul in 2009), but these are the major iterations of our brand identities, including a 1993 version that never really saw the light of day:
We’ve managed to stay with the version that’s now featured on everything we produce (except our studio door, the reasons for which we’ll see at the end) and to date, there’s no plans to change.
Our website evolutions
As we’ve always been an online-centric shop, our website is our primary face to the world, and it’s undergone many iterations too. Let’s take a trip down memory lane with these bad boys (technically, the 1996 version wasn’t launched on our official domain until 1998 but was featured on my personal website):
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a quick run-down of our twenty year timeline as it relates to the images above:
1996 – 1998
The Freebie Years: As mentioned earlier, the original Logo Factory first appeared as part of my personal portfolio site, a 10 MB freebie given away with a $39.00 per month dial-up internet access account. Amazingly, it’s still there. The Internet was in its infancy, Google didn’t exist yet and the major search engines were Alta Vista and Infoseek. Both featured ‘on the fly’ indexing so search engine results could be manipulated quickly and relatively easily. My site site rose to number 1 on all search engines for the phrase “logo design” and demand quickly swamped my kitchen-table roots. At first – realizing that publishing pricing was a no-no with designers – I handled each price quote personally.
1998 – 1999
Into The Corporate World: Moved into our first official studio (this is actually a picture of our second location but nobody thought to take a picture of the first. It kinda looked like this so whatever.)In 1998 we hired our first designer – one of many talented people that would call our shop home. The first official site on TheLogoFactory.com domain gets launched. This was an emergency transition – my personal keyword stuffing had tripped a newly introduced “spam filter” on InfoSeek and they had banned every single site hosted by my ISP. Bye-bye to that free website and glorious number one search engine rankings. Nothing terribly much to write about our first real site – it was a fairly simple HTML endeavor, but it would remain the core infrastructure of any subsequent version. The site featured a logo gallery, order forms and client access pages. Due to monitor resolution and bandwidth concerns of the day, logo images were much smaller than what we can get away with now. No longer able to personally handle quote requests due to the growing volume – while still cognizant that designers frowned on publishing pricing and flat rates – we set up an auto-responder that sent pricing lists to potential clients’ e-mail accounts.
1999 – 2000
Nothing Succeeds Like Excess: We published our flat rate pricing on our website, a no-no in the design industry of the day. While we had been clandestinely been working on “flat rate” packages for years, this was our first public announcement. Designers aren’t pleased and there’s a flurry of hate mail on how we “were destroying the industry.” Expansion of logo design articles and technical tutorial library and despite initial protests, the site became very popular with designers because of it. Galleries were expanded to feature full-size images and thumbnail galleries, unchanged to present.First version of our Logos in a Box stock logo service is launched. Taking our lead, logo templates become standard fare with many design companies and remains so to this day. We shuttered the site a few months later, realizing that the stock logo business model was at odds with our primary focus. Taking a “if you can’t beat ’em” approach, we’d relaunch Logos in a Box a decade later. Then let it die on the vine again a year after that. Each launch gets a flood of hate mail from designers on how we’d “sold out.” Apparently, we were always “selling out.” A partnership experiment sours and we have to find digs pronto. We moved a staff of seven back into my house for six months while we searched. That lead to our second location (that’s the photo up top.)
2001 – 2002
The Purple Years: Everything we did was purple. The walls of our studio. Our furniture. Our website which featured a clickable Flash intro complete with sound. That led to (thankfully) a short-lived sub brand FlashWurx which featured this weirdly distorted orange and green version of our house.
The terror attacks in New York on 9/11 almost put us under as phone calls and e-mails dry up for the better part of three months. We kept everyone on staff, but this torpedoes plans to purchase an old Victorian-era house and gut it for our new studio. Introduction of the Daily Logo (which was never really Daily,) and the Daily Logo Archives (the original thumbnail gallery was so bandwidth intensive, it kept blowing up our server – this is where we kept design examples that had been culled in attempts to speed things up.) For its day the site was a bandwidth hog – heavy with graphics – to address complaints from others on our shared platform, we had to move our domain to a managed private server (MPS). The days of freebie and cheap hosting were over.
2003 – 2008
We Lose Focus: To promote our growing logo animation services, we featured extensive use of Flash. This site was around for almost 5 years, and as a result became unfocused and ‘cluttered’ as new material and features were posted, bolted on and crowbarred into sections that were often confusing. Chat and search functions were added but the chat feature is a complete waste of time and resources. Nuked that PDQ. Our first blog post. We published our first free Logopalooza gallery book which garners about 100,000 downloads (we’ll be revisiting that series later in the year, we already have the new logo.)We recorded our first podcast. Our site had grown to over 800 pages, is over-linked and confusing to navigate but our logo design examples see incredible traffic spikes. In 2006, we officially celebrated our 10th birthday. Trouble is, the ten-year-itch has also kicked in, and we began to get bored with our original “look and feel.” As we try to mix things up, our brand will become cluttered and unfocused. Undeterred, we experiment with all sorts of new logos, treatments and tweaks – even tried weird 3D houses and stuff:
Yeah. That sucked.
2009 – 2015
Getting Caught Up With CMS. Losing Out On Responsive: For the first time in fifteen years, we redesigned our logo to the version we’re more-or-less using now. Designed some sweet stationery for the occasion including these completely impractical business cards.Some decent presentation folders too. We release our first honest-to-goodness ebook The Guide to Great Logos. Our site is converted to a CMS platform and streamlined, with a slightly less confusing navigation system and hierarchy. Our logo design gallery is converted to a simple thumbnail & slide version. That’s easier for users to navigate (and also makes it less convenient for people to knock-off artwork.) We miss the boat completely on ‘responsive’ design, and our entire site would need to be converted post haste. We’ll work on this mobile-friendly version for months. Speaking of the boat that we missed, seems we were the only ones. Knocked off logos continued (and continues) to be a major thing. We moved physical location again last summer, though it was only next door, which wasn’t too much of a hassle, except for all the aging, broken and obsolete gear we finally had to throw out (below left). And that vinyl door logo that had graced our studio door for 15 years and took us about 3 hours of scraping to get off (below right).
Not ever going to do that again.
Which brings us full circle to where we are today. Over the upcoming months, we’ll be posting some interesting 20th Anniversary features and articles. Stay tuned for those. In the meantime, we’ve created a special celebratory logo that encompasses our company history into one zany graphic (nicknamed around here as Crazy Earl’s Logo Emporium.)Wouldn’t that look nifty on the back of a T-shirt?