Some movies are as famous as their logos. They are a visual source of creativity for graphic and digital designers across the land. In the business world, a logo is a design symbolising one’s organisation. It is a graphical representation which technically conveys a company name, trademark, and/or abbreviation.
Cutaway the business jargon and a logo can also be described as an emotional stamp. One which has the potential to become embedded in the cultural fabric and tell buyers who you are in a blink of an eye.
In theory, logo design should be quick and easy. It’s only a little mark, right? Wrong! How long does a great logo take to design is like asking how long is a piece of string. Some of them will come in five minutes, others can take years. From market and user research to mock-ups and mood boards, to getting feedback and sign off from clients, designing a logo is quite the process.
And, as with any other creative process, the designer will often look towards other sources of inspiration. Where better than the movies? The big screen has produced an array of big logos. They can form an integral part of the brand, marketing and merchandising. And, in some cases, logos also become part of the movie’s narrative.
Of course, every graphic designer has an opinion forged on experience. And, dare we say it, every graphic designer is right! So it is that debate surrounds which movie logos are the best. To help you in your creative endeavours, we’ve collated 5 of the best movie logos and detailed a few things that graphic and digital designers can learn from them.
Movie logo #5: The Shining
This logo is credited to Saul Bass but, in common with most of his career, the work was divided between himself and his wife, fellow graphic designer, Elaine Bass. We discuss their collaboration in more detail in our blog about wildly creative designers. Bass also collaborated very closely with Stanley Kubrick, who notoriously micro-managed every element of his films. Design by committee, of course, is more terrifying than any horror film. Just ask any graphic designer! In this case though, Bass’ collaboration demonstrates how working with your team and client can produce something transcendent.
The logo is more conceptual than literal, with a design intentionally evoking a feeling of fear and intrigue on the part of the viewer. The colour yellow isn’t especially important in the film, nor is it the obvious go-to colour for any horror film logo, but in the marketing space it stood out against the other film posters of the day, as a vivid slab of colour.
Like any great business logo, it pulls back the curtain on the brand values of the film. This is key to logo design. From ideation, composition, font to colouration, your brand stamp should be a prelude to what they can expect.
Movie logo #4: Back to the Future
Since this film concerns travelling to the past rather than the future, the title is nonsensical. But, that doesn’t stop this being one of the most beloved films of the 80s. The logo began that love affair, with its warm colour palette and comic-book style clear, simple font. The curving font is warped, to give the impression of speed – 88mph, in fact!
What elevates the logo to the pantheon of greatness is that backward facing arrow, which fits so neatly into the crook of the k of ‘Back’ and tells us which way we’re travelling.
The logo was designed by Nina Saxon – who has created titles for a blinding variety of Hollywood movies since the ’80s, ranging from the nostalgic romance of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Romancing the Stone, to the simple sans serif elegance of The Departed and The Rum Diary.
Movie logo #3: Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park has one of those rare logos which functions just as well without the text. One glance at that dinosaur skeleton and you understand what you’re in for.
Book jacket designer, Chip Kidd, originally used the dinosaur skeleton on the cover of Michael Crichton’s 1990 Jurassic Park novel. Then, movie-branding maestro, Mike Salisbury, was brought in to overhaul it and make it work for a movie audience, by adding the red background and the stylised wordmark. That flood of red added a subconscious sense of danger to the logo, while framing it in a circle made it into a badge that could be applied to any background and any piece of merchandise.
A good designer needs to think about how versatile a logo can be, making sure it will work on everything from a business card to the side of a massive building. Ideally, it can excite engagement at a glance!
Jurassic Park is also a rare example of a logo that actually appears in the film. They cunningly slapped it on every prop they could; which meant that people buying that merchandise, out in the world, would feel like they were taking a little piece of the film home with them.
Movie logo #2: Ghostbusters
Another logo which plays a key role in the actual film, and another great example of a logo which works brilliantly with or without the text, is Ghostbusters.
Created by graphic designer and photographer, Michael C. Gross and the film’s star and writer, Dan Aykroyd, the logo is – in a very literal sense – iconic. The simple idea of using a cartoon ghost and a no entry sign communicates succinctly and unmistakably that no ghosts are allowed. Sometimes the simplest, most obvious designs really are the best!
Famously, the teaser posters were released with just the no-entry-ghost logo and no name. This was revolutionary viral marketing, back in the 80s. However, that hadn’t been the plan. Very late in production, Columbia Pictures found that the name ‘Ghost Busters’ was owned by another company, and their title might need to change. But, the posters needed to go out – so they went out with just the logo and no name.
That logo did its job, it teased people, made them curious; and that’s a great way to launch a product into any marketplace – get your branding out there first, so people are already impressed.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a really catchy theme tune!
Movie Logo #1: Star Wars
Star Wars has several logos. We are, after all, 43 years, eleven movies, several TV shows and countless toys, books, comics and video games into the franchise, there’s bound to have been some changes. But the logo that is stamped at the start of each of the films is the one they refer to as ‘canon’.
That logo was first designed by Suzy Rice. George Lucas told her he wanted a logo that was “very fascist and elicited some degree of intimidation”. Rice studied German fonts from the 1930s and came up with a blocky, confident logo in which some of the letters are joined (as the letters TZ can be in German signage).
The concept artist, Joe Johnson (who later went on to become film director, Joe Johnson) took a look at the logo and made the W a bit more aesthetic and altered the dimensions of the logo – and there you have it: The greatest movie logo ever made.
Simple, no-nonsense, the ‘S’ at the beginning and the end suggest a bend in a road, as though we are about to embark on a long journey. A long time ago, back in 1975, when Lucas was making the film, no-one could have imagined how far, far away that journey would take them.
Other movie logo designs
The movie reel of history is imprinted with countless logos which deserve a mention. Too many, in fact. So, rather than list them all in a scrawl longer than the opening of The Phantom Menace, here are 5 other movie logos worthy of attention by the graphic and digital design community.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Harry Potter
- The Godfather
Now you can go logo…
Do you agree with our list of best movie logos of all time? As a graphic designer, are the other logos that need a mention? Feel free to come and find us on Facebook or Twitter and make your case. There’s no logo that’s a no go!
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