When I was young, I just didn’t get it.
See, I was located squarely in Piaget’s pre‐operational stage of development, and something funny seems to happen there: you’re only able to take things at face value, missing out on subtlety, double‐meanings, sarcasm… and all that good stuff that isn’t stated bluntly. Once you’re a fully cognizant individual, you can appreciate all of that.
As a teen, or perhaps slightly earlier, I was suddenly able to see these sorts of things for what they really were. Well, most things. But for a certain class of things that I first experienced during my pre‐op stage, I continued having trouble seeing them for what they truly represented. Here’s an example:
When I was growing up, this was the Burger King logo. (I also walked uphill to school in the South Florida snow, both ways. Kids these days.) It’s pretty simple, right? The words represented the meat, between a couple of buns. To whom was that not abundantly clear that the logo is a burger?
I didn’t realize that until I was a bit older (high school, maybe), at which point it just hit me. It was not for lack of exposure; I had been eating at Burger King practically since birth. I had a birthday party there in elementary school. I was in the goddamn Burger King Kids Club!
The fact that I was exposed to this logo so early in life is precisely why I took it for granted. I missed the visual pun; as far as I was concerned, the logo looked the way it did because that was just what the Burger King logo looked like. I simply couldn’t imagine it any other way, or having any other purpose than telling people who see it on the side of a building that they’re looking at a Burger King location.
I had no such difficulty with the stupid‐simple McDonald’s arches. It’s just a big “M.”
Here’s another example of a logo I didn’t fully understand or appreciate. For the record, I wasn’t a Milwaukee Brewers fan, but at the age of four or five (and thanks to a friend’s father) I found myself with a huge collection of contemporary baseball cards. Again, until I was much older, all I saw in this logo was a stylized baseball and glove… which to a child, seems a perfectly appropriate logo for a baseball team. And your average sports‐team logo is on the literal side.
I believe it was at some point in college that I noticed the subtle lettering in the Brewers’ logo. What a brilliant design!
There’s a completely different class of logos that are more subtle, with something intentionally hidden within. You don’t need to be a youngster to miss it.
These tend to be great:
The FedEx logo is widely celebrated, its pun masterfully subtle. It only occurred to me it a few years ago, while driving to work one day. I was behind a FedEx truck. Then it hit me. (Thank you, I will be here all week.)
As for the Goodwill logo, this blog comment made me see the light, or rather, the huge “g” in negative space. I had always just seen it as a face.
The day I realized that the Amazon logo wasn’t mean to be a smirk was the day I saw the A -> Z.
Can you think of any other good examples?