As I have said many times before; a brand identity engages your target audience on an emotional level. Although it cannot work on its own, the power of a logo design can be significant. The two examples below illustrate the impact of a logo when it is linked with equity, race and politics.
Last year, Slack changed its logo design from its original “hashtag looking” symbol to one of a more modern, pinwheel approach. Although there was praise for the update, Slack had unintentionally created a swastika in the space surrounding their logo (negative space). This led to the actual comments below:
“You mean to say you paid for the colorful swastika? You should both be embarrassed”
“Oh Slack. Everyone knows that you have to be careful to avoid swastikas when doing a 4 element pinwheel logo, but there’s one right there in the negative space! How was this one even proposed with a straight face??”
Of course, these comments are justifiable. We are taught at school and from our elders about Hitler’s Nazi Party. Even though we did not live through the horrors of World War Two, seeing a swastika immediately reminds us of the horrific acts that Hitler ordered to be carried out.
The University of Virginia
The Black Lives Matter movement has increased the awareness surrounding racism. So much so that many companies are rightly reviewing their brand and changing the elements that are associated with racial inequality. This includes Mars, who announced last month they will be reviewing the image of Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Jemima due to the connections with the slave trade.
The University of Virginia also changed their brand, removing the handle grips from the swords in their logo. Though this is such a small element in the design, the grips represented the Serpentine Walls that stand on their grounds. These walls were originally built to hide the slaves building and working at the University.
The actual comments – although many positive – looked like this:
“This is really getting ridiculous!!”
“Stupid idea. One of the signs of an intelligent person/ committee is they do not overreact. This is an absolutely stupid overreaction.”
“How ridiculous. Go ahead and tear down the serpentine walls. Will that satisfy you or anyone?”
Whilst the Nazi Party and the Slave Trade are significant marks on the human race, our education on each is different.World War Two is taught throughout Western Society, but very little is taught on the Slave Trade, Colonialism and the fights for equality.
This is why, when a swastika (which incidentally is the symbol of peace used in Buddhist and Hindu religions but Hitler stole it) is deliberately or accidentally displayed it incites calls for removal, and the discussion and changes of removing symbols associated with racism and the incarceration of black people in the slave trade, are met with calls that we have gone “soft”.
The Power of a Logo
When designing your logo always be mindful of your target audience. A logo cannot carry the weight of your entire brand (hence why my services include brand strategy) but it can have a powerful impact on your audience’s engagement with your business.
I, for one, am glad that businesses are now paying more attention to how their brand could have racist connotations and, although we are a way from achieving racial equity, we are getting there.