April 29, 2010

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Logo confusion
Sincerest form of groupthink
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

When I first saw Google Buzz, I knew it wasn’t entirely original. It was knocking off Twitter, Facebook, anything with a “status” that users could post to the interwebs for all their “friends” to see.

But it went deeper than that. And much, much shallower as well.

Buzz’s logo is a cute little speech bubble, like in a comic strip. Only instead of white, it’s four colors: red, green, blue and yellow, each taking up about one quarter of the logo and meeting in the center.

Those are the colors of Google’s main logo, so no shock that it would use those colors again. They’d used them in the logo for their Web browser, Chrome, already. You know, the logo that looked more like the Simon electronic game than anything else. Buzz, though … where’ve I seen that pattern before?

Oh, right. Windows. They’ve used that pattern of colors for almost two decades. From humble 3.1 all the way up to version 7, the wavy box with four colors has been through it all. It’s a little more shaded and anti-aliased nowadays, but it’s essentially the same.

Am I granting Microsoft a monopoly on that pattern? Certainly not. Those four colors represent both types of primary colors — you remember those from art class. Or printer ink. Red, green and blue for light, and magenta (red), yellow and cyan (blue) for pigments. Combine primary colors and you can make any color in the rainbow. Any logo with those colors is really saying, “I got everything you need right here!”

It certainly doesn’t stop with Google and Microsoft. Right now I’m running the free version of AVG Anti-Virus on my laptop. Go ahead, look up their logo. A square, with four sections of red, green, blue and yellow meeting in the middle? You don’t say! It’s even more cheeky on their part because that blue section used to be black, but recent versions use a vibrant blue.

There is one company for whom using those four colors makes perfect sense: Sharp. Have you seen the commercials with Sulu? Original 1960s Sulu, George Takei, not nu-Sulu John Cho from last year’s Star Trek reboot movie. They have Sulu dressed up in a lab coat, holding a clipboard, pretending to be a Sharp electronics engineer, like we’re not going to recognize freaking Sulu, introducing a new type of television.

No, it’s not 3D. That’s not new anymore. Keep up.

It’s their Quattron line. While not as obviously dramatic as 3D, Quattron does try to breathe new life into plain old 2D by adding a fourth color to each pixel: yellow. They felt color reproduction was lacking in modern TVs, and by adding yellow to the red, green and blue of each pixel, they could really punch up the hues. It results in trillions of possible colors on screen, but whether or not you can actually tell is kind of subjective.

At least the Quattron logo is a line of diamonds as opposed to a single square. That’s the real innovation.