What’s your sign?

From apples to arches, logos are usually right on the mark
By: Paul Cambra Journal Staff Writer
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It’s only a red triangle. Three sides, one color, that’s it. But when it graces a brown bottle you know there’s a Bass Ale coming your way. This simple, identifying mark has the distinction of being the first ever logo to be trademarked, way back in 1876. Did they realize what they were starting? An apple, a swoosh, a pair of golden arches. A seductive siren selling coffee. Logos come in every shape and size, and they are not limited to corporate identity. The city of Auburn has one that plays off the area’s rich history. The Claude Chana gold panner statue kneels in the foreground, while the old firehouse and courthouse dome loom in the distance. “It really represents the history of Auburn, going back to the gold rush and the volunteer firefighters that were so important to the establishment of the community and its safety and such,” said city councilman and former mayor Mike Holmes. “We ought to use that logo a little bit more in promoting the city.” The logo was designed by another former mayor, Bud Pisarek, in the early 1980s. “Then, our logo was the old city hall building,” Pisarek said. “When they bought the school and remodeled it, the logo became obsolete. They wanted to change it and I said ‘I’ll come up with something.’” That something was soon on all of the stationery, business cards and buses. When Central Square was remodeled in 2010, they put four of them in the intersection, “though I think one would have been enough,” Pisarek said. Local graphic designer Ken Hegstrom has a wide array of logos to his credit, including the Auburn Symphony. His style is clean and concise, which could be attributed to his days working in the Silicon Valley, designing logos that had to fit on computer chips. “With corporate work, it’s important to distill all of the information and make a simple concise statement that doesn’t overpower everything else,” Hegstrom said. “A simple image that people can remember and relate to. Nice clean aesthetics still rule the day.” When Auburn’s own Nella Oil Company was looking to consolidate their various fueling stations under one name, they hired Hegstrom to lead the way. “At the time I was retained to help them, in the mid-’90s, they were known as 1-Stop gas stations. But people weren’t sure whether to call them ‘One Stop’ or ‘First Stop,’” Hegstrom said. “I came up with a list of about 200 names for them to go over. I told them what I thought the stronger names were. Didn’t hear from them for about nine months, but they eventually picked Flyers.” Tom Dwelle, the oldest of four brothers who own Flyers, remembers the process. “We had a number of meetings. We decided ‘what’s the common thing?’” Dwelle said. “Our office is at the airport, we’re all pilots, so we honed in on aviation. Let’s go with flying, because that’s who we are, that’s what we do. That’s where Ken really showed his stuff.” Hegstrom developed the lettering that went along with a streaming jet that dissects the dominant “F” in the logo. The theme was carried out on a larger scale in recent years, as two jet fighters roll in formation over the company’s tanker trucks. When Nella Oil branched out into solar energy and ethanol production, they decided to rename themselves “Flyers Energy.” “The logo really hasn’t changed from Ken’s first shot,” Dwelle said. “We settled on Flyers and never looked back.” Moving forward is important when it comes to a business identity. As crucial as it is to be remembered and recognized, you also don’t want to project an image that’s old and stale. For example, last year, the Amgen logo was all over Auburn. According to race organizers, the Amgen logo that has been used the past six years — since the race’s inception — has been changed. This year’s race will feature a slightly altered logo. While you will still recognize some of the distinctive logotype, the cyclist has gone from two-dimensional to three. David McCormick, from Flavory Design in Auburn, suggests you freshen up your logo every 10 years or so. “You should take what already exists and just freshen it up, maybe change the colors a bit,” McCormick said. “People have built up recognition of it so you don’t want to scrap it entirely.” McCormick thinks the local logos represent the area well, and points out the Downtown Auburn logo as simple and effective. “It’s a balance between fulfilling the objective and making it look professional,” McCormick said. “You can make them too complex and it doesn’t work. A good logo is still simple. The simpler it is the more quickly it is recognized. And that’s the whole purpose of logos.” To identify, to symbolize, to promote instant recognition. Four rings means Audi, five is the Olympic Games. A white one inside a red one means you’ve found the Target store. Not much different than a simple red triangle.