Anatomy of a Logo: MacEnthusiasts
On July 6, 2010 I completed a nine month epic project with a successful outcome, a logo that is the mutual choice of my client and me. All the good logos I’ve created have this in common- that wonderful synthesis of goals and aesthetics. When a design meets their needs, and becomes our solution.
I’ve been a long-time fan of MacEnthusiasts for their dedication to Apple products and exemplary service. So far, I’ve bought 5 computers from them; I often refer friends and first time Mac buyers to their shop on Pico in West L.A. I wasn’t a fan of their old symbol and the dated Serpentine typeface.
A little background- long before there were Apple Stores there was MacEnthusiasts, an authorized Apple reseller and repair shop with strong ties to the Los Angeles creative community. Because of their long-standing relationship with Apple, MacEnthusiasts is one of a few businesses that Apple allows to use their trademarked “Mac” in their name.
My involvement in this MacEnthusiasts logo project began with a coincidental visit to their place of business. I overheard the store’s manager and head of marketing discussing changes at their store with a representative from Apple Inc. I eavesdropped enough to realize that they were talking about changing their logo. After the Apple representative left, I made my pitch. It seems that store manager and sales chief Mathew Perleman and Jasmine Ramos, ME’s head of marketing, were planning on inviting their clients to participate in a contest to select a new MacEnthusiasts logo. I’m a vocal opponent of “crowd-sourcing”, and I cautioned them against casting this sort of wide, ill-constructed net. I shared my logo and design portfolios. We worked out a deal that suited us both and we were in business.
Even though Apple allows MacEnthusiasts to use the Mac prefix in their name, they are understandably protective of the Apple identity. No one other than Apple may use anything resembling the very recognizable Apple brand mark that was designed by Rob Janoff of Regis McKenna Advertising in 1977.
I experimented early on with other leaf designs, thinking that the concept of the leaf supporting the apple was a strong one. Soon I decided that there was far too much other identity out there with leaves and it would probably be difficult to claim that space with a trademark. I tried other concepts seen here and nothing clicked. Then came the phantom epiphany.
I researched apples in hope that there was something about them that might be translated into a visual identity. My “Eureka!” moment came when I was reminded that apples cut in half horizontally revealed five seed bearing carpels; these carpels essentially form a star. Here was a concept I could sink my teeth into. The inside of an Apple. The guts. The seeds that give birth to new fruit and new Apple fans. And the inside of the Apples that the technicians who service Macs at MacEnthusiasts know very well. I quickly comped a strong interpretation of this mark and prepared a presentation for Mathew and Jasmine.
They loved it. But unfortunately that wasn’t enough. There was one other decision maker who would have the final say on the logo, the shop’s owner Mark Greenblatt. We set a meeting to present to Mark at the shop. Despite my best attempts, Mark wasn’t buying it. It didn’t seem special enough to replace the logo he still felt vested in. While I was decidedly disappointed, I realized that I had kind of cheated by arriving at a solution so quickly. So it was literally back to the drawing board. (Yes, I still draw logos).
I’m glad we abandoned the inside the apple approach. It turns out that it’s a little too similar to the IZZE soft drink logo. There’s probably not a conflict (it’s six seeds versus five, right?); but I’m glad MacEnthusiasts won’t have to deal with the similarity.
The next round took a while, months in fact. Like often happens, there was one day when certain ideas began to flow; those ideas were spun off into other ideas, and so on. Although I had resisted the urge, I finally gave in an began playing with the initials ME. The two letters are problematic in the world of Apple. Apple has a subscription based service called Mobile Me; in conjunction with that, Apple owns the domain “me.com” and assigns email address from that domain for its Mobile Me customers. So my goal was to at least make these marks abstract enough so that the M&E weren’t immediately discernible, and the symbol had meaning beyond the letters. From this batch, my favorite was the arrows with the E as a cast shadow (example c here).
Still I wanted to find another direction to explore. I retraced my steps and returned to the idea of the leaf. Literal interpretations of the leaf seemed hackneyed. I had to look deeper- or closer. At the pixel level. I zoomed in on a low resolution version of Apple’s apple and focused on the leaf. A square of 16 pixels became apparent that seemed an interesting composition and an intriguing possibility for a mark. It was its simplicity that I found most appealing.
Apple has been at the forefront of using pixel based devices and screens to display ideas and images. They have employed pixel based technology since the inception of the GUI (graphical user interface) that was the breakthrough that made Mac that 1984 game changer. So it speaks to history and modernity. Scrutiny and a certain reverence. And the leaf- the support and care every Apple needs. This time I had a more hard won “Eureka!”
Since the July 6 approval of the new logo, I’ve been at work creating other applications of the new logo. Some things are typical like t-shirts and stationery.
Others are a bit more atypical, like a water bottle and a wall graphic.
I am fortunate to have such a great client and grateful for the work. I look forward to many more years of fruitful collaboration. If you’d like to see the guide I prepared for MacEnthusiasts you can access it here.