Let’s get down to basics. As basic as a company’s name and the legibility of its logotype. These are fundamental and important components of any company’s brand identity.
It seems obvious that, at a minimum, a company would want people to be able to know how to pronounce its name and for the font used for the company name to be highly readable. But, apparently that is not obvious to everyone.
Other than when a foreign word is used, the pronounceability problem is most often found with made-up names or when two words are run together. In such cases, the spelling and pronunciation of the name must be immediately telegraphed by the font and capitalization used in the name and in the wordmark.
Getting Down to Asics
The logo/wordmark for Asics is one I have always had trouble with. There are a number of issues that hamper its readability. First, because of the asics name being all lowercase along with the swirly symbol in front, it always looked more like “basics” to me with a weird, backward script “b”.
According to the company’s website the name is “… based on a famous Latin phrase ‘Anima Sana In Corpore Sano’, which when translated expresses the ancient ideal of ‘A Sound Mind in a Sound Body.’ Taking the acronym of this phrase, ASICS was founded on the belief that the best way to create a healthy and happy lifestyle is to promote total health and fitness.”
Okay! I’m all for a healthy and happy lifestyle, but the acronym of a Latin phrase is not a good ‘asis for a name. This is a classic case of something only making sense when you know the back story. And that is totally the wrong approach. Prospective customers are highly unlikely to know or care about your back story, at least unless they become fans.
Not quite the same as “Just Do It,” is it?
And it shows in their sales. According to the US Athletic Retail Market Report, 2009, Asics’ global market share of athletic footwear was only 5%, compared to leader Nike’s 31%, and second place Adidas’ 16%. Certainly this is not the only factor affecting their market share, but just as certainly it is one of them.
The end result – the name – has to stand on its own merit and be immediately readable and understandable by anyone. If not, you lose prospective customers.
Prospects don’t like uncertainty. In the midst of all the marketing noise and product options out there, being crystal clear and memorable is the only thing that works. People who are uncertain move on. And it happens in the click of a mouse.
I recently came in contact with a start-up called purevin. The name itself, as used in all lowercase, is very hard to make out. Is it a contraction of pure evin, or is it pur-evin, pu-revin, pure-vin, or what? It looks more like an email address for someone named P. Urevin than a company name. As with Asics, you don’t want people, especially customers and prospects, to have to work at figuring out your name!
Even when and if you get that the name is “pure vin,” since the company is in the wine business, how do you pronounce it? Some Americans know the French pronunciation of vin, but we don’t know if that is the pronunciation the company uses.
Unfortunately, the wordmark doesn’t help. The upside-down droplet over the “i” is meant to symbolize a drop of wine being poured, I’m sure, but it doesn’t help people decipher the name. With the point at the bottom and the red color, some people’s first take may even be that it has something to do with pure evil! That is certainly not a good association.
My recommendation for this company is to change the name to one that people can easily read and know how to pronounce. With the current name, capitalizing and P and the V would be an immense help. At least then we would know the name was Pure Vin, even if we are not sure how to pronounce it.
Face My Lowercase Book
Using all lowercase letters for a company wordmark isn’t necessarily wrong. Facebook’s is one wordmark that of course works very well. It is simple, friendly, and highly readable.
The font itself is just unique enough to provide some character to the design without going over the top in any way. The other reason it is so readable is that the ascender on the “b” provides a natural visual break, just like a capital “B” would. We immediately recognize the two words “face” and “book.”
Had the name been “facenook,” for instance, where the second word didn’t start with a letter with an ascender, it would have suffered from the same readability problems as the other examples above.
If there any other examples you have noticed, please share them in a comment here.