Thursday, August 15, 2013

Worst logo ever, Tammy Faye Bakker division

Design, why must you bedevil me so?

Day after day, for example, I passed a Toyota®© truck bearing this sticker on its back window:

Day after day I walked away, fuzz-brained, mulling. What is it? What does it mean?

A strange dancing figure, lobster claws for arms? Or maybe cartoon can openers? Flames? A burning man for Burning Man? A monster? Where's its head? Are the can openers heads? And what's that appendage looking thingie poking out of its … belly thingie?

Mull mull mull.

Then one day recently I stepped closer and finally saw — it took me a while, mind — there, in the interior edge of the thick meandering line, the delicate head of a deer.

It's supposed to be the head of an antlered buck. Get it?

Well, I didn't.

Logos aren't supposed to do that, make you work so hard to get their meaning.

Or maybe they are. Some logos anyway. I come across more and more logos these days whose meaning is covertly universal: This is not for you. (You are old.) Go away.
(During high school, our son often wore T-shirts with the Volcom©™ logo:
(Volcom™™ — motto "Youth Against Establishment" — is a maker of "youth-oriented products," namely apparel for skateboarders and snowboarders and surfers. Our son is neither. He wore the shirts, no different from other T-shirts except for the Volcom©® so-called "stone" logo, which means nothing as far as I have been able to figure. Which means he wore the shirt for the sake of the clip-art logo, which stands for, "This is our logo."

(Once in high school our son engaged in a classroom debate over whether students at the school should wear uniforms. He wore them in elementary school and didn't like them. I couldn't help noting the irony that he, adorned like so many others in longish hair, a Volcom®© or Element™© T-shirt, baggy shorts, oversized barely-tied shoes — the embodiment of Jeremy in the comic strip Zits — denounced the wearing of uniforms.

(We are unique in our sameness! could be the rally cry.

(But I digress.)
Back to the buck: A coupla quick tappety-taps on the keyboard and I learn from the Interwebs that this is a mark for the Browning Arms Company®©. I don't know much, but I have heard of a Browning©™ rifle.

With the Browning™® name, the mark makes sense:


It's called the Browning®™ Buckmark, and it's the oddest feat of graphic gymnastics I've ever seen.

It's also the victim of the designer's excess. If some is good, more is better, which is what I imagine Tammy Faye Bakker thought at some point in the evolutionary process of applying her makeup.

What was for a brief shining moment an interesting dance of positive and negative space with the Buckmark turned into a dancing lobster-claw figure.

Browning™® offers much more backstory than I usually find for a logo's development. Its art director, Don Bailey, designed the mark in 1977 and Browning®™ deployed it starting in 1978.

The Buckmark™© before it got messed with.
At first the line forming the mark was not as thick. Besides the outline of the deer created by the inner edge of the line (negative space), the upper and outer edge formed the formidable but delicate taper of the buck's antlers (positive space). You can see it on the cover of Browning's™© price list, left.

Kinda cool, though I'm not sure what the outer line of the buck's head represents. It sort of vaguely follows the interior line. Maybe the thickness makes more masculine the feminine line. Maybe it's supposed to be two deer profiled side by side. Maybe. Mull mull mull.

Before the ink could dry in 1978, Bailey tweaked the logo further, thickening and simplifying the line. The buck's ear shape tilted up and fused with the antlers, and the antlers swelled into the lobster claw/can opener shape, swallowing the organic taper.

If some is good, more is better. Bleh.

The window sticker, which I've only begun to notice even though the mark has been around 35 years, is a copy of a copy of a diecut of a copy. The taut curved lines have grown warts, the bumps have gotten bumpier, unleashing the can-opener dancer. You can get the stickers in metallic, pink, camouflage and Stars and Stripes.

Ultimately, of course, who cares what I think? Certainly not the people with the Buckmark stickers on their windows — or even the tattoos on their triceps.

The logo has served its cunning purpose, getting this nattering nabob to lavish more attention on it than if I owned a Browning™© weapon.

Geez, I am old.


  1. You said the same thing about People! (the magazine©®) -- that it made you feel old. So I'm writing to remind you that having a few more wrinkles in your gray matter doesn't make you older, it makes you something else-er.

    1. all right, i'm celebrating something else-erness starting now! :)