September 2016 marks The Logo Factory’s 20th birthday and two decades of designing logos and brand identities. A look back at those years, from our humble beginnings on a Brampton kitchen table to world famous Canadian studio.
There are certain milestones we mark, birthdays and anniversaries among them. Twenty years is significant milestone – especially in this business – and whether we refer to it as our anniversary or birthday, two decades seems like a pretty good reason to celebrate. Over the next few months, we’re going to run a series of features that take a look back through those 20 years – our design studio in specific and design in general. A good place to kick off would be to look how The Logo Factory’s own brand has evolved since 1996, when we first started from a kitchen table in Brampton, my home town. We’d also have to start with my old personal webpage from those days:That home page was based on a freelance project for Toronto’s Metro Works website (circa 1996,) where little buildings formed an image map of services around the city. A sub section of that personal site is ground zero and where The Logo Factory officially began. From there to present day is a tale in of itself (and involves getting every website on our Canadian ISP banned from the then major search engine Infoseek), but let’s just cut to the visual chase – here’s how one of those buildings looked when worked into our first official logo and registered trademark:Ironically, the little factory in our original logo was never meant to look like a factory at all – it was actually based on my old house in central Brampton (a medium sized Ontario town about 30 minutes north west of Toronto.) See, I had just started The Logo Factory in its new incarnation and was literally working out of my cramped dining room. My personal site had hit number one on all major search engines (Google didn’t even exist yet) for the search phrase “Logo Design.” Business was booming, and I was designing logo after logo (that would be the boxes rolling out of the little factory/house.) The solitary light represented quite accurately my situation at the time – my children Matthew and Amy – 4 and 5 years old – often complained that work was keeping me from spending time with them, so I tended to work in the wee hours of the morning after they were tucked into be. My dining room office was actually on the first floor, but that was an accuracy that was overlooked for design purposes. There was no real rationale, symbolism or psychology for the colour choices – purple and teal was a popular combination and purple happened to be my (now) wife’s favorite. Oddly, our original corporate colours weren’t even web safe, something that would haunt us for many years as the style sheet left and center clearly illustrates.
Homages, hat tips & design nods.
In terms of typography in that first logo, software assisted design (still referred to as desktop publishing) was really hitting its stride around ’95, and many fonts were slick sci-fi treatments. While we were building a studio that was to specialize in logos, I still wanted to emphasize my illustrator background and was bored to death with techno-fonts, so in vogue at the time. I selected Loveletter, a retro typewriter lettering that was built into the text portion of our logo (it’s also a homage to Cheap Trick, a fave band of mine and a logo that I loved.) Other than some spacing changes, that typography remained for many years, but the sizing and aspect ratios were altered in order to accommodate various uses, web addresses what have you. While I’ve used variations of The Logo Factory as a word mark since 1993, we officially registered the trademark – name and art – in 2001. Since then, there’s been lots of design tweaks and micro-edits, but here’s a look at the major iterations of our brand logo, including a 1993 version that never really saw the light of day:
We’ve managed to stay with that cog-driven version that’s now featured on everything we produce (except, oddly enough, our Mississauga studio door, the reasons for which we’ll touch in a minute) and to date, there’s no plans to change. Knock on wood.
Our website evolutions
The Logo Factory’s main marketing efforts have always been through our website and it’s undergone many iterations too. Let’s take a visual trip down memory lane and take a look at how that’s changed over the years too (if we’re going to be completely technical, the 1996 version was never featured on any of our official domains, but was only featured on my personal website):
Let’s take a quick run-down of our twenty year timeline as it relates to the website styles and iterations we’ve just looked at:
1996 – 1998
The Freebie Years: The original Logo Factory first appeared as part of a personal portfolio website, a free 10 MB space given away with a $39.00 per month dial-up internet access account through Interlog – Ontario’s biggest ISP of the time. Oddly enough, it’s still there, buried in the sub directory of that site, long after the host was gobbled up by another Canadian corporation. Back in 96, the Internet was in its infancy, Google didn’t even exist yet. The major search engines in those days were outfits known Alta Vista and Infoseek. In that glorious pre-spammer era, both featured ‘on the fly’ indexing & updating so results could be manipulated quickly and relatively easily with techniques that would get you banned on any search engine today. My site site rose to number 1 on all search engines for the phrase “logo design” and demand quickly swamped my kitchen-table roots. Realizing that publishing pricing (flat rate pricing in general) was a no-no with designers – I handled each price quote personally via email.
1998 – 1999
Into The Corporate World: Moved into our first official studio in Vaughn (this is actually a picture of our second Mississauga location but nobody thought to take a picture of the first. It kinda looked like this so whatever.)In 1998 we hired our first design staffer – one of many talented people that would call our shop home. Our first official site gets launched on TheLogoFactory.com. Few people know that this was an emergency transition – remember what I told you earlier about search engines? My “logo and design” keyword stuffing had tripped something that had just been introduced on InfoSeek – a spam filter – and they had turfed every single site hosted by my Canadian ISP out of their index (yes, that would be ALL the sites.) Say goodbye to that free website and glorious number one search engine rankings. Nothing much to say about our first actual website site – it was a simple HTML setup, but it would remain the core infrastructure of many subsequent reworks. That site featured a logo gallery, a series of order forms and client access pages. Due to low monitor resolution and download bandwidth issues, logo images in those early gallery were much smaller than what we can get away with today. No longer able to personally requests for quotes because of the growing volume – while remaining cognizant publishing pricing and flat rates was taboo among my colleagues – we programmed an auto-responder that sent “package” pricing to potential clients’ e-mail accounts when they asked.
1999 – 2000
Nothing Succeeds Like Excess: We finally gave up pretending and published our pricing on our website for the first time. Designers aren’t pleased and there’s a flurry of hate mail on how our humble Canadian shop was “destroying the industry” for everyone. Expansion of logo articles and design tutorial library and despite those initial email protests, our site became very popular with designers because of them. Logo galleries were expanded to feature full-size images fed by galleries of thumbnail galleries, something that remains unchanged to present day.If the hate mail received over flat rate pricing was bad, imagine the incoming fire we took shortly after launching the first version of our Logos in a Box stock logo service. Taking our lead, logo templates become standard fare with many websites and remains so to this day. We shuttered the site a few months later – not due to the hostility of designers – but upon realizing that the business model was at odds with our primary focus – custom logo design. Taking a “if you can’t beat ’em” approach, we’d relaunch Logos in a Box a decade later, then let it die again a year after that. Each launch gets a flood of hate mail from designers on how we’d “sold out.” Apparently, we were always “selling out.” A partnership experiment sours and we have to find digs pronto. We moved a staff of seven back into my house for six months while we searched for a studio in Brampton, Mississauga and even downtown Toronto. That lead to our second location (that’s the photo up top.)
2001 – 2002
The Purple Years: We were all about the purple. The walls of our studio. The furniture in the studio. Our website which featured a clickable Flash intro complete with thumping techno music. That led toa short-lived sub brand FlashWurx which featured this weirdly distorted orange and green version of our house. Thankfully, that monstrosity didn’t last long.
The 9/11 terror attacks in New York almost put us under as phone calls and emails dry up for the better part of three months solid. We kept all staffers on, but this torpedoes plans to purchase an old Victorian-era house in downtown Brampton and gut it for our new studio. Introduction of the Daily Logo (which was never really Daily,) and the Daily Logo Archives (the original gallery was so bandwidth intensive, it kept blowing up our server and the archives is where we kept designs examples we had removed in attempts to speed things up.) The site was a bandwidth hog – heavy with graphics – and to address complaints from others on our shared platform, we had to move our domain to a managed server.
2003 – 2008
We Lose Focus: To promote our growing logo animation services, this site featured extensive use of Flash. This site remanied for almost 5 years, and as a result became unfocused and ‘cluttered.’ New material was posted, bolted on and crowbarred into sections that were often confusing and visually contradictory. Chat and search functions were added (turns out the chat feature is a complete waste of time, resources and a great deal of money, so we got rid of it post haste.) Nuked that PDQ. Our first blog post. In another design industry first, we published our first free Logopalooza gallery book which gets downloaded about 100,000 downloads, a huge number in those earlier days.We recorded our first podcast. Our website had grown to over 800 pages, and while it may be over-linked and confusing to navigate,, our logo design examples see incredible traffic spikes. In 2006, we officially celebrated our 10th birthday. That coincides with a ten-year-itch and we began to get bored with our original “look and feel.” As we try to mix things up, our brand will become cluttered and unfocused. Undeterred, we experiment with all sorts of new logos, treatments and tweaks – even tried weird 3D houses and stuff:Yeah, that was awful.
2009 – 2015
Getting Caught Up With CMS. Losing Out On Responsive: For the very first time in fifteen years, we redesigned our logo to the version we’re more-or-less using now (what a pain that was.) Designed some sweet stationery for the occasion including these completely impractical business cards.We release our first honest-to-goodness ebook The Guide to Great Logos. Our site is converted to a CMS platform and streamlined, with a slightly less confusing navigation system and hierarchy. We miss the boat completely on ‘responsive’ design, and our entire site would need to be converted post haste. We’ll work on this mobile-friendly version for months. Speaking of the boat that we missed, seems we were the only ones. We moved physical location again last summer, though it was only next door, which wasn’t too much of a pain, except for the aging, broken and obsolete gear we finally had to throw out (below left). And that vinyl door logo that had graced our studio door for 15 years and took us about 3 hours of scraping to get off (below right).
Not ever going to do that again.
Which brings us full circle, 20 years in, to where we are today. Over the next little while, we’ll post some interesting 20th Anniversary features and articles but in the meantime, we’ve created a special celebratory logo that encompasses our company history into one zany graphic (nicknamed around here as Crazy Earl’s Logo Emporium.)Now, wouldn’t that look nifty on the back of a T-shirt?