This week, we interviewed Richard Baird, who writes Logo Histories, a guide to the design that went into modernist logos.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What’s your Substack about in one sentence?
Short stories on the modernist logos of the past.
What makes you so passionate about logos?
I love logos because studying them has taught me a lot about design and designers of the past, changes in technology, and post-war corporate diversification and programs of modernization. Logos are great jumping-off points. This interest has allowed me to meet and work with designers and researchers from all over the world through the LogoArchive International initiative.
Your posts cover stories behind some of the most recognized logos in the world—Nike’s swoosh, the Olympic rings, IBM, PBS—but you also choose less widely known logos to spotlight, like the New Haven Railroad, for example. What do you look for in the logos you feature?
I’m generally looking for “good form” and interesting stories.
Context and concept are critical components to appropriate form-making. Logos arise from a careful navigation of client needs and contextual considerations, as well as technology and use cases. Without an understanding of this, logos are often short-lived. So Logo Histories functions in two ways, to share an interesting story and reflect the practical considerations that remain important today. In this way, it’s both entertainment and education.
What’s one logo that you’ve researched that we should all know about but likely do not?
A lot of people will recognize the Glasgow Airport logo, but not for the reason you would think. For many, it will be associated with the fashion brand Off-White. This raises questions about appropriation, but rather than get lost in this, I would simply like to use this space to highlight that the originator was Margaret Calvert, and it was designed back in 1964.
The logo is a wonderful form, in that in its balance of positive and negative space, it creates inward- and outward-pointing arrows, and this also creates an association with the Scottish flag, the Saltire, when placed on a blue background. The directional arrows, combined with the Saltire, form a visual language suggesting travel into and out of Scotland.
Read more: The Saltire takes flight
What trends do you expect for logo design in the coming years?
A return to the modernist logo design principles of the past. Rationalized forms, a 1:1 proportionality suited to old material and new digital contexts, and a refocus on form over effect for maximum longevity.
Who’s another Substack writer you’d recommend?
Thoughts on Writing. I love form, but ideas more. This is a great Substack to get you thinking about the broader context of design.
Subscribe to Richard’s newsletter, Logo Histories, find him on Twitter, and explore the LogoArchive website.
What to Read: Richard Baird is telling the stories behind great logos