This is easily my favourite logo in the world. It is for a computer program called GNU Pascal (a programming language in fact). To the left, we see a gnu. To the right, Blaise Pascal. Rather than trying to convey brand values through metaphor, the name is depicted in the most literal way imaginable.
It’s not just the literalness that is unusual. The use of this kind of figurative illustration in logos is rare. The only niche that springs to mind is 1970ies retail chains.
Visual abstraction has becomes the norm in corporate branding since the post WWII period. In America, designers like Paul Rand and Saul Bass started to produce logos in flat colours and simple shapes that aimed to convey what the companies are about. It is this language that has stuck with us for logos ever since.
Even though it might be useful to convey a brand message that is clear and straightforward, there is an obvious limit to the benefits of abstraction. As the brand values a logo is supposed to express get exceedingly open ended (‘innovation’, ‘integrity’), it becomes more difficult to visually evocate them. That is how we end up with logos built around isometric cubes and moebius strips, and with company names like Agilent and Avilant.
It is here that the literalness of GNU Pascal provides the counterbalance I look for. I heart the complete absence of symbolism. And the departure from traditional corporate marketing is all the more exciting because it rhymes with the product itself. GNU Pascal is open source software: it is changeable and redistributable at will. As such it is built more on the values of the academic world than on the traditional corporate ethos. And while visual identities for open source software tend to be pale imitations of corporate aesthetics, GNU Pascal is one clue of how such software could find a style of its own.