August 15, 2013

Deloitte Art Investment Program in Worst-Best Logo Finals

What is a worst-best logo? It’s a logo that tells the truth without meaning to.  It’s a logo that self-deconstructs. Using Barthes' semiological analysis, a worst-best logo fails miserably at second order (myth) meaning. According to Barthes, the mythological content of a sign may be patently false, but the falsehood is shrouded, obscured, sugarcoated so it goes down without protest. A worst-best logo -- by virtue of ham-fisted design  -- triggers simultaneous comprehension of a third (truth) meaning that negates the pernicious falsehoods the artist meant to convey.  

The grand prize winner is still the (abandoned) logo of the US Chamber of Commerce (see below, Flag as Roadkill and the USCC). By appropriating an image of the US flag, the organization meant to associate its work with patriotism and the interests of US citizens. The clumsy design, however, depicted a desiccated, mangled looking flag and the words “American Free Enterprise. Dream Big.”  The unavoidable upshot was that USSC and its capitalist fantasies undermine the values the flag represents – a truth that the client and designer wished to conceal. For a runner up, see Maid to Clean.

Now comes Deloitte with its Art and Finance program. Though Deloitte promises thoughtful analysis and conservative investment in top tier markets, a more blatantly venal approach to aesthetic delectation is impossible to imagine. Trumpeting the unregulated nature of the art market, they are selling the idea of art works as safe and largely off-the-books placeholders for large amounts of cash. The potential for capital appreciation is a bonus. To convey all that in a logo requires finesse and subtlety. So, let's proceed ... If there’s a bull market in the arts, I guess Wall Street's bull should be represented. And, we should have something to indicate art. How about a picture frame? Let’s make it gold and ornate to suggest 19th century oil paintings. Next … how shall we connect the bull-and-frame dots? Obvious: Why not have the bull-symbol ramming its horn through the art-symbol?  After all, nothing whispers aesthetic intelligence, care and prudence like a fucking bull full on fatally goring the fragile surface of a prized work of art.

All the pretense, all the highfalutin’ conferences, the slicky catalogs, the efforts of the unctuous, compliant art historian-consultants are undermined, cancelled by a dreadful logo that wants to confess.

“We are vandals,” says Deloitte.

(image courtesy of Steve Wynn Branding and Design, Inc.)