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As featured in the May 2012 issue of desktop magazine, over the next few weeks, we will be revealing our top 10 Australian logos of all time, as voted in by you and our panel of judges. Read more about the feature and our judging panel here.
All research and writing by Larissa Meikle and Estelle Pigot.
10th place was awarded to SBS.
9th place was awarded to Australia Post.
8th place was awarded to Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
7th place was awarded to Nine Network.
6th place was awarded to Woolmark.
5th place was awarded to Woolworths.
4th place was awarded to Commonwealth Bank.
3rd place: City of Melbourne
Australia’s cultural capital unveiled its new corporate identity in 2009 and created a storm in a café latte cup. The City of Melbourne branding centred on a bold and modernist ‘M’ logo developed by the Australian arm of Landor, which is controversially based in Sydney.
Melburnian taxpayers decried the $240,000 paid for the design and slammed the ‘future-proof and iconic’ logo that Landor created. “It generated an enormous amount of opinion and articles by everyone from industry leaders to students and even cab drivers,” says former Landor creative director Jason Little. “The branding of cities and countries can’t help but elicit a multitude of emotions through people’s sense of pride and ownership,” he adds.
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle dismissed the former identity as “a bit daggy.” He told the media that the leaf logo (designed by Richard Henderson of FHA Image Design) belonged to a bygone era, in which he was still listening to MC Hammer, and that it had to go. “Since implementing its previous identity 15 years before, City of Melbourne had experienced significant change,” Little explains. Minor tweaks made to the logo hadn’t addressed the bigger issue. “The council realised that it needed a long-term solution,” adds Little.
It was this ‘identity fragmentation problem’ that led to the solution. The designers created a ‘shards of glass’ effect to express the diverse and multidimensional character of the city. According to Little, Landor Sydney was interested in exploring the impact the city’s new identity could have on broader issues, asking, “How could we influence how governing agencies think about themselves? Could the identity inspire action?” As a result, the logo is contemporary and controversial. “Melbourne is among the few cities in the world that can be so daring and challenging with its identity,” he says.
A geometric letter M revealed “a unique canvas that enabled hundreds of iterations,” which ensures the brand will withstand the test of time. Jefton Sungkar, an intern at Landor during the time, was the youngest in the design team, but was closely involved in the process. “There was one point where we did an audit of ‘M’ logos that were well-known and iconic,” says Sungkar.
“We had the idea of constructing an M out of a grid as a very loose reference to Melbourne’s famous streets and laneways,” he recalls. “Late one night I was on the bus on my way home and I was drawing Ms on a grid piece of paper. In the end, this [drawing] became the final logo we used.” From there, he designed a range of different solutions for how the M could look, using the idea of it being multifaceted, to being constructed out of the triangles, to looking three-dimensional.
The designers criticised the initial press announcement, which revealed the logo alone. “It did not go down that well,” comments Sungkar. “However, the second time when the full project was released with all its different logos and its visual system, it received a completely different response.”
Polarised public opinion spread quickly from Melbourne to the global domain via the internet with the international feedback being quite positive, influencing local opinion over time. “Fortunately, our work for City of Melbourne was robust enough to handle the criticism, and [we] rode it out until it shifted to praise,” adds Little.
In 2011, Chinese website, ad110.com, revealed that an almost identical version of the logo had popped up. Fantasia MIC Plaza, a shopping centre in Shenzhen, China, appropriated the City of Melbourne logo. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, it seems popular opinion has turned around for this distinctive mark.