If you don’t mind, I would like to quote a wonderful design book: “As illustrators like Norman Rockwell were blurring the lines between fine art and advertising art during the 1920s, the Art Directors Club (ADC), initiated by Louis Pedlar in 1920, brought together a group of layout artists, managers of art departments, and art buyers to explore the role art could play in advertising. No more than a year later, Earnest Elmo Calkins organized the first juried exhibition; this effort survives, nearly 90 years later, as the competitive ADC Annual Awards, which now receive up to 11,000 entries from more than 50 countries. Its Young Guns Award, offered to the top creative talents under the age of 30, has also seen an increase in popularity and fierceness since its inception in 1996. With a remarkable location in Manhattan, the ADC is host to events from exhibits to portfolio reviews to incendiary programming like 2006’s Designism and its 2007, 2008 and 2009 sequels.” (Not to mention they also hosted this wonderful series). Nearing 90 years of service to the creative community the ADC has introduced a new logo.
The new branding system follows the lead of the club’s recently revised mission to “Connect, Provoke and Elevate” creative visual communications professionals around the world through its many events, educational programs, publications, scholarships and awards.
— Press Release
The previous logo was designed by Paula Scher around 2005 (I can’t find the actual date, sorry) which was an update of Albrecht Dürer’s signature that the ADC had been using almost since its inception — about six years ago I inquired why the ADC had chosen it, and the response was that “Albrecht Dürer was considered an appropriate model because he was, in their view, the first commercial artist, that is, he sold his prints on the street directly to the public, rather than working on commission.” The new logo, designed by Trollbäck + Company is the first time that the ADC is not represented by an acronym but instead by its full name, which has always been confusing, mainly: Is it just for art directors? The acronym I think was a good way of defusing that confusion in the same way that the AIGA had distanced itself from the antiquated term graphic artist. A strange move, but I’ll bite.
Trollbäck chose to replace the acronym logo as a way to highlight the club’s legacy, even though the organization’s membership spans far beyond only art directors. “Companies and organizations usually use acronyms in their branding to distance themselves from their past,” he said. “In our case, we wanted to do the exact opposite and embrace our origins and heritage.”
The biggest problem I have with the new logo is that it really doesn’t do much. I understand the direction to go with an all-type solution and as an advocate of all-type solutions I don’t complain about that aspect, but why so dull? Why just Franklin Gothic tightly letterspaced? One thing is to “embrace our origins and heritage” but it’s another to ignore and disregard the present or even the future and not offer a new kind of visual language for a new century. For an organization that clearly has its own unique, edgy voice and is well respected in the industry, they surely had an opportunity to create something that reflected that same attitude that they have applied to their annuals and competitions. Dressing it in magenta is unfortunately not enough.