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The Swoosh: Symbol Beyond Redemption?

With apologies to Mr. Heller.

Since we are in logo mode I thought this suggested topic would ignite some good discussion. The Swoosh. In all its possible incarnations, whether it is well suited for the logo or not, is the element most frowned upon by graphic designers. To think of using it, actually using it or claiming responsibility for having used it seems to be full of shame, disdain, poor taste and can only lead to mocking.

Is it really that bad? The easiest thing in design criticism is to say It sucks and run off into the woods without an explanation. With that said, all you swoosh-haters out there please explain why it is such a trite, uncreative solution to employ a swoosh for a logo.

Some suggested web reading: Swoosh no more, The Street: “Swoosh! There it is,” Logo Hell and Under the swooshstika.

As an added bonus — can you specify any logos that make good use of the swoosh (Nike doesn’t count)?

Thanks to Rick Moore (who is questioning his own swooshed logo) for the topic

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 1614 FILED UNDER Branding and Identity
PUBLISHED ON Sep.30.2003 BY Armin
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Sam Sherwood’s comment is:

I, too, shot myself in the foot with the swoosh... This is for the company I currently work for, and is plastered on everything, including cardboard boxes.

I still enjoy it, and it makes a bit of sense in context, but I'm probably biased.

On Sep.30.2003 at 09:50 AM
Tom’s comment is:

The swoosh is not bad. Using a graphic element to create a logo that looks exactly like 80% of all the other logos out there is a bad decision. I am sure there are exceptions, but this onset of swooshes is part of the overall anyone with a computer can design trend. A product of this being a lot of client force fed solutions to folks who are happy to make $50 for a logo. Also, how many of these logos were probably created by ad agencies where design is an after thought to the campaign. I say stand!! and destroy the swooshes!!!

On Sep.30.2003 at 10:00 AM
ps’s comment is:

sam,

not sure if i would consider yours a swoosh. which leads me to... when do you consider the swoosh a swoosh? where do you draw the line. is this "swosh-hate" a designer sickness or is it shared by the general public?

On Sep.30.2003 at 10:02 AM
Sam Sherwood’s comment is:

Well, that's a relief! I sway back and forth on the issue.

Anywho, if LogoWorks has taught me anything, it's that "swoosh-hate" is pretty designer specific. I skip over all logo requests with a swoosh reference to save myself the embarrassment, but there are people across all types of business that have their hearts set on a swoosh.

On Sep.30.2003 at 10:20 AM
Rick Moore’s comment is:

I am going to set myself up even more than I already have...but I really wanted to know if our logo prevents us from being taken seriously, or if our original concept is clearly being communicated. (Personally, I love our logo, but with all the discussion on swooshiness, I really was forced to step back and take another look at it. )

I am looking for another set of eyes on this one, guys & gals.

Our logo (and the underlying concept) can be found here.

Your comments, nasty or nice, will be appreciated!

On Sep.30.2003 at 10:38 AM
Gahlord’s comment is:

It's more like the number 2 than a swoosh to me. I mean, to consider any curved object that gets thin and thick in a vector-y way a swoosh seems a bit much.

I just wonder what "2" has to do with your company when I see the logo.

It's also interesting that your arrow points to the left when the normal pattern for eye movement (in Western countries anyway) is going to be to the right. I wonder how many eyes get caught on that arrow and stuck there for better or worse.

As to whether you get taken seriously or not as a result of your logo... shit man who knows? It's your work that matters the most. And clients, hey we've all met with clients before right? We know how they think for the most part right? Do they know what makes a logo good or bad?

If you like your logo and it reflects your business and concept then it's _true_. This is far more important than whether anyone takes you seriously or not. If your logo is true then it will resonate with people who share your thoughts/concept. That's more important than your original question.

g

On Sep.30.2003 at 11:01 AM
Tan’s comment is:

There's a period between the birth of a visual element and it's re-acceptance as part of the vernacular. That period is when things become lame-o and ridiculed. That's where I think the swoosh element resides. It deserves it.

That said -- I would't go out of my way to avoid it if a swoosh was pivotal to communicating a concept in a logo. I don't see that happening, but it could. And I would.

Not quite a swoosh, but it has swooshie attibutes, is one of my favorite airline logo.

And speaking of airlines, there's this swooshie mark. I wouldn't categorize it as good -- but it's an oldie, so it's excused from the bashing.

I really can't think of a good swooshie mark I like. I also can't think of a good logo with a check mark, a globe, a computer, and so on...

On Sep.30.2003 at 11:05 AM
Rick Moore’s comment is:

G:

It is a 2, because currently there are two of us. But it is also the combination of 2 of our initials, a D and an R, as well as a visual representation of taking a different road. (That way if we grow beyond just the two of us, the mark can still be viable. My partner is very clever!) It points to the left because, like a detour, we take a different approach in our problem-solving and encourage our clients to take a different direction in their branding. We don't want them to look like everyone else. (Which is why we don't use swooshes for client logos.)

On Sep.30.2003 at 11:15 AM
Gahlord Dewald’s comment is:

Rick:

Yeah I figured out the 2 thing after I posted (teaches me to post before exploring the whole site).

The combo D and R is clever but there's always the stuff that we make up to justify our work after our work has already been made.... cleverness always sorta smells like that.

If you really do grow beyond two people having your individual initials is no ward from that curse: it's still your initials and not those of your employees. You will be explaining that to clients who ask about it for a long time. But use that to your advantage. A nice little chuckle in an icebreaker conversation. Try explaining what THTFCT stands for over and over and over again... glass houses here.

I think it's a nice logo and you should have nothing to fear. As I said, what matters most is if it's true. Only you know that. It certainly doesn't look like someone did it in Microsoft Publisher Platinum though. I don't see what you're worried about.

As for left/right maybe I'm old school (or maybe I shouldn't have read The Cheese Monkeys). But if the eyes are coming in from the left, and your information is on the right... and you keep bouncing the eyes away from the information... Course all that's kinda irrelevant nitpickery. I mean, does any of that really matter?

g

On Sep.30.2003 at 11:34 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Try explaining what THTFCT stands for over and over and over again

How do you guys answer the phone? ;o)

On Sep.30.2003 at 11:48 AM
Gahlord Dewald’s comment is:

"Thchthdhdhthhttpptht. Can I help you?"

No seriously, I usually just say "Gahlord here."

g

On Sep.30.2003 at 12:53 PM
Matt Wright’s comment is:

Swooshes have become a design cliche...you see them everywhere. It doesn't help that the most recognized logo in history, one that almost never needs the logotype, is Nike's swoosh. Swooshes aren't bad, they're just popular. Its really easy to poke at things that are popular and criticize how much value it has once its been used so often.

I remember when I saw a presentation by Clement Mok here in Rochester, he showed us a screen which was tiled with at least 50, if not more, corporate logos that essentially all looked the same because they incorporated some sort of swooshy element. I haven't determined if thats a bad thing, but it does sort of make you think just how much value is placed on design and a unique brand image.

On Sep.30.2003 at 03:52 PM
sena’s comment is:

And speaking of airlines, there's this swooshie mark.

The swoosh in the Boeing logo is actually a repurposed swoosh. The planet, stylized jet, and swoosh are all remnants of the old McDonnell Douglas logo, and were attached to the Boeing logotype after Boeing bought that company in 1997. The old swoosh, if I remember correctly, pointed in the other direction, and represented the exhaust trail of a rocket.

On Sep.30.2003 at 08:26 PM
amy’s comment is:

I tend to think Amazon's "swoosh" is pretty nice. They turned it into a lopsided grin that bumped up the cute little z. I was sort of shocked when they rolled that logo out, but it's grown on me.

On Sep.30.2003 at 09:31 PM
big steve’s comment is:

i didn't examine every page thoroughly, but a quick scan of teh presented links showed no sign of, what I consider to be the most infamous swoosh of all... the nike swoosh.

I think most of those swirly, friendly swooshy things all kinda suck ass, but i think that the nike swoosh is a little more aggressive than those, and actually kinda like it... but I'm probably just brainwashed by media saturation.

On Sep.30.2003 at 11:34 PM
Mr. Jones’s comment is:

I am amazed that designers still use the swoosh? I thought the swoosh was over. So 1998. The swoosh has been misused and abused.

The nike swoosh is brilliant because it was one of the first, has been backed by an amazing advert campaign and hasn't changed over the years.

The swoosh that I drives me absolutely insane is the technology swoosh It seems like an easy "fix" for an old logo. Add the swoosh and we have become new, modern, and with it. An easy and usually awful solution.

I think we are starting to fall into the same trap with the shiny logo syndrome (SLS). When we look back at design annuals we will be able to tell if a company was born or reborn in the 90's because of the swoosh...companies from 2000+ will have SLS (i.e. UPS, Apple, etc).

On Oct.01.2003 at 02:12 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

The swoosh is quite simply the result of technology driving the design process rather than someone's brain. I very much doubt that people sketch out a swoosh. Illustrator introduced the Pathfinder tools, enabling you to create swooshes out the yinyang by placing one circle over another, then dividing the shapes and eliminating the intersection. Suddenly, swoosh-to-go. It was easy and any in-house web guy or someone's younger brother who just bought a mac could be the big logo designer.

The biggest argument against swooshes, whether you like them or not, is that it has lost any sense of differentiated meaning. Nike's is a beautiful concept. Perhaps the first 3 or 4 after had nice ideas behind them as well. But now its proliferation has wasted whatever conceptual strength it might have had. The worst thing a company can do is get itself confused with another (especially a direct competitor) in the marketplace. This is where the swoosh has led us. And this is why it is bad.

Tan, I don't regard Qantas' logo as a swoosh. Simply having a sense of fluidity and movement does not a swoosh make. Plus, I love that mark.

On Oct.01.2003 at 08:14 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

shiny logo syndrome

Heh. I smell another web page. Shinylogohell.com anyone? Again, technology taking over. Would anyone have designed the UPS logo with that stupid highlight if Photoshop or Illustrator didn't have handy gradient tools? I can somewhat understand the shiny Apple, as well as all the 3D car logos, because they derive from actual physical objects - hood ornaments and the logo on the front of the computer. It often just feels extraneous, though.

On Oct.01.2003 at 08:18 AM
Armin’s comment is:

In the end I have no real hatred towards the swoosh. It just 'is.' It's a sign of an amateur designer or even worse, a lazy designer — which in fact bothers me more than the resulting swoosh.

I couldn't think of any good logos using a swoosh. Earthlink's used to be more swooshy than it is now, and I have always sort of not hated it.

I also kind of dig this one

These are swoosh logos, so they, by no means, represent my taste. I'm just trying to find something... anything.

On Oct.01.2003 at 08:44 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Just found this on kottke.org:

Trends in Logo Design (scroll down and bit and what the?! It's Debbie!)

See 'em here.

Some familiar suspec...er, names there.

On Nov.09.2003 at 03:33 PM
Mary’s comment is:

AARRGH!!!!!

The swoosh is driving me nuts. It's used on too many logos. We designers need to stop the insanity. Last night I went to a business mixer, of sorts, and I have four business cards from four different people in completely different areas of work and all four of these cards use that evil swoosh. It's like clip art to me.

On Mar.31.2005 at 08:56 AM
Hala’s comment is:

I have to say that with so many logo revamps opting for it (check out its latest mutation: WB's KTLA logo a la 2005,) "the swoosh" debate will probably remain in the design forum (for a while at least.)

Yet my question is this (and maybe someone still reading this thread can help me out,) what exactly does/did such a design element represent? Some designers have been lamenting the "misuse" and sheer ubiquity of this symbol (which I quite agree with´┐Ż) but what was so great about “the swoosh” to start with? (besides whatever meaning it gives to an uber-brand like Nike .) Does “the swoosh” really have any inherent significance?

On Mar.31.2005 at 08:09 PM
Mark’s comment is:

The problem with the swoosh is its used in too many logos now.

Its like one company says "hey that looks cool lets use it" then another one sees it and copies the other company,pretty soon a whole bunch of companies are copying off of each other and companies TRYING to be different end up being bland and generic.

Its a cop out for a lack of creativity IMHO

On Aug.18.2005 at 06:18 PM