Opinions on corporate and brand identity work.

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This is a very old entry — images are small, formatting is off.


Ceci n’est pas une abacus

Reviewed Jan. 29, 2007 by David Weinberger

Industry / Advertising Tags /


An abacus is an ancient calculator of sorts. Maybe ancient is too old of a word since many cultures still use abaci today. Although they vary from culture to culture most have beads suspended on metal rods in a frame.


So how do you make an abacus into a logo? Well, as with many other literal word-as-company name, the temptation is to be well, literal. Apple, Shell, Target and others have all done very well with the literal route however for my personal taste, they’re a bit boring. I always want something a bit unexpected. After all, if your company’s name is Key, do you need to show a picture of a key or do you use the opportunity to say something else? Maybe you do need to show a key.

Abacus, “a leading marketing solutions provider” recently changed their logo from abacus beads to more of an abstract representation of an abacus. They say that the new logo “illustrates our dedication to reducing complexity” among other things. I like that. The world could actually use more complexity reduction. Using 42 letters to spell a 6-letter word seems to contradict this but it is very well done.

As far as literal names and logos, I kinda like Orange, the British telecom company. They did use the color, but I always thought it was a bit clever to use a square as the holding shape as opposed to the more obvious circle. When comparing to another British company named Orange, I see the circle as boring.


The abacus also provides obvious imagery for a logo. Here are some abacus logos that are out there, ranging from literal to abstract.


I personally have no idea how they actually work but as a parent, I do know that they share a striking resemblance to the famed beads on a wire toy found in most pediatrician offices. I bet one of those would make good reference for a logo. Felix?




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