Bad Logo

I'm working on a course for about self promotion for designers. As I've been called a media whore for twenty years, this seemed appropriate. One of the points I make in the chapter about identity is that your logo should be neutral and simple. I'm not a fan of the designer or design firm identities that have scottie dog icons and name like "Cutsie Pie Dezigns". There's something about the "z" and confusion over design being a noun or verb with the "s" that doesn't communicate "hire me to rebrand your Fortune 500 corporation."

For many years, I maintained a simple wordmark at AdamsMorioka. But then, something went horribly awry when I moved on and began Burning Settlers Cabin. I've broken my own rule of a simple wordmark and made not one, but many complex identities. Why have one logo when you can have thirty? So I've made multiple limited edition posters, business cards, letterhead, and postcards. I never give them to anyone because I forget.


Business Cards

I realize that the common element is the name. It serves as the anchor. The forms change, but follow the same concepts of reference and appropriation. I also realized I wasn't IBM and could give myself more latitude. I started with one mark, then added three more and planned to make that a small library in a flexible logo system. But like a bag of potato chips, I continue to reach back in and add more. 

The most recent series is based on film subtitles. According to my theory about a simple wordmark for a designer, this is way wrong. However, rules are made to be broken, and if you're going to do something wrong, go all the way. My next plan is to create a website for a terrible design firm and name it Cutsie Pie Dezigns.

The Film Series Business Cards

Nobody reads in Farenheit 451


Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/ He is the only two term AIGA national president in AIGA’s 100 year history. In 2014, Adams was awarded the AIGA Medal, the highest honor in the profession. He is an AIGA Fellow, and Aspen Design Fellow. He has been recognized by every major competition and publication including; How, Print, Step, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The British Art Director’s Club, and the Art Director’s Club. Adams has been exhibited often, including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Adams is an author of multiple magazine columns, and several best-selling books. He has been cited as one of the forty most important people shaping design internationally, and one of the top ten influential designers in the United States. Previously, Adams was a founding partner at AdamsMorioka, whose clients included The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Disney, Mohawk Fine Papers, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Richard Meier & Partners, Sundance, and the University of Southern California.

To Thine Own Self Be True

Years ago, I did an interview about designing your own stationery system. “You don’t need to demonstrate everything you can do at once,” I said, “I believe this is the place for restraint.” Clearly, I ignored my own advice. I now have a stationery system that does everything but take you out for dinner, and then to bed. But, c’est la vie. Life’s too short to waste it on restraint.

Liz Farrelly recently released a new book, Designers’ Identities. When Liz originally asked me to contribute to the book, I expected to have my package returned with a big “NO” written across it. We don’t have a cool name that would work for a band. We don’t use lots of tiny type in a swirl. I was pleasantly surprised to find the book rich with pretty darned good work. There are some amazingly beautiful solutions and very few that are trying too hard (like ours).

I have fallen in love with Richard Ardagh’s Elephant This is one I wish I’d done. Christopher Simmons has the most incredible envelope ever. Stefan Bucher has sparkly stickers that I need badly. There is an entire page of the amazing Rick Valicenti’s promotions. Rinzen in Melbourne has an array of stickers everyone should use. To top this off, the book, as expected from Liz, is well written and curated, and beautifully printed.

And just to prove we’re not all happy and candy, we just redesigned our stationery—in black. See, we’re serious too.