Photo Credits: Niloy Kundu | ICD

The Three Ages of Olympic Logos

First published in a slightly modified form in Business Standard, 13 August, in Deep Design, a fortnightly column by Itu Chaudhuri.

Everyone loves a new, public logo. It’s a polarising icon, and comments are free. So it is with Olympic logos. Deep Design seeks not to praise or bury them, but to discover the meaning interred into their bones.

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We, the Undersigned


“The trouble with you creative fellows,” said VSOP (Very Superior Old Person), “is that you think brand only means advertising, or synthesising emotions to sell your widgets.”

I’d sought advice on Brand India for an article, and sat across chutney sandwiches and coffee in the understated lounge of the lushly landscaped International Information Centre. I protested that no, I didn’t think so, and wasn’t in advertising. But VSOP, a retired bureaucrat of Great Standing, and known to be “an acquired taste”, was in spate. Keep Reading

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Making Sense of Election Symbols

By themselves, symbols mean nothing. It takes prior knowledge to associate, purely by convention, a white-tipped cane with its blind owner. More connotative symbols acquire meaning by social processes. In an English storybook, a cock may announce the break of day, while its Indian cousin, the murga, may identify a certain type of tandoori joint. Each of these uses a code, a script that tells us what the once-arbitrary symbol means in a particular context.

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You Don’t Absolutely Love Your Vernacular Newspaper

First, the news. At a recent WPP conference, sponsor Rajasthan Patrika (the group that owns the popular daily of the same name) challenged participants to make ‘Hindi cool’. Storyboard editor Anant Rangaswami judged their efforts, not favourably; but his insightful piece argues that we should invert cause and effect. If Hindi newspapers invested in design, he says, Hindi would look cooler; and Hindi publications would get the increased advertising rates commensurate with their robust readership growth, while their English confrères continue to increase their ad rates despite feeble, none or negative growth.

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Physique Part 3: Three Escapes from the Grip of Physique

Physique is ‘the mental imprint of a brand’s physical image, as a sensory perception”. Its power comes from its automatic nature, which escapes formal or rational thinking. It’s related to the primacy effect, psycho-speak for the power of first impressions. Once imprinted, it decides whether we ‘accept’ products that don’t fit the ‘physiqual’ mould.

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Physique Part 2: Is Your Brand Physique a Constraint or an Asset?

For many product categories, a brand’s products leave a deep, indelible imprint on the mind. I call it ‘physique’, drawing upon similar usage in the literature. It is a powerful stamp, often a defining one for some brands, more so than its logo or name. It’s power comes from our automatic, helpless response to it, which precedes any formal or rational thinking. The idea is introduced more fully in my previous post.

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Physique Part 1: I Like Your Body: The Grip of Physique

First, the news. When Tech Mahindra, Indian conglomerate Mahindra’s engineering and technology arm, bought a controlling stake in the Italian auto design company Pininfarina it was, said chairman Anand Mahindra, meant to address “the increasing design sensibilities of today’s consumers,” for whom “product design will greatly influence customer choice”. Pininfarina already works with Mahindra on SUV design, and on a concept electric car.

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