What’s In A Logo?

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Some have said that I worry too much over little things like logos for each year’s Indianapolis 500 and the series in general. I disagree. But of course I would disagree, since I’m the one doing the worrying.

I see a logo as the brand’s image. The most effective logos have no words or letters. When you see twin golden arches, McDonald’s is the only thing that comes to mind. The Nike swoosh needs no words to describe who it belongs to. It’s the same with the silhouette of an apple with a single bite taken out of one side. All of these are iconic brands, which are immediately recognized by practically everyone.

With IndyCar, it’s not that simple. IndyCar is a brand that few outside of racing know anything about, so it’s imperative that words should accompany the logo. There is also the issue that the brand is tied to a sponsor. Adding to the confusion is the fact that there has been little continuity in title sponsorship over the last two decades.

When the Indy Racing League was first thrust upon the public in 1996, there was no title sponsor. Their logo was derived from an image that was archived through IMS from years earlier. Not a whole lot of thought or imagination went into it, but they needed something so they came up with this.

IndyCar_1996

Two years later, in 1998, the series became known as the Pep Boys Indy Racing League and a new logo with even less imagination was born.

Pep_Boys_Indy_Racing_League_logo

The Pep Boys deal ended after two years and the naming rights were immediately sold to the internet search engine Northern Light, and the series subsequently became the Indy Racing Northern Light Series for the 2000 season.

Northern Light

The five year deal with Northern Light was for a whopping fifty million dollars. It turns out that the deal wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on, and the deal was terminated after the 2001 season.

From 2002 through the 2009 season, there was no title sponsor. The IRL had finally wrestled the IndyCar name away from CART and the series became known as the IndyCar Series to differentiate it from the new ladder series known as the Infiniti Pro Series (which eventually became Indy Lights). Both of these series were sanctioned by the Indy Racing League, but even the powers-that-be at that time realized that there was a negative connotation to the IRL name, so they emphasized anything having to do with the top series was to be referred to as “IndyCar”, which was also incorporated into the new logo at the time.

IndyCar

It wasn’t a great logo, but it was colorful and did catch your attention. It was also pretty obvious what the logo was representing.

That all changed with the 2010 season, when IZOD came on board amid much fanfare. The company promised that it was a new day for IndyCar and that they would deliver an entirely new demographic to the IndyCar fan base. The blue in the logo changed to what we were told was a much bolder black. The race car portion of the logo was made much smaller and the emphasis was given to the IZOD brand and the name of the series was changed to the IZOD IndyCar Series.

indy1

Personally, I liked the IZOD logo. It was more horizontal and showed up well on caps, T-shirts and polos, as well as every car and drivers suit in the series.

Unfortunately, things went south with IZOD. After a couple of years, the driver parties and commercials stopped and the IZOD signage at races was almost non-existent. By the end of 2013, IZOD was gone.

In the meantime, the sanctioning body finally changed its name from the IRL to INDYCAR. The capital letters always seemed pretentious to me. It was obvious they were trying to stand out like NASCAR, but the problem was INDYCAR didn’t stand for anything. NASCAR is an acronym, INDYCAR isn’t. Therefore, I’ve stubbornly continued to refer to the sanctioning body as IndyCar. The point of that mini-rant is to point out that there is now a generic IndyCar logo in addition to the logo of whoever the title sponsor is.

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To be honest, I’ve never cared for this generic logo. It’s nothing I can put my finger on, but it just looks cheap and unimaginative. Plus, it looks slanted even though it’s not…I don’t think.

Just when it looked as if the series would have to rely on the generic logo for a couple of years, Verizon stepped up to the plate and signed on to sponsor the series just as IZOD was stepping away. I complain a lot about Mark Miles, but give the man some credit for bringing Verizon on board as quickly as he did.

In a collaborative effort, IndyCar and Verizon created a very nice looking logo for the series along with a red alternate logo. Both were top-notch and classy looking, in my opinion.

    Verizon      Red

But this past fall, Verizon changed their logo. Consequently, the Verizon IndyCar Series was forced to change theirs. The result is one of the ugliest and most non-descript logos I’ve ever seen. There is no color anywhere except for the subtle red check-mark at the far right. Everything else is plain and generic black & white.

unnamed-101

In IndyCar’s defense, I understand that the series had very little say in this logo. When you sell the naming rights to a powerful sponsor like Verizon, for the amount of money they pay to the series – they reserve the right to design the logo. But could they have made it any more boring?

How will this look on a cap, a T-shirt or a polo? I can’t even think what a patch would look like. Perhaps this is the look they think will make cell phone plans sell better, but it does not convey the color and excitement of a racing series. This is certainly not what I think a decal on the rear-window of my car should look like.

It’s a shame that in this time when IndyCar is searching for an identity and a clear and concise way to market themselves, that they are saddled with such a lame logo to try and promote their brand. It makes me wonder what Will Power’s car will look like in its new livery – solid white with black lettering and a small red check-mark. That’s not what I’d call sexy.

As I said earlier, many will wonder why I took the time to go off on such a rant. There are probably many astute followers of the series that have no idea what any of the previous logos looked like, and couldn’t care less about the appearance of the current one. But I think there were many who first saw this logo and shook their head.

But I’ll reiterate – this was not an IndyCar decision. This was a Verizon decision. My question is, would anyone really care if Verizon changed their corporate logo and left the IndyCar logo alone? I wouldn’t. Change is bad!

George Phillips

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13 Responses to “What’s In A Logo?”

  1. George, the new logo looks exactly like a decal on your rear window… after about five years of weather!

  2. Bruce Waine Says:

    Wonder if the Boston Consulting Group were involved in both logos…….The current Indy Car series logo plus the 2016 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 event logo ?

    ……………… Both certainly winners…….. :o)

  3. DZ-groundedeffects Says:

    I gave it some rather gentle mocking early on, but I have to say it’s growing on me. It’s not garish nor overly busy and I’d prefer this to the NBA copycat logo we saw in the first several iterations.

    The first Verizon badge was about the most I could stand for a logo which is meant to be a graphic representation of the organization. Nothing about a large ‘home plate’ badge said “Indycar” to me other than the words attached.

    I think I’ll end up actually liking this a lot more when the season kicks off, trees green up, and not everything else I’m looking at is white, grey, or black.

  4. It is minimalist, simplistic, an easy format to send for press releases, web pages, and other electronic correspondence, I heard someone argue. Easily recognizable amongst the relentless bombardment of logos flashed at us in the cluttered medium modern technology.

    To me it looks like they threw it together in 5 min because they had a meeting with Verizon execs and they forgot they had to come up with a new logo. “Let’s to this- put the car here and Verizon logo here. Voila! Done!” Lets get some beers.

  5. First time I have seen that newest logo. I hope they didn’t pay too much for the idea.

  6. Well folks, if you are looking for a logo that would attract attention and sell product, design something around Emma Dixon. Ka ching!
    I’m pretty sure the legendary Linda Vaughn sold quite a few of those Hurst Shifters. Oh wait, maybe something along those lines would not appeal to the right demographics.

  7. billytheskink Says:

    Logo talk. YES! I genuinely enjoy discussing logos.

    Though I never would have admitted it when I was a CART partisan, I have long liked the various versions of the car silhouette logo and will be apt to view any logo that prominently features it with some level of positivity.

    On other websites, there seemed to be much consternation about the car silhouette in the new logo, even though the silhouette used is not new (it first appeared in 2011). While it is certainly an artist’s interpretation of an Indycar, it is quite clearly rooted in the car silhouette that first appeared in the 1993 Indy 500 race logo (probably taken from a 1992 Lola) and not based on a 1970’s car as some have claimed.

    The logo on the whole is not especially interesting, largely because it must hew to colors and font of the new Verizon logo (which is… not especially interesting). It does seem to fit the current trend of simplification and font standardization, and as such, it looks modern, which is a good thing for the series. I find the new NHRA logo more interesting (done at the behest of Coca-Cola, which redesigned the Mello Yello logo), but it is far less trendy.
    The series could definitely have done better, but this logo is readable and will look fine in print, on screen, and on apparel.

    • DZ-groundedeffects Says:

      First time I ever noticed this, but you mentioned the car silhouette – it too has changed, more than I realized, and very slightly over the years. The see-through roll-hoop and unattached rear wing endplates that appeared in the 2014 logo did give it a nicer appearance to me (even if not at all accurate with the current cars). I did a quickie mockup of the logo with a DW12 silhouette. Wish I could post it here…

  8. It looks like Verizon put an iphone or cellphone of some sort behind the car.

    Yeah, it’s stretching it but I think that’s supposed to be the idea and I’d like to collect the huge sum someone was paid to come with it.

    BTW, my ipad locked up when I clicked ‘post comment’ on the first attempt so just ignore the other one if it ever shows up.’

  9. It’s a modern logo for a modern era. There is a liberal use of white space, which allows the eye to focus on the word “verizon” (which is the point, isn’t it?). The non-serifed Helvetica font verges on being avant garde and a little bit hipster for a professional sports organization. It differentiates from other sports logos. If you have sponsors in the logo (which differs from most other stick and ball leagues), then they do have some right to say what the logo should look like. Significantly, the words “verizon” and “indycar” are of equal size. So, why is change bad?

  10. It’s been a month or two since I was first assaulted by it’s presence. Hasn’t grown on me at all since then. To me it looks cheap and amateurish. The lower case and check mark makes it look like a shopping list as items are put into the cart.

    Wouldn’t want any apparel with this logo.

  11. Forgot to add that maybe it would be something that would appeal to e e cummings (a poet that liked his name in lowercase).

  12. Lynn Weinberg Says:

    I figured that was the case, that Verizon had changed their logo. I enjoy looking at logos, colors, liveries, advertisements and those sort of dorky and artistic things. Last year, I was upset because many of the liveries were awful. It’s as if they said “Find me the shade of color that most closely matches the color of dirty asphalt, and lets put that on the car. It will be a hoot…..You won’t be able to tell if the car is going fast or slow.”

    But, I digress. When the logo first came out, I kept skimming over it in my Twitter timeline because I thought it was a parody account or I didn’t even notice it at all. Since I don’t have Verizon cell service, I was unaware that they changed their company logo. I realize that the trend in logos tends to be more simplistic, clean and succinct. But none of those words apply to IndyCar at all.

    I wish they would have come up with something a little more sleek and “fast” for the IndyCar logo, without departing from their own Verizon logo. They could have incorporated a checkered flag somewhere, if they were dead set on doing a two tone logo.

    Which brings me to the most confusing part of it all–the oddly placed red checkmark next to Verizon. I was printing tiny copies of the logo for an #indycarcraft project I’m working on, and I couldn’t figure out what the heck this red mark was doing on all my drawings. Once I enlarged it, I found the weird checkmark.

    It looks like an 8 year old made it in their first “Clip Art” class, and their teacher gave them a red check mark, for “Meh, it’s ok, not great, but it’s mediocre.”

    Last, but not least, the all lower caps. My understanding was that the proper way to say this sport we love or refer to the series is to type “IndyCar.” or “IndyCar Series.” If anyone ever questions brand recognition, we can look at a series of seemingly small issues like this one and understand.

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