I inadvertently designed a Fascist looking symbol for my client’s brand identity

Heh heh, heeeh… Oops! 😅

“Hi Ben, can we talk about the logo you’ve designed for me?”

A few days before, I had finished up on a brand identity project that my client and I were really happy with. I was on the way home and stuck in traffic, so took the chance to return the call I’d just missed whilst negotiating a hazardous roundabout turning.

“Hey, Colin*, sure what’s up?”
There was a very slight inflexion of nervousness in my reply, I could feel it in the back of my throat.

“Well, I’ve had a few of my colleagues come to me now about their interpretation of the logo.”
Colin had a ‘you-will-not-believe-this’ undertone to his voice, with a breathy half-laugh cutting through his sentence.

“Okay…”
I mentally readied myself.

“Four separate people who have no relation to one another have all said to me the logo reminds them of a Nazi swastika.”

“Pfffwhhaatt?!”
I couldn’t quite believe my ears. If I’d have taken a sip of a metaphorical coffee just then, my dashboard would have been in a warm, sticky, sorry state.

Colin continued, “Yeah, at first I had the same reaction. After the second comment, I just thought it was a fluke. Then after the third and then a fourth comment, I thought I’d best contact you.”

The swastika-looking logo I'd designed
The ‘swastika-looking’ logo I’d designed

This was an interesting turn of events, mainly because these comments had only come after the project was complete. Had we missed a vital part of the design process by not asking the opinion of the viewers, customers, readers and users outside of our own bubble before concluding the project? My partner had been a spectator through the entire process, as I often ask for her opinion. Not once had the thought cross her mind that the logo resembled a fascist mark. The same with my family and friends – no peep of any nazi symbolism being suggested there, either.

Our conversation rattled around like this for a few minutes to see if we can identify the culprit and eke out an easy solution.

“Okay, I’ll put my mind to work at coming up with a solution. Maybe it’s just a colour change. Maybe we change the shape or angle of the logo. Or maybe we revert to one of the other designs we liked?”

“I’ll leave it with you to decide, Ben. But if you can stay as close to the original as possible, obviously that would be best.”

So I had my work cut out for me: Change the logo enough that it no longer resembled a swastika, whilst simultaneously keeping intact the original design that my client fell in love with.

In this context, maybe it looks a little fascist-like 😅

As with many a problem that requires solving, it came to me in the shower.

The problem:
The logo looks like a swastika to some users.

What users are seeing:
A black limbed logo that vaguely resembles a swastika. The limbs protrude from a central space, without any breaks in the mark (meaning it’s all one body).

The solution:
Break up the logo enough to negate any suggestion the mark is a fascist logo. Introducing negative space where the limbs attach to the ‘body’ also suggests layers of content or pages like a news feed, which is essentially what the platform this logo has been designed for is offering. Perfect!

 
The solution
 
 
 

I actually came up with three different designs in a few hours and sent them to my client for approval. Colin instantly chose the option which I knew he would, but I opted to showcase two others. More for myself than anything. They were just experiments which I can always use another day.

 
The rejected solutions
 
 
 

“That’s great, Ben. You’ve kept the original form and introduced another meaning to the logo. And, of course, you’ve steered it away from anything that looks fascist. Always a bonus!”

“Well, let’s see what the critics say before we leap this time!”

Suffice to say, the feedback returned was positive and as far as I’m aware, there have been no more fascist-related comments… 👀

My Takeaway

Get as many users as possible to view your identity to cover all angles of opinions and cultural significance in order to avoid your carefully crafted identity becoming an accidental representation of something you do not wish to be associated with.

Sharing ideas often can save time in the long run because a solution from one user’s perspective may not hit the target from another’s. This means less time spent creating something that will never ship.

Links

You can find the full case study for South Coast Squared brand identity here.


* Colin is a fictional name to preserve the identity of my client. 🙂