Logos define brands. Think Coca-Cola, Apple, or McDonald’s – what do you instantly picture? Right, their logos. A logo has the power to create a brand association because it is what sticks in people’s minds. So it came as quite a surprise when, just over a week ago, Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille revealed the new proposed logo for the City of Cape Town. Let’s just start by saying that the logo sure is sticking in people’s minds, but not in a good way.

Image: underconsideration.com

Image: underconsideration.com

Why? Well, initial rumour was that a tender of an estimated value of R8-million was awarded to King James Advertising Cape Town and Yellowwood Future Architects as a joint venture in December. However, the city denied the astronomical costs, with de Lille explaining that only a cool R313 720 was spent on the design.

So what is this R300 000 design all about then? The new logo is made up of six different colours and concentric circles that are subtly shaped in the outline of Table Mountain. So far, feedback about the look of the logo includes that it’s like ‘a virus under a microscope’, ‘a foreign country’s flag’, ‘one of those visual illusion things that hurt your eyes because you can’t focus on it as a whole’ and ‘a trance party security badge’.

But why exactly are people hating on it so much? one small seed’s editor-in-chief Giuseppe Russo provides us with his personal opinion on where the new logo’s weaknesses lie. Giuseppe has been a designer for over 22 years and has personally created over 100 logos, including the one small seed logo. Here is his short list that critically analyses the new City of Cape Town logo:

Image: news24.com

Image: news24.com

1) Simplicity is Key
If you’re creating a logo that is going to be used on various different platforms, for example TV, web or print, it has to be simple. The current logo is a freestanding shape, which looks fine on a white background. But what happens if the logo is to be positioned on a coloured background? Will the logo be left freestanding or will it be placed into a white square? Either way, this takes away from the logo’s consistency and functionality.

2) A Busy Logo is Bad
A good logo should always be strong, even if represented in grey tones or black and white. There are just too many colours in this new logo. From the yellow to the magenta circle, there are white spaces that immediately create a negative tension. If the logo is used in a smaller size (as it is currently being used on the City of Cape Town website – which, just by the way, has a 780 px width and looks like it was designed 12 years ago), the first white space after the yellow and orange colours disappears. The many busy shapes all squished into a small space create a sort of ‘vibrating’ effect which irritates the eye, thus exposing a weak point of the logo.

3) Confusing Imagery

The logo is supposed to represent Table Mountain along the outer lying circles, and to look like a protea flower as a whole. Okay, sure, most of us can make out the outline of Table Mountain, but you can’t have such an aggressive and repetitive shape for a city logo. It’s too messy.

4) Excessive Use of Circles
There are way too many circles. For the shape, the circles should not have exceeded three or four.

All in all, the idea of the new logo is not bad. While it is easy to criticize, one must realize that we do not know the finer details, such as client feedback and time allocation for the project. It couldn’t have been easy having the government as a client. Having said this, it’s always a challenge to create a strong, working logo. Giuseppe points out that what the logo needs most is strength, balanced shapes, simple lines, and if possible, a little more of a modern approach to the visual. Perhaps it would have been best to allow a test run for this logo, making room for possible damage control. Instead, the Civic Centre’s City of Cape Town logo is already being disassembled to make way for the new one, leaving many Capetonians baffled.

Come on Cape Town, you’re bubbling with amazing designers and this is not what we should have as a representation of our city. 

To get a better idea of what a strong logo can look like, check out our selection of some of the most iconic and successful logos of all time below.

What is your opinion on the new City of Cape Town logo? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @onesmallseedSA or leave a comment below.