Join Bill Gardner for an in-depth discussion in this video Transparency as a way of business, part of Logo Design: Visual Effects.
I'm going to share with you a story of coincidence, scandal, technology, and a double entendre that led to designers changing the way we design. It was August 2001 when a market analyst issued a loan letter questioning the accounting practices of a 101 billion dollar mega energy and commodity firm. By December 2nd, just three months later, the name Enron became indelibly scrawled in the permanent memories of the public as the largest bankruptcy ever filed.
The idea that a company with enormous holdings could have been engaged in highly questionable trading activities without the investors' awareness was probably what caught everyone so off-guard. It was really this event that reignited the use of the word transparency to describe the ideal visibility a corporation should provide in their fiscal posture. At the same time, on desktops around the world, designers were investigating a palette of new tools that came loaded with the newest version of Adobe Illustrator.
For the first time, there was a real-time method for illustrating transparency in a design. The ability to see through one layer, and merging it together with other imagery in the past, had pretty much required a visit to Photoshop. With processing speeds, what they were at the time, designers might expect to take a lunch break, while a single design variant was processing. Certainly this was not a speed or an efficient way to work, and thus it was seldom a consideration, especially during exploration in logo design.
So you can probably see this coming, but imagine what happened as corporations started to step forward asking for marketing materials and branding that demonstrated their company embraced fiscal transparency. Mm-hm. Designers presented a literal translation of this, and their clients could not get enough. Transparent websites, transparent annual reports, transparent commercials, and of course, the transparent logo. Within a year's time, transparent effects were so ubiquitous, and they had become ingrained as dominant features of the design landscape. Many of these same companies were in the financial sector and anxious to show that they were as transparent and unsullied as a crystal ball. Merrill Lynch introduced Total Merrill, demonstrating how clients could select from various products to see all of their investments with the greatest clarity. In 2009, Merrill Lynch was absorbed after financial challenges. So maybe it wasn't as clear as it really needed to be. We can only do so much as designers. There's probably been no more critical visual effect in logo design over the past decade than the use of transparencies. Not only will you find these to be really beautiful, they're highly informative and engaging for consumers. They're able to convey concepts quickly that have eluded designers for years, while identities were crafted in single color, and conform to rigid guidelines. Let's start by discussing the very simplest of this style with some well designed two-color solutions.
- Exposing complexity with transparency
- Find synergy in numbers
- Creating the illusion of form
- Applying personality with patterns
- Creating a narrative with light and shadow
- Using optical illusion to intrigue