Logolog (@logolog) is a logo design blog focusing on wit and lateral thinking in logo design. The logos featured here made me smile and wish I had thought of them first! I like it when logos take me by surprise, either with unexpected associations or playful ideas.

Denis Radenkovic,
September, 2004

Maggie Macnab


Macnab Design

The last design book that features some of my work is Decoding Design. It’s a book by Maggie Macnab, the principal visual designer and the founder of Macnab Design.

I’d think that it’s highly unlikely, but if you’re not familiar with her work yet, Maggie’s work has been recognized in Communication Arts, Print, Graphis, and many international design books. Among others, Maggie won the National ADDY from the American Advertising Federation, awards from the New York Art Directors Club and the International ECO Award from the National Resources Defense Council.

The following logo studies accompanied by the designer’s notes, are only some of the great design work done by Maggie.

Maggie Macnab

The Chicken is the egg drafts

I was working on this logo for a new age music client. Birds and music go together and as I work so much with negative and positive space in my logo design, I quickly saw the opportunity to embed a bird into a bass clef.

Working with the negative space, I designed an egg-shaped nest around the bird/clef and “lay” two eggs in it. The statement suggests a metaphor for the whole being contained within the parts, or the self-scaling nature of regeneration. It’s always a good idea to reverse the way you are seeing something to find other visuals that have potentially relevant information. A truly “symbolic”logo mirrors the wholeness of nature, which is what makes them meaningful.

The logo was rejected by the client, but that never stops a good idea! I simply tailored it to myself and used it in “Decoding Design”.

Body Wisdom

I began this design for a high end day spa and product line with quite a few sketches. Hands are intrinsic to body work, so I knew they’d be part of the design. Eyes seemed very important, too, though I didn’t know why for awhile (always trust your intuition).

I rarely go into tight illustration for a logo exploration, but I did so with this one. I was still focused on hands and fire as a representation for chi, though this is far more literal than I usually am with logo design. Again, those eyes…

This was a case of the tool (computer) actually informing the finished design for me. The hand style was developed and with just playing, not knowing what might come of it, reflected the hand and found a great opportunity to create a symbolic logo that addresses more than one concept simultaneously. I always respect my intuition. Even if it hasn’t fully formed consciously, I find if I stick with something that continually presents itself, it has a key place within the message. In this case, the hands effectively convey massage, while the proximity of the “eyes” within the owl shape created by the hands clearly say “wisdom”.

Body Wisdom Drafts


The k’s and u’s were created by Fred Yost, a master calligrapher with whom I have worked with for over 20 years. I had the concept for what I wanted to do and asked him to draft several characters from which I could choose.

Not happy with the eye shape, I pieced other calligraphic parts together, and incorporated some of my own artwork. eyeku was the original iteration of what became my book Decoding Design: Understanding and Using Symbols in Visual Communication.

Eyeku Drafts

Heart Hospital of New Mexico

The state of New Mexico has used the Zia symbol as its state logo for over 100 years. Zia Pueblo claims this design, though I think it’s a pretty prevalent pictograph in these parts.

I was given 3 criteria from the Hospital design committee (comprised of doctors from merging small practices and the funding insurance company). Those were:

  • It must have a New Mexican flavor,
  • it must (obviously) be directly related to cardiology,
  • and that patients would know they were in very good hands.

I knew there was something about all three in the Zia symbol. But by the time I was into this version, I was pretty irritated with the design. I have some others with funny, ‘mad’ marks on them. Logo design can be a frustrating process and the artifacts of it are in many of the process sketches.

In the end, the palm was integrated with a heart shape, and the Zia became the mark symbolizing both ‘New Mexico’ and the ministering of hands-on care. I encouraged the doctors to ask for audience with the elders at Zia Pueblo to request use of the symbol in this way. The Zia is an ancient and sacred symbol, and I was well aware of their issue with people randomly slapping it on the side of any old work truck as an identity. They not only granted the use of it, they blessed the hospital grounds and danced at the groundbreaking, which was excellent PR. It’s always a good idea to be sensitive to things like this; not only are you doing the right thing, just showing the common courtesy of respect can bring great and unexpected things together.

Heart Hospital of New Mexico Drafts & Inspiration


SwanSongs is a non-profit musician’s collective that performs music for people in the last stages of life. They selected a beautifully lyrical name with an appropriate message of the ‘swan song’, one’s last great effort before leaving this life. Researching sheet music, I knew there was a swan in the treble clef.

This was one of the quickest logos I’ve ever done. The concept was instantaneous.

I always tell my logo design students to design for symbol and scale: that is, begin in black and white, think broadly about connections, and eliminate as much as you can without robbing the design’s integrity. This encourages the starkly economical thinking necessary to eliminate irrelevant information, and makes key connections to broadly understood messages. This is essential to set up an immediate and intuitive relationship with the viewer, key to getting attention in an overly noisy world. Letting the tool design the work for you, using templates instead of imagination, contributes to the immense amount of ‘junk’ information out there. Embellishments such as color or other treatments are later considerations.

A logo must stand apart because of its nature of distinguishing an entity. It also must be able to carry itself over time. If it is based in style, the next time trends change it will be gone. Based in substance, it is an enduring mark that evolves alongside the client. The trick is to embed specific information about the client into the design to set it apart from its ‘common-ness’. This is an effective way to design for engaging, enduring symbolic logos.

Behind The Scenes

Visit Behind The Scenes and read more about the design process behind some of Maggie’s most recognized logo works.


Macnab Design

Posted on

December 16, 2008