Logos aren’t just for corporations, banks and public authorities; they’re for the most grassroots, most fervently un-corporate of organisations, too. Occupy London’s new symbol is a more potent and recognisable identifier than the logos of most of the corporations and financial institutions the movement is denouncing.
The London ‘occupation’, based in St Paul’s Courtyard close to the Stock Exchange, adopted Jonathan Barnbrook’s target-style ‘OL’ monogram/symbol after it narrowly came out top of an 18-strong shortlist in an online public vote in December 2011.
The mark is an unusually forceful one for Barnbrook, whose recent identity projects for commercial clients have sought to “fit in with people’s environment a little; still creating recognition, without clumsily dominating it,” says the designer. “However, this had to be a little more confrontational and oppositional.”
Instead of reverting to “traditional leftist imagery, such as the clenched fist”, Barnbrook fashioned a symbol and wordmark that evoke 1930s London: workers’ marches, wartime insignia and London Underground signs (OL based its original Facebook symbol on the TfL roundel, and was threatened
with legal action by Transport for London for its pains). The same visual cues lend it what can also be seen as an Orwellian, Big Brother quality; 1984, as seen from 1934.
Occupy London is possibly unique among the 1500+ ‘occupations’ that have sprung up around the world in having adopted the kind of symbology many activists associate with their corporate bête-noires. “We think it’s important to have a strong, recognisable identity,” says OL’s Spyro van Leemnen.“Jonathan’s logo can be applied in every kind of setting from Twitter and Facebook to banners, walls and buildings.”
There will be nothing as coercive as identity guidelines, though. OL stops short of insisting that supporters make use of its new logo. In fact, all of the 18 shortlisted entries are currently available for activists to use in mobilising support. More’s the pity. A little un-democratic coercion might, in this one instance, serve the movement well.
Michael Evamy is the author of LOGO and its companion, Logotype, to be published this year by Laurence King. evamy.co.uk