A. Michael Shumate, author of Logo Thoery: How Branding Design Really Works

    In my first month of teaching college Branding Design, I reviewed a student's concept for a logo project. I told him that his approach wouldn't work.
     He asked why.
     I told him I didn't know why. It just wouldn't. That was like hearing your dad say, "Because I said so." I didn't like saying it, and I knew that my answer to this student was arbitrary, unhelpful and even ridiculous. Still, I knew in my gut that his work was violating some underlying and important principle. But I couldn't articulate what that principle was. That day, I made a solemn commitment to learn the whys, not just the whats, of branding design.
     I never gave up on that commitment. Over twenty-five years, while supervising thousands of student projects (as well as creating my own professional work and considering the work of others), I studied, pondered and probed. I watched various fads and fashions in branding design come and go. On the other hand, I observed that identities by great designers like Saul Bass, Paul Rand and Chermayeff & Giesmar were used for decades–-some for more than half a century–-and still looked modern and fresh.
     True principles in graphic design trump fad and fashion every time. You can break those rules, but, in reality, you only break your work, like waves against rocks.
    There are few areas where this is more evident than in designing corporate identity. Designers whose identities violate those principles will find that, sooner rather than later, their creations get replaced.
     The underlying principles of identity design don't change. Those who cater to temporary swings in taste will find their identities go out of

style quickly. Designers who think that they can do anything and call it an identity don't understand the nature of identities. Those who vainly seek to be on the leading edge find out, more often than not, that they are on the bleeding edge. Those who refuse to learn the craft of identity design are forever mere amateurs.
    I guess you can see I take branding design very seriously. But I don't take myself too seriously. The first day of teaching new college students, I tell them to call me Michael, not Professor Shumate or Mr. Shumate. Then I tell them that if they forget my name, they can always call me Grand Poobah. The term comes from the Gilbert and Sullivan musical The Mikado and is one of many titles that an officious character has bestowed upon himself. It has come to mean "anyone with no real authority but who acts otherwise" (as defined, appropriately enough, in Wikipedia). There you have it. I speak with great authority where I have none, except that which experience has given me.
    What is my experience? I graduated with a BFA degree in Graphic Design, and I've been a professional designer and illustrator for nearly fifty years. My design and illustration clients have included the National Football League, Simon & Schuster, Kelly Services, British Airways Magazine, the Screen Actors Guild, Business Week and Prudential, to name a few. In addition to freelancing, I was a professor of Graphic Design and Illustration at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario, for twenty-five years.
     After reading Logo Theory, you may look at the art of branding design with new eyes and perhaps be a little wiser and more directed in your work. I hope so.
     I wish you success.