Record Label. Do we need a new logo?

DouglasW's picture


I was recently checking out how some companies' logos have evolved over the years, and I'm starting to feel that perhaps we need a new logo. For the past 7 or 8 years, we have used this:

It has, essentially, remained exactly the same throughout the years. (Though, I think I changed the height of the headphones a couple of years ago.) It uses ITC Avant Garde Gothic Condensed, which I vertically shrunk down to 80% of original. The headphones are from Audio Pi and I shrunk the height of that also (75%).

Anyway, a few minor kerning issues aside, I'm still rather fond of the logo and it has served us well for a good many years. However, I am beginning to feel it misrepresents the company's current activities. When I designed the logo, we were actually mostly known for our sampled instruments (VSTi), so it wasn't really a record label at all. Since then, the recording side of the company has really taken over and the sampled instrument side of things is dormant.

The record label's catalogue is fairly diverse, but it is tied together by a common aesthetic of clean recording, attention to detail, and natural sound presentation. All our releases are of classical and acoustic music.

In the current logo, I like that the headphones show that we are somehow music related, but I think it perhaps suggest that we are an dance/electronica label, especially coupled with a font like Avant Garde. Would you agree? Do you think a new logo would be a good idea?

I'm currently toying with dropping the headphones, and have been endlessly searching for a new font. Thinking of this:

I don't want to completely lose the identity we have established with the old logo. I toyed with "natural" in a serif font and "studio" in a sans, but I think it looks a bit tacky. Also, thinking about "NSR", but that seems to generic.

Any thoughts? I'm at the early stages here, so it would be great to get some feedback.



riccard0's picture

I would look for a more organic typeface.

DouglasW's picture

A humanist sans, maybe? Any recommendations? I've scoured through a lot of fonts and this one above (CA Zaracusa) sort of took my fancy.

Fonts aside, what do you think about the general idea--i.e. ditching the headphones, but keeping the lowercase "natural"-book "studio"-bold thing?

JamesM's picture

My first reaction is that if you're going to put both words on one line with no break, you need to have a greater difference in style between the 2 words. I know you have a difference in weight, but to me it's slightly too subtle. Maybe putting one word in a different color or shade would help.

Another option -- if you decide to keep the headphones -- is to make both words the same style but separate them by putting the headphones between them. Maybe a black or colored circle that's slightly bigger than the headphones with the headphones reversed out of the circle in white.

DouglasW's picture

Thanks for the thoughts James. The logo will be incorporated into all sorts of different designs and media, so I would prefer it to be one colour and not use shading, though I will experiment with it.

Looking at it again, yes, it could do with being a touch more difference between the two weights, but I would't like to go too far.

I think for now, I'll try without the headphones. I did experiment a bit with a centred dot between the words, and that kind of looked cool.

JamesM's picture

And another idea, perhaps too corny but I'll mention it anyway, is to have the final "o" wear the headphones.

JamesM's picture

> I would prefer it to be one colour and not use shading

I understand, but keep in mind that there are fewer and fewer situations these days where color -- or at least shading -- are impractical or cost more. Many companies these days communicate primarily via the web, PDFs, emails, PowerPoints, etc., where color and shading cost no more than black-and-white. And even in conventional printing, shading is usually not a problem.

Luma Vine's picture

There are definitely plenty of visual ways to take this project, but what is missing to me is a clarity about the image that the brand should project. I think some deeper digging into the genre and how you are unique within it is the basis for a great concept. A nice looking typeface is not going to be a substitute for a brandmark that actually communicates who you really are. Good luck, I find it is often easier to capture a brand identity with an image rather than with text only, but in this case, none of your examples suggest anything classical or acoustic.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Maybe consider hiring a (type savvy) designer? I mean, you don't pull in nitwits to handle your recordings do you? From what you write here, it seems a lot like random chance and very little like any actual design process is taking place.

DouglasW's picture

Thanks, everyone, for the comments and criticism.

First, allow me to clarify my experience when it comes to design and typography. I am not a designer by trade, but I have been involved in design work and the design process for many years. This has mostly been for my own record label, but the odd thing here and there for other people too. It's been trial an error learning.

In all honesty, there wasn't much thought that went into the new design shown above - I simply put it there to gather some initial thoughts.

JamesM - I hear you about shading etc. I wasn't really referring to cost. Just that I wouldn't like to 100% rely on shading or colour - somehow seems like a bit of a cheat or less purist or something. Will certainly consider it, though.

Frode Frank - random chance? Not really. The current logo actually went through a design process and, were the company still focused on the same business activities, I'd still be quite satisfied with it. I'd maybe change the font and adjust some proportions, but fundamentally, it does and says what I want. The new logo - as I mentioned above - it was really just a starting point to see if it's worth continuing with the idea current logo, or whether I should go down a different route. Just sort of feeling my way at the moment. I would love to hire a designer I loved, even just to get another viewpoint, but we don't have the funds for that. (and to answer your question: no I don't pull in nitwits to handle our recordings, I do it all myself from recording to release.) However, despite design/type not being my official trade, I feel I am quite savvy to both and am happy to make a go of it myself - with a little help of people like you on forums such as this.

Luma Vine - yes, I've been giving the concept some thought. The genres of music on the label will become more diverse in the coming years, so that makes it hard to pin down a look. We're not really a gimmicky label, and not tied to one specific genre. The name still works for us - suggesting a faithful, natural representation of the original sound. An image alone is tricky. So many of the things that suggest "recording" have already been used by other labels. I have been experimenting with spirals, a reference to records/vinyl/CDs, and there may be something in that. Interestingly, though - almost all the labels I really admire don't have an image at all - ECM, Nonesuch, Rune Grammofon, and the ones that do have logos, I think they're terrible designs. Perhaps it is because with simple text, it's easier to seem more generic? The logo is able to suit all the different types of music.

Thanks again and keep the comments coming - it's really helping!

DouglasW's picture

(Actually Harmonia Mundi already use a spiral/shell for their logo, so scrap that idea!)

Thinking out loud - maybe an ear? or incorporate a mic pickup pattern. Could replace the "o" in studio.

DouglasW's picture

Tree within a cardoid mic polar pattern

(not my drawing of the tree. Found it via Google - ©2003 Sarah Jameson. Just using it for mock-up purposes)

riccard0's picture

You're going medical.

Luma Vine's picture

It sounds like we have different ideas as to what the design process is. Here is my outline:

Research & briefing
Computer rendering

That along with a heavy dose of feedback where you jump to a previous stage to work out new ideas. But to me it sounds like you jumped to the last stage.

I would definitely avoid trying to represent 'recordings'. That is not what makes you unique, it is what makes you exactly like every one of your competitors, you all make recordings.

A big question that needs to be answered in the brief is whether you are a recording studio or a record label. Maybe there is some precedent, but I don't know of any brand that exists publicly as both.

I do get the idea of covering many genres, but I think there is still something that ties it all together. The last thing you want is to be generic. This is where some good research and brainstorming are essential.

Hope that helps.

DouglasW's picture

riccard0: Ha ha - yes, I saw that too. I like the character though.

DouglasW's picture

Luma Vine - no, we don't have different ideas. I agree with you completely. I guess I'm just doing all stages at once! These computer renders are as much sketches to me as the actual sketches I have in front of me on paper. But yes, I definitely hear what you saying. It's typical of me to jump in at the deep end.

When you say "I would definitely avoid trying to represent 'recordings'. That is not what makes you unique, it is what makes you exactly like every one of your competitors, you all make recordings." - yes, that's a very good point. However, I feel that that logo should give some indication as to what we do.

We are a record label, but actually do all the recording ourselves (generally on location), so it's not as simple as "are you a label or are you a studio". It's a bit of both.

apul's picture

Do you need a new logo? Hard to say. If you're changing because you're bored with the current one, it might be best to develop an idea before asking for feedback. There's not much to crit. If you're doing it for business reasons, frode frank was right - hire a designer.

DouglasW's picture

Hi Apul,

What is your opinion on the current logo? It's not that I'm bored with it, it's that I think it misrepresents the company. But maybe it doesn't and I'm just imagining things. Actually, that was the real reason behind this post, "Do we need a new logo?"

Yes, perhaps I was too quick to post ideas. I only really put that first one to demonstrate a simple idea. This label is a very small operation, so it's not for "business" reasons, as such. In other words - I'm not trying to go all corporate and re-brand the company. Just trying to decide if it's worth updating/redesigning the current logo. Also, there is no budget to hire a designer. I've done everything myself thus far and I have no plans to change that.

I feel I do have the capabilities and over the years I have invested in the necessary software, so don't put me down so quickly!

apul's picture

Didn't mean to dismiss your skills, I'm in no position to do so. If there's no pressure to rebrand then I'd take my time and try to come up with something more personal. There's nothing wrong with what you've got, but it doesn't express much. Maybe develop the headphones?

JamesM's picture

> I have been experimenting with spirals, a reference
> to records/vinyl/CDs

But aren't CDs declining in popularity, and aren't vinyl records (though regaining some popularity) more of a niche market? Perhaps a very abstract reference would work, but you'd have to be careful that the logo didn't link your company to yesterday's technology.

DouglasW's picture

James M. Yes, you're right. I already decided it was a bad idea anyway. Man it's a minefield. Not sure if I can be bothered. Think I'll just print the name in Helvetica and be done with it.

DouglasW's picture


Thomas Phinney's picture

I would second James and Frode's comments. I particularly agree that you could stand a little more contrast between the two words. If you don't want to use color/shading, more weight differentiation would be a good idea.



JamesM's picture

> it's a minefield. Not sure if I can be bothered

Good logos sometimes look simple and obvious, but only because you don't see all the hard work that went into creating them -- the research, the brainstorming, the concepts that seemed promising but didn't pan out, etc. Yeah, it's a lot of work!

AlexanderKatt's picture

I think you shoul lose the headphones, because they are a bit cliche. The words naturalstudio with no space and "studio" bolded look good as a logo by themselves, so just license one appropriate typeface (I like this one, for example and us it. You can't go wrong with that approach.

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