I used to drive by a church on regular trips to my parents’ house. A cute little cottage, modest, with muted blue siding, crisp white edging and accents. An oval sign, machine cut from ridged wood, stood out front, painted to match the facade and reading its name: “Logos.”
I thought it was a design shop with a very literal name. I nearly sent them my portfolio. Rather, their Google listing showed them as a church. I was glad I had not sent my work. This would have looked silly.
What do logos have to do with church then? Well, what does Logos have to do with logos?
Logos to a churchgoer is a singular system of rational argument – logic – to validate the existence of a greater being. Logos, in its literal translation from Greek, means “word.”
As in, “In the beginning was the Word …” … this Word, is Logos.
In secular usage, Logos is still logic to articulate an argument, in linear reason and through evidence.
Logo as a designer knows the word, seems outright something totally different; a distinct mark, type arrangement, or combination of both, as the core of a recognizable brand for any group or organization. The word logo as we use it is abbreviated from 1 of 2 words: logotype or logogram.
A logotype is how it reads; a type treatment logo, formed historically from one unique plate rather than a combination of type pieces. A logogram rather, is an image that forms to express a word. Logograms have been used throughout history. Egyptian Hieroglyphs are logograms, as are some Chinese characters, or cuneiform marks of the ancient Sumerians.
Most emojis are logograms.
At first look, they seem to be homonyms of sorts: 2 words which sound the same though have different meanings. The curious relationship between these two words, Logos and logos, is that homonyms have different roots. Logos and logos share a common root.
Letters are set in type to form a word. The word gram, as in telegram, pictogram, Instagram – at its base means to draw or to write, as in drawing a diagram, or using proper grammar, or programming code.
The use of Logos as a style of church discourse, or as secular discourse, or representation by any designer or brand, is a nuanced version of the same idea. They’re not homonyms at all – they’re actually the same concept, on distinct sides of the same spectrum, designed to lean anyone in the direction of the presenter’s position, through a combination of word(s) and images.
That sign, reading “Logos” outside the Church of Logos, is a logo. It’s the church’s earnest, outward attempt to bring me in to their Logos. Who knows if I’ll stop in next time I drive by, portfolio in hand.
About the author
Kevin is one-half of Peach Key (peachkey.co), a husband-and-wife design / communications agency based in Lake County. In addition to client work, sometimes he writes about opportunities in miscommunication.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of AIGA Orlando.