Tuesday, September 25

Thinking About Bank Logos

Why must big bank logos be so uninspiring?

Bank of America's blue-and-white logo is a stylized American flag. To me, it looks like three equals signs that have begun to melt. It also reminds me a little bit of three hilltops in the countryside.

Here in the Southeast, Regions Bank is celebrating its acquisition of AmSouth with a new logo: a lime green pyramid with four white spikes radiating from the bottom. It has a plantlike feeling to it.

Citibank recently did away with the red umbrella in its logo -- a symbol of protection and a reminder of its connection to the Travelers Cos. Now the bank's logo is a red arc that links the two lowercase I's in the word Citi.


Perhaps I'm being too harsh. After all, it's not like I have a long list of alternatives to suggest. Perhaps big banks have to use generic logos because they can't use a specific geographic logo, like smaller, local banks. (For example, the Bank of Tampa has a beautiful logo that incorporates a local icon, one of the minarets at historic Plant Hall at the University of Tampa. The Bank of St. Petersburg also has a wonderful logo showing the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.)

I suppose all banks have a hard time with logos, actually. If you're running a pizza parlor, you can incorporate a piece of pizza into your logo. If you own a florist, you put a bouquet on the sign. But designing a logo isn't that easy for a bank -- your business isn't about money, it's about financial services. You can't just stick clip art of a dollar bill in your logo. Not if you're smart.

The Bank of America, Regions, Citi logos et. al. wouldn't look so bad if there weren't some really good bank logos out there, making them look shameful in comparison.

My favorite is the Wachovia logo, rolled out several years ago after the First Union-Wachovia merger.

The Wachovia logo recalls the etching and fine printing on bank notes, cheques and financial documents. It's simple, but it's asymmetrical, so after all these years it still captures my attention. The colors are great -- not bland but not too bold. And, on TV, the logo is dynamic: instead of just appearing as a completed piece of art, it constructs itself on the screen.

(Once again, let me offer my standard disclaimer: This blog post should not be construed as my opinions about any bank or the banking industry. It is merely my opinion about logos. I am a reporter, but I do not cover the banking industry.)


Karla said...

What's funny about the Bank of St. Pete logo is that, technically, the Skyway Bridge is in Hillsborough County.

Jeff said...

I vote for the giant walking Bank Atlantic integer: