This is a phrase a practicing designer should have heard couple of times in his life. Most probably, couple of dozens of times. This is also a mind-boggler every designer has certainly asked himself in the process, too. And I think the answer to this classical question is quite simple the times we live in. Visually overloaded times.
I doubt that Saul Bass was confronted with that question a lot (he probably was, but not much). It seems quite unprobable that Jan Tschichold would be actually struggling with the same feeling from the very start, too. He must have been presented to the problem much later, some time in 1960s? But today’s designer has heard of and has to deal with the statement (and a question to himself) while working on the thesis or the first client at latest.
This looks like… you know… that blue brand… It also has a square. Of course, who doesn’t? There are myriads of visual concepts and appearances presented to us every day. That blue square could have been a logotype, a part of a bigger image or a blurred memory of something completely different. And this impression has just stuck in someone’s head for some reason. So what do you do now?
For one, it is a designer’s job to conduct thorough research for his part of the business. It is an unequivocally important job to do – and one should charge for it, too. The methods one employs to manage the job differ from one table to another, but TinEye reverse image search, Google Image search and specific forums might be of a great help. Libraries anyone?
When you are sure of your unique work as a designer, it is now important to make sure the client believes in your finding and doesn’t start comparing every aspect of your work with his or her visual memories. If you find something similar in form, composition or color, do not hesitate to show it to your client – and explain why your form (composition and color) are different. If a client finds other forms to compare to, don’t freak out about discussing it and showing the similarities or differences. Just remember, that a logotype is not the paramount of a corporation. It is not a face – it is a name and a surname. How many Joes do you know? Do they all look alike? How many cords are there to take on a musical instrument? How many songs have been written since the dawn of the humanity? How many of them are similar to each other (a couple, for sure – out of billions, certainly)?
I’ve seen this blog post before, too.