Logo graphics. You’ve seen some version of them on the internet. They’re unavoidable. A wall of corporate branding. Logos are exploding out from every corner of the page, or mapped in quadrants or adorning a flower. What is it about them?
First, there was the “Social Media Starfish.” Then came “The Conversation Prism,” “LUMAscapes” and finally the “Martech Supergraphic”. There are hundreds of others, but these four are the standouts.
I contacted several of the original creators and designers to get a sense of the impact these info/logo graphics/scapes had on their brands and businesses at the time.
Table of Contents
- What Are Logo Graphics?
- The Social Media Starfish
- The Conversation Prism
- Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic
- Logo Graphics Out in the Wilderness
- Further Reading
What Are Logo Graphics?
So what defines a “logo graphic”? Well – you know one when you see one.
They look like this.
Or how about this?
Either the logos help accent the point. Or the logos are the point.
The Social Media Starfish | Robert Scoble and Darren Barefoot
On November 2017, we passed the 10th anniversary of the “Social Media Starfish.” It emerged and made its way across the web back in 2007. It quickly captured attention due to “logo association.” I tracked down fellow Canadian, Darren Barefoot, who put Robert Scoble’s vision into a highly shareable graphic. Darren has been a partner at Capulet Communications since 2003.
I just realized the 10th anniversary of 'Scoble's Social Media Starfish' was last week @dbarefoot @Scobleizer
Are you aware of the chain reaction that happened over the years? pic.twitter.com/r9rz6EuFhn
— Massive Kontent (@MassiveKontent) November 10, 2017
MK: Darren, when you put together the Social Media Starfish, what inspired the graphic and what moved you to drop in the logos as representations of the companies?
DB: I remember that Robert had recorded a video (now apparently lost to the Internet ether) describing how he explains social media to people. He was sketching it out on a whiteboard. I thought it would be useful, both for myself and the wider tech community if there were a tidier version that could be shared.
MK: Doing a Google reverse image search – I’m coming up with hundreds (thousands?) of placements for the S.M.S. Did you realize it would go viral? Or was that an assumed outcome of the ‘Robert Scoble’ factor?
DB: I was a prolific blogger back then. I started very early, so I was connected to a lot of influential folks like Robert. But I also work in marketing strategy and understand how unpredictable the prospect of ‘going viral’ is. I thought it would be a useful resource, and I probably figured that other folks would blog about it. As with most new communications technologies, the first few years of adoption tend to be focused on the tools themselves. A lot of early email was sent that was basically “isn’t this email thing cool?”
MK: Were you aware of the downstream effect that your graphic had? ‘The Conversation Prism’ was directly influenced by it, then ‘Lumascapes’ showed up and finally the Marketing Technology Landscape ‘Supergraphic.’
DB: I was aware of the Conversation Prism, which looked so much fancier and tidier than mine. It was kind of Brian to mention me (I’ve always believed in citing your antecedents). I’m not specifically aware of the subsequent ones, though I have seen similar graphics.
MK: Have things gone too far?
DB: “Overkill is Underrated” seems to be a common refrain in marketing. Also, I’m not an expert in advertising tech, but that space looks ridiculously cluttered and overbaked. There’s lots of fungible dollars swimming around that sector, though, so I guess it’s tempting for people to try to grab a slice of it.
I’m a marketer, but honestly, the thing that kind of bums me out is that the focus shifted from ‘these are cool technologies to tell stories and talk to each other’ to ‘these are many technologies to sell products to people.’ That is, it’s no surprise that the later graphics are so explicitly focused on marketing and making money. It’s silly to presume otherwise in a world of many-billion-valuations for social tools, but I do miss the naive early days of these tools.
MK: Are you ready to be named the ‘Godfather of Logo Graphics’? Or should I be looking further back in history?
DB: Hah, I imagine there’s some predecessor, but feel free to call me that if it works.
The Conversation Prism | Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas
The Conversation Prism was the first major logo graphic that caught my eye almost 10 years ago. I was elated when Jesse Thomas, CEO and founder of creative interactive agency JESS3 agreed to answer a few questions about the Prism.
MK: Jesse, when Brian and yourself began discussions about building the Conversation Prism – what lead you to choose logos as representations of the various platforms? What is it about clusters of logos that grab our attention?
JT: Things move quickly in silicon valley, companies get acquired, they go out of business, they change their logos often. Do you use the full-color logo or the one color logo? Where do you get the eps file of a logo back then for a random startup? These were things we were thinking about back then. Logos were at the time being used on our phone as jump buttons to get to software (apps back in the day were just called software). We had tried a word cloud typography option and didn’t think it worked as well. We later did a sort of follow up called the geosocial universe and explored more abstract approaches for a similar situation.
MK: And what inspired the actual design of the Prism itself?
JT: Our friend Brian Solis had done a blog post with links in categories that was super popular with the marketing world. He came to me wanting to do an infographic type graphic that could be used for reference by a broad audience. At the time we were focusing on data visualization using social media API’s and doing marketing work for silicon valley brands, so this was all very familiar to us. A sort of road map to the internet. Something that others could use to share the idea.
MK: The Conversation Prism is probably the most ubiquitous infographic on the web.
- Version 1.0 from 2008 has almost 400,000 views just on Flickr alone.
- You’ve given out thousands of printed editions at SXSW.
- Google Reverse Image Lookup reveals a jaw-dropping amount of results for the graphic.
Did you have a grasp of how popular the infographic was when you published it? Do have any fun stories from that time?
JT: I started seeing the graphic utilized as a sort of template, which is super cool and awesome to be a part of. Brian has this incredible energy, and I did have an idea that people would be into it because this blog post was very popular, and it had a name already, but also because the web then and now is so void of cool graphics. We wanted to do something bright and fun and ended up doing something pretty safe design wise (check the original designs on our case study on jess3.com/projects). I remember being at a conference and seeing multiple people use the graphic and shout me out in the crowd and everyone looks at me, that was cool. So many random moments that made me smile.
MK: As an agency, have you ever seen another infographic get cited across that many websites before?
JT: Haha and you are so good looking too, yeah no I’ve not seen such success with other infographics. I attribute this to Brian’s ability to speak to the internet/marketing tribe, and the tribe’s ability to respond with what they wanted. More people should use this success story as inspiration to make their own graphics explaining their ideas on the world. Infographics are fun people!
MK: What did The Conversation Prism do for the JESS3 brand?
JT: Brian is a genius. The timing of all this was so perfect; back then the internet was a more intimate place, this graphic was so brilliantly utilized by so many people, I am constantly blown away by the whole thing.
MK: Were you aware of some of the ‘logo graphics’ (LUMAscapes, Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic, etc…) that followed later on?
JT: Yes, of course, so many cool remixes going on. When I look back at these logo graphics, I’m reminded of the inspirational project The Million Dollar Homepage.
MK: And finally, did you catch the French short film Logorama back in 2009-10? Thoughts?
JT: No, but just watched it and loved it! I love seeing abstractions of commerce and culture. What do you think of the EBOY city works? EBOY has always had a brilliant way of utilizing logos as characters in a story. [JT Edit: For the record, I think they’re great!]
LUMAscapes | Terry Kawaja, LUMA Partners
LUMAscapes are some of the industry’s most widely referenced resources. They organize the ecosystem across all critical categories and provide clarity to a complex digital media and marketing landscape.
“First debuted in 2010 by the ad tech banker Terry Kawaja, the LUMAscape has been through many iterations at this point, adding companies, changing categories and noting acquisitions over the years. From the very beginning, this image was a hit with the digital marketing set as it provided a way to understand a complex industry, as well as a symbol for how difficult it is to work in a space so complex!
The LUMAscape was a great way for ad technology people to explain the growing industry within their own companies in a visual way, as well as understand how new companies were aligned and fit together.” – Ben Kneen, Ad Ops Insider, THE DISPLAY LUMASCAPE EXPLAINED
“Think about Luma Partners. They are an investment bank that targets the technology & media sectors. They basically help companies get sold and help buyers determine which companies to buy.
…everybody knows Luma Partners in our space. Why?
Because they produce the “LUMAscapes” which are essentially visually guides to all of the major players in a technology market. It’s brilliant.
And every time a new LUMAscape is published it is newsworthy. Why?
A journalist has a visual chart they can use. That chart has information on it. Some people were added to the chart. Others were removed. There’s drama. Intrigue.”
– Mark Suster, Why Your Marketing Campaign Sucks
“Why is a bunch of logos in boxes on a PowerPoint slide so popular?
The LUMAscape satisfies two fundamental human needs:
- The need for order
- The need for validation
The LUMAscape is to adtech what the periodic table is to elements. The LUMAscape brings order, however imperfectly, to the chaos that is the digital advertising ecosystem. And for that, I am very thankful.
Regarding our pride, the LUMAscape provides a “shock & awe” approach to explaining our line of work to others. We can smugly think, “Oh, you think you’re world is complicated? Get a load of this. How do you like them apples?” – Joel R Sadler, Why People Love the LUMAscape
Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic: Martech 5000 | Scott Brinker & Anand Thaker
Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic has definitely been the most prominent logo graphic of our current era. It landed in 2011 and has grown by 2 orders of magnitude over the past 6 years. Scott brought on Anand Thaker as a collaborator for the 2017 update as it blew up in size by an additional 2000 companies. If there’s a martech company that exists – they’ve heard of it.
MK: Scott, when you were compiling Ver1.0 of the Marketing Technology Landscape in 2011, what lead you to go with ~150 logos as representations of each company? What were your influences?
SB: I had seen the adtech LUMAscape that Terence Kawaja of LUMA Partners had produced back in 2010, and I thought it was a great way to illustrate that space. I wanted to do something like that for the martech sector. I’ve also liked using logos because, in some way, they share a little bit of the character of the companies on that landscape. Each company brings its own imaginative ideas to a crowded market, and I think their logos give a tiny hint of that diversity
MK: In 2017 the supergraphic grew by ~40% to 5,381 companies. This meant adding over 2000 companies (logos) to the graphic. How many hours do you estimate that Anand and yourself spent on this update?
SB: It’s a labor of love, so I don’t clock the hours very carefully. I’m sure it’s in the hundreds. That’s why I always have a bit of an ironic laugh when, after hearing from so many people that the landscape was going to consolidate, we turn around and publish a new one with even more growth and diversity.
MK: Which various software did Anand, and you use to collaborate, build, and share the files for this project?
SB: Google’s G Suite and Dropbox. Simple but effective. Oh, and one massive PowerPoint file.
MK: What has the MTL infographic done for chiefmartec.com and your brand over the years?
SB: The landscape has certainly been the most popular piece of content I’ve ever worked on in my career. I’ve always been a bit surprised by how much it resonates. But I’d like to think that it’s helped make a lot more people aware of marketing technology, not just as an industry, but as a profession — why it’s valuable to have marketing technologists and tech-savvy marketing operations leaders in the modern marketing organization.
MK: And finally, you’ve given your blessing to some of the graphics heavily influenced by the MTL – But what about the others out there? Flattered?
SB: Always flattered. I’m certainly not the first person to organize logos on a slide. As I mentioned earlier, Terence Kawaja was one of my inspirations. For that matter, I remember the conversation prism graphic that Brian Solis put together — that was a fascinating logo-infused infographic. Everyone borrows from everyone else — combinatorial innovation at its finest — and I think that’s great.
“This year, I was fortunate to have Anand Thaker collaborate with me on this project, from the research through to the origami-like folding of thousands of logos into a single slide. I’m incredibly grateful for his contributions.”-Scott Brinker
MK: Anand, what made you want to take on this massive project? How daunting was it to add ~2000 additional companies to last year’s supergraphic to arrive at the 2017 edition?
AT: It was threefold reason. 1. Complete my full view of the entire vendor landscape: sales, marketing, customer, data, etc… 2. Begin to expand the landscape beyond a narrative into a resource. 3. Help Scott, help the industry. There are many who are only a megaphone for themselves and rarely for the benefit of the community/industry. On the other hand, Scott speaks softly and carries a big landscape. It was an honor to be asked to work alongside with him on this year’s project.
It wasn’t daunting at all. While we had tedious moments, the insights from the process were unmatched. With the two of us working well together and the motivation to expand the landscape, it really wasn’t hard to put much of my 15 years in the space to good use. Having come from an investor (finance) and system dynamics (energy) mindset, I saw the complexity as more of an opportunity rather than a challenge.
MK: Do you have any idea how many hours were involved in putting together the current edition of the Martech landscape?
AT: For the direct tasks related to the landscape, I’m sure it’s in the hundreds. Even with the extra time in my exploratory research, the setup for a more data-driven, fully cataloged, and unique insights was well worth it. I was happy to take my years of experience and eclectic knowledge in marketing, sales, customer, data and intelligent systems to put to good use.
MK: Were you using any Adobe software to compile the final image? What was the final file size (pixels/megabytes) of this behemoth?
AT: As Scott mentioned, we kept it simple. Microsoft Powerpoint was amazing at handling both the complexity and clarity of the final graphic.
MK: Doing a reverse image lookup on Google, the Martech 5000 slide shows up in a staggering number of results this year. Not many graphics (or infographics) get that kind of distribution. Were you satisfied with the result? Are you planning to be involved in the 2018 edition?
AT: Astounded and humbled. I hope the massive distribution represents Scott’s reaching a milestone in his building and expanding the awareness in the space. Careers, companies and billions of dollars were created/invested a result.
The final result both qualitatively and quantitatively was most gratifying to complete. 5000 is still a marathon of a number of companies to research. I’m really pleased that we’ve started to offer more utility beyond the slide in a form of a spreadsheet of companies and categories (found at the end of the post)
I will absolutely be involved moving forward.
MK: Do you chuckle to yourself when you see a “LogoGraphic” with a mere 2-300 company logos on it?
AT: Imagery is powerful and visceral. If I’m chuckling (and nodding), it’s only out of respect of how difficult it can be to create a simple image/graphic with a meaningful narrative. The number of logos doesn’t matter as much as the quality of the audience take away.
Logo Graphics Out in the Wilderness
Here’s a look around the web at some other notable logo graphics. I’ll add to the list as I come across others.
Oxfam used a logo supergraphic to demonstrate how 10 companies control most of the food and drinks that you find in the grocery store. To the tune of over 1 billion dollars a day in food sales. They launched their Behind the Brands campaign to try to keep the corporations accountable to fairness and sustainability.
Logorama is a 16-minute French animated film written and directed by H5/François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy and Ludovic Houplain, and produced by Autour de Minuit. The film depicts events in a stylized Los Angeles, and is told entirely through the use of more than 2,500 contemporary and historical logos and mascots. The film won the Prix Kodak at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 82nd Academy Awards. [source]
Funnel.io‘s front page and retargeting campaign.
As you scroll down the front page of Funnel‘s site you’ll be greeted midway by a hero graphic featuring 40 logos pouring through a funnel. Spend any amount of the time on the site and you’ll be retargeted by logo clusters on Google’s display network. It’s a brilliant and portable use of logo graphics.
I still haven’t been able to track down the designer for this vintage automobile logo graphic – but it’s been haunting the web as desktop wallpaper, and even sold as a poster since the early 2010’s. Here’s the original high-res version.
CB Insights releases industry research infographics at a prolific rate (8 between January 2-11, 2018). And some of them are the most beautifully designed within the ‘logosphere’. Nobody has released more logo infographics and they’ve started to experiment with the presentation and layout to avoid repetition fatigue. Kudos to their designers.
Metal Festival Posters
Brand identity for heavy metal bands has been a mainstay since metal’s origins. An instantly recognizable logo is of paramount importance to a band (and fan). Heavy metal festivals have long capitalized on this with their posters. Take this Maryland deathfest 2018 poster as for example. ~40 band logos, one graphic. Works well for both print and the web.
Old school punk flyers
And finally if we want to journey back to the late 70’s and early 80’s we arrive at old hand-crafted flyers for hardcore punk concerts. Through the use of photocopiers, exacto knives, glue and tape, DIY designers would meticulously layer band logos onto gritty and transgressive black and white illustrations to advertise the latest show featuring local (and out of town) hardcore bands.