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We are launching an initiative in the field of informatics for which I asked for a logo. Our graphic designer took care of it and indeed showed me a very nice logo, where a man with a hammer in one hand is standing on a background of the Earth where many links are connecting people.

The man is clearly “resolute” and “hard-working for all of us”. I like it. But that man is very clearly a white man, and may be from the North of Europe or the North America, that's impossible to doubt even if it is simply painted.

I like the logo very much, but I have doubts about the man. I'm afraid that such a representation may seem offending or whatever to some people if we choose a white male as the symbol for a worldwide operating service.

Moreover, we do not have the possibility to personalize the logo on a regional basis: the same logo is for all the world.

How can I avoid the logo being perceived as unfair or racist or whatever?

Here it is the draft logo:

draft logo
Click for full size

  • 3
    An interesting question is if you see the person as neutral and therefore white as you are (from your profile picture) white yourself. E.g. anime.stackexchange.com/questions/7539/…. Because I have the same bias I can't comment definitively but be aware it exists – Richard Tingle Nov 21 '18 at 23:15
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    Suggestions for other improvements, discussions about hammers and communism, and being offended, as well as remarks on other associations have been moved to chat. Please only write a new comment if you expect it to result in the question being improved or contains a relevant reference. Other comments will be deleted without warning. – Wrzlprmft Nov 22 '18 at 11:07
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  1. Make the character more obscure, since you're trying to represent humans in general. Unless it's a mascot – then using race is OK.

  2. It needs to be much simpler. It's not memorable to me, other than it stands out looking like a propaganda piece for some sci-fi dystopia communist movement. No disrespect to the designer.

You need to ask the designer to provide you with variations in style, so you can choose the direction you want to go. Have the designer do a few styles from the list below:

  • emblem logo (seals or crests, e.g. Harley Davidson)
  • text logo (Adobe, Android, Visa)
  • monogram (typically initials. GE, DC)
  • illustrative logo (Starbucks, Shell, KFC)
  • abstract logo (Nike, Pepsi, Chase)
  • mascots
  • or any of the combinations above

Forgot to add one thing. Sometimes evoking emotional responses is more valuable than telling a story. We always think we need to do that, and they can become too cliche. Let the mark captivate people, and then tell your story with different media.

  • This question has been extremely interesting. Quite all comments and proposed answers are very much useful and centered on the problem. I give the answer badge to you both because your question is truly operative ( you suggest what to do next very clearly) and because you have, at the moment, very few “reputation points” and your post is good. Thank you to all of you! – Rick Park Nov 23 '18 at 14:40
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I personally don't find this picture suitable for a logo. It has shading, complicated color changes, and tiny detail - it looks around 6x6 cm on my monitor, and has tiny stars which might be a single pixel at that blown-up size.

Logos are meant to be used in a lot of different contexts, and instantly recognizable (without change) when printed in reduced color schemes including monochrome, when photocopied 3-4 times, or when engraved on a pen (about 3x3 mm). Both for their purpose (a symbol, as Scott points out) and for usage limitations, they are meant to be as simplified as possible. Just like your company motto (or elevator pitch) shouldn't be a 4 page document, your logo shouldn't be a detailed picture. So it is best practice to use something fairly simplified in a logo, in terms of few, clean lines and of color palette.

If you follow this best practice, your "racial" problem will solve itself. At the level of abstraction used for a good logo, the features of the face will be too ambiguous to be representative of a race. (Sure, a good cartoonist will be able to suggest a race with just a few strokes - but this would have to be done on purpose, and here you want the opposite).

Before deciding on a logo, look through the logos of companies who can afford to drop a 6 figure sum for theirs, and see what they all do and what they don't do, and how far they go on the abstract vs. detailed continuum.

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    You are right, I simplified too much my question. As I explained below, this has been given as first step of the story telling, to be followed after that the story is shared, by a more simplified logo in the sense you are explaining. Thank you, I appreciate your post – Rick Park Nov 21 '18 at 18:16
  • see creativebloq.com/logo-design/myth-bmw-logo-11135412 about the BMW logo – Reinstate Monica Nov 22 '18 at 19:06
  • @afuna thank you for pointing it out. I don't remember where I have read it, but now I removed the misleading part from my answer. – rumtscho Nov 22 '18 at 19:43
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The easiest, clearest solution to this problem is to not use figures of any kind in the logo.

Stick to symbology and type modification.

If the symbology uses some sort of nondescript "stickman-like" figure that may be acceptable. However, color will play a large role there. And one can mistakenly start getting into "cartoon" type of figures which may not be the message the company wants to convey either.

This issue is typically not merely due to international sales/service, it can be localized as well. Unless ethnicity is a selling point which it often is not, then avoiding humans in logos can be the best option.

Use a fist and a hammer, or just the hammer.. there's no need for a face. That "logo" is rather intricate in my opinion. It won't reproduce well at smaller sizes and will come across as fairly ominous at larger sizes. I perceive far more "world domination" than "customer service" from it.


Being in the US, that image merely reminds me of Dr. Manhattan, an all powerful, God-like, omniscient, character from the Watchmen comic books.

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    My immediate reaction was "that's Dr Manhattan!". Who I'd never particularly thought of as Caucasian, but agree would not be ideal for a logo which does hint more towards world domination than informatics. – Mick O'Hea Nov 21 '18 at 23:12
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    @MickO'Hea Dr Manhattan isn't a white man. He's a blue superman. – Deepak Nov 22 '18 at 9:50
  • @Deepak is he even a man though? Maybe he is just super? – Joonas Nov 22 '18 at 10:07
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    @Joonas Well, "The superman exists and he is American" is a pretty famous quote from the movie (and I think from the graphic novel too). Dr M was also quite clearly heterosexual and active in a masculine role in that regard. – Deepak Nov 22 '18 at 10:32
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    @Deepak, he's not Doctor Manhattan though... Although now that you brought that up... Is Superman really a Super "man"? He looks like a man, but could he really be categorized as a man scientifically? Because no man I know has eye lasers. — Doctor Manhattan actually was a man, but is he one anymore? Like sure... he too looks like a man, sort of... Less than Superman, but I would say he is no longer a man. Like if a witch turns you into a frog... you're a frog. Doctor Manhattan may be described as a presence that looks like a man, but I think it could be argued he isn't one anymore. – Joonas Nov 22 '18 at 10:46
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Ok. Finally, the postmodern era has reached this forum. I can not fully express my politically incorrect view on the "I am offended" part. But I will address some inconsistencies on the logo itself.

That is not a logo, that is an illustration, a mission patch or something similar. It is very nice as such, but as a logo it needs to be simplified.

A lot fewer lines on the background, a simplified shape, probably a bit more geometric. That will help you make a more generic head shape (but of course someone will argue later that it is not a female)

Of course, the overall shape needs to fit the name of the company... If it is called Nordic Manpower Inc...


Another problem is that the man "hard-working for all of us", as mentioned. The hammer (or the T ruler) looks like a communist symbol, a labor symbol, not a technological concept.

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    Indeed the term “logo” I used is not properly tailored. The proposal I received is to “tell a story” starting with the high resolution symbol on the web site and printed communications, followed by some simplified elaboration of the same to be used as “logo” in the full sense. This is the draft of the HR symbol, to be used during project presentation on the web or whatever, and useful to create a concept recognizable in a logo made simplifying it. In this concept the cited problem is anyway evident at my eyes... so I’m asking advices – Rick Park Nov 21 '18 at 18:07
  • Yes, that was the aim: hard work to deserve you the useful links... I appreciate your point anyway! – Rick Park Nov 21 '18 at 18:10
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    Ahahah... next we will discuss about female... ahaha – Rick Park Nov 21 '18 at 18:31
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    I think this answer would be improved by removing the rambling complaint about political correctness at the beginning. – TylerH Nov 21 '18 at 19:52
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    @TylerH no rambling, merely saying that he's going to ignore what he thinks on that and move on, which I think is great! – WELZ Nov 21 '18 at 22:19
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How can I avoid that the logo be perceived as unfair or racist or whatsoever?

Ok, this is a site of questions and answers about graphic design, as you will understand it's impossible that any of those who participate in this site can answer about how your logo will be perceived. Not here or anywhere. We should make a campaign to use the logo and then a statistic to see what percentage of people were affected. I don't think Photoshop solves this problem.

Seen this way, your question is off topic here.

Now, there may be a solution, perhaps changing the question:

What should I do if my logo doesn't represent conceptually the 100% of the premises that my company handles?

It's clear that no matter how beautiful the logo is, there is a conceptual failure of relevance, since you have raised it, and beyond knowing whether this will affect a future audience or not, it's something that must be solved beforehand.

And for this there's an exaggeratedly simple answer: tell your designer the logo is excellent formally but with a conceptual flaw that can not be overlooked. He, as a professional, must find a way to solve this fault.

By the way, and this is something personal, the biggest problem with the logo as it stands now is not the possible racial discrimination. For me, the most serious is its more than defined general graphic representation simulating images of European authoritarian regimes from the beginning of the last century. Conceptually it implies authoritarianism, oppression and submission. We are happily in the 21st century.

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    The hammer reminds me of the USSR. The angry face too. – WELZ Nov 21 '18 at 16:06
  • Thank you for the feedback. I take it very seriously. I wait for other eventual kind feedback to give as answered this question. – Rick Park Nov 21 '18 at 16:16
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    @WELZ, Dr.Manhattan is just indifferent, not angry. – Joonas Nov 21 '18 at 22:14
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    @WELZ Yes. The the dedicated comrade Yuri (reference to Command & Conquer: Red Allert), only in blue instead of red. This graphic style was at almost every Sorela (SOcialistický REalismus - Socialistic realism) bulding in former CSSR. – Crowley Nov 21 '18 at 23:01
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I've seen the use of colors which aren't a skin color, such as blue or orange or even gray to fix this problem.

You should also consider simplifying the character (and the logo as a whole)

Source

PragerU sometimes uses a dark blue for people:

I've seen others go with a silhouette

In all of the above examples, they used one solid color for the skin-tone, which solves the color and simplification problem.

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    I doubt it is about color... the guy is actually blue. – Rafael Nov 21 '18 at 18:02
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    @Rafael it's a white man with a blue effect, taking away facial features will help as well (as they've done in my examples). – WELZ Nov 21 '18 at 18:03
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    Yup, I know, but you are only addressing color on your post :o( It is not about the color. – Rafael Nov 21 '18 at 18:05
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    Of course, these all still have some strong markers of gender, so you're still excluding half the world's population... – 1006a Nov 21 '18 at 19:26
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    @1006a 🤣🤣🤣 you are right! And what about child and old people? Are we discriminating them? – Rick Park Nov 21 '18 at 22:16
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Unfair to who? Racist to who? People who aren't white? Why should the fact that the man is white make any difference to the image?

I think an expression of antipathy to the man being white is racist in itself. Though I don't have a suggestion for an alternative, myself, I don't feel that the race of the person in the picture should be a major factor in its creation. And to say that the featuring of a white man in the image is racist on the basis of his race is strikingly oxymoronic.

The people who are offended by the mere existence of white men are also offended by an increasing number of all kinds of things (I highlight their reaction to promotion of healthy body images in particular) and it would be infeasible and ultimately futile to try to satiate their often indiscriminate anger to even the most innocent of topics.

I won't convince you to make any changes in particular to the image, whether you keep it as is or otherwise, I just feel that making such alterations to the image because it may offend textbook racists is unjustifiable - counterintuitive, even.

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It would be a good idea to not automatically go to someone being offended by white-ness. Nobody can change their ethnicity, and anyone offended by that fact is by default racist themselves.

protected by Scott Nov 23 '18 at 5:34

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