David Airey is an independent graphic designer working with companies of all sizes since 2005.

Logo of the month #10

The Mill logo, North Design, London

The Mill logo, by North Design, London, catches my eye more than most from the Michael Evamy book, Logo.

The Mill is a post-production and visual effects company in the UK. According to the Logo book, the letterforms for the design have been made using lengths of film. What’s more appealing for me is, whether planned or not, it closely resembles an old mill building.

old mill building
Image copyright: Urban Compass

mill building
Image copyright: Paul on Flickr

The Mill logo, North Design, London

Not the only logo made using solid bars, by any means, but it’s simple, memorable, scalable and relevant. Great job.

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60 comments about “Logo of the month #10”

  1. I think this is a great example of a logo not needing to be anything overly distinguishable or strong by its self. Where a lot of the power for a lot of logos come from is in their applications, isn’t it?

    Looking at this logo, you wouldn’t know where it comes from, who it’s for or what it means (although I did think the same as you and it could be a simplified factory..).. but whack it on some business cards, letterheads, a website and marketing materials and it’ll be hard to forget it’s connection to The Mill because of how strong and simple it is.. or am i off base a little? heh

  2. I very much like your idea of the logo coming from an old mill. I agree with Alex that the strength of this logo would have to be based on its branding. If the logo was seen only on its own it would not have the greatest of strength but if the identity was displayed in a bold and creative way across the company stationery, signs, etc then it would have a far greater strength. I do like this logo when considering it for branding although I am not sure about the relation to the strips of film that they suggested but I like the logo when considering the mill idea. Thanks for the post.

  3. Wow. It would seem like a joke to a non-designer, that a professional designer came up with this. It’s like the arrow in the FedEx logo – it’s just there – you look and you get it. I think it takes tremendous maturity to exercise the restraint necessary to pull this off. Thanks for pointing this one out!

  4. This logo reminds me of the Manpower logo, and also a little like one of your drafts for the Komplett Fitness logo. One thing I like about it is its ability to be used in areas other than the logo. I think it would make a good ‘loading…’ graphic, if used subtly.

    I was a little disappointed after going to their website – http://www.the-mill.com/ … Its not very user friendly and in my humble opinion, poorly designed.

  5. On the same lines of Alex Charchar, I think that the logo by itself is pretty poor. Yeah, I can see the word “Mill” in the vertical forms, but only because I have been told about the name of the company.

    However, used in context, I can see how this icon could be a great logo. I think this is a logo that needs heavily-branding to educate the viewer/

  6. Alex, bubble,

    I actually think this is a design that is strong by itself. I was hoping to find some examples in context prior to publishing, but went ahead with the logo alone due to its strength.

    Brandon (eGrace),

    Restraint is a good word to use here, and it’s not surprising the client is within the creative industries. I imagine many other clients thinking the design too simplistic.

    Jordan,

    The Manpower logo is just one that’s mentioned in the link I provided. MIT Press is perhaps the primary example of a similar logo style (designed in 1963). Thanks very much for listing The Mill’s website. I’m equally not too keen on the site design, which appears very cramped (more space / padding would help). The online application of the identity reminds me of logo of the month #9.

  7. Andrew,

    I don’t think there’s as much education needed as you make out, though it’s interesting to read your impression.

    For me, all you need to know is the company name, and the logo becomes distinguishable and memorable. I’ve only seen it a few times before, but I’m unlikely to forget it.

  8. I agree with Andrew et al on the logo being strong only in application.

    Shame that the website is poor, as Jordan says – the logo is barely visible to me!

  9. The simplicity shows its strength.

  10. Great choice David, this is an outstanding logo, both in its execution and its idea. I real favourite of mine, its been around awhile now but hasn’t lost any of its impact.

  11. I like it — simple, but yet it stands out.

    Keep up the good work! : ]

  12. I’m not keen on this at all, I think when you have to look that hard to make out the company name it’s not a good design.

    I don’t think being ‘clever’ is all that is required of a logo design – being clever is all well and good as a designer, and it’s impressive to think of something clever like this, but just because you have thought of something super clever, it doesn’t mean you should use it simply by it’s virtue of it’s cleverness.

    This designer has essentially provided a logo design that is a puzzle.

    Sure enough it’s a memorable shape because it’s clear and distinct, but it’s unreadable unless you really strain and know the company name. Even then most non-designers still wouldn’t see the word within the graphic even if they knew the company name.

    I think it fails as an ‘effective’ design in many ways unless they start attaching the company name to it so that it becomes less of a puzzle.

  13. Perhaps suggesting it wasn’t strong wasn’t the best way to put it.. I more meant it’d get it’s strength through application and then would work, very well, once a connection has been made between the logo and the company it represents.. on first viewing you don’t go “oh, it’s the mill”, but you wouldn’t for the nike swoosh either.. but through solid branding, it becomes a strong representative of the company it belongs to.. just to clarify :)

    looking at it now, the next day, after I know who it belongs to, I think it’s a fantastic logo and love the boldness of it.. on first viewing, i didn’t know who it belonged to.. is that a risky thing to do? Have a logo that isn’t distinguishable by its self?

  14. David, I stand humbled by your mastery of simplicity. Although, one thought did occur to me … since it is a mill and the logo represents the mill building it would have been cool if they incorporated a lone “square” right above the third stack.

  15. Oops, I don’t think this is your logo design. Is it? Sorry, I wasn’t clear on that one.

  16. simple and strong but shouldnt be left alone to do the message(not that many logos are)

    i personally though it was a shoe when i first saw it :o

  17. Yes strongly agreed,

    A simple logo yet OUTSTANDING!

    Choosing a logo that would best represent your company is very important.

  18. I like it. Simple yet profound. You could do so many things with it in the way of branding your company, heck you could even build your company offices to look like it (4 short towers next to 2 taller ones) if you had the money and the inclination.

  19. There is a similar logo for MIT Press (I see Thoughtful noticed that too!). I’ve always liked that logo. Why, oh why they use Comic Sans on their website is beyond me.

  20. Personally I think this is a very strong logo and can work effectively on it’s own.

    For me a logo doesn’t necessarily have to be readable right away, it all depends on where it will be used, how the company interacts with it’s clients, etc. For an already well established media company such as The Mill it can work perfectly, and in fact is probably better for being enigmatic.

    Am I the only one who likes their website layout?

  21. I must say I concur with other commenters in that it does require a great level of maturity and perhaps understanding, to exercise the restraint necessary to achieve such an intricately simple design. I often find myself slipping into the habit of not knowing when to say when – though a design is never really finished and i always inevitably end up finding something i would have liked to have tweaked – it is as much of an art and skill knowing when to stop, as in designing the piece in the first place!

  22. North Design has a beautiful website. It’s nice and simple which I find to be very appealing and straight to the point. A unique way of showing off their work, in this case, their logos.

  23. Like Daus stated, nothing but the power of simplicity!

  24. It’s effective, not overly original though. This came to mind when I saw it:
    http://www.7chambers.com/our-work/why-work-with-us
    Only this is more current and carries some movement in it. I believe colour would enhance the Mill logo quite a bit.

    Nice post David

  25. Hi David,
    I agree with the thoughts with which you displayed this Logo here. Its simple and powerful with a hidden message. I can’t distinguish between ‘m’ and ‘w’. If the second block was chopped from bottom to show a gate in Mill, it might have clearly looked like an M. No offense here :) I really loved this out-of-the-box thinking from the creator of this Logo.
    And keep the good work up, your site is the one that I check daily. All my wishes with you.

  26. Richard,

    I’d also like to see a little more emphasis given to the logo on the website.

    Gareth,

    Yep, I believe it was designed back in ’99, and can see it lasting a lot longer.

    Amanda,

    Always happy to receive difference of opinion. You make a good point about the logo not appearing alongside the company name. Legibility is poor, I agree, which goes back to Alex’s point about application. The symbol isn’t about legibility, but shape and form. I’d like to see how the company markets itself, and if the name is actually ‘attached’ to the symbol. For those first time viewers, I do agree it’d make sense.

    Doug,

    Sadly I can’t take credit for this one. North Design takes my applause.

    Lauren,

    The MIT Press is a good example of showing the symbol alongside the company name, helping aid company association. With that in mind, we see just the ‘Shell’ symbol on its own, like ‘Nike’ and ‘McDonalds’, but very few organisations can afford their marketing spread.

    Steve O,

    I doubt you’re the only one who likes The Mill website, but I’m not with you on that one (well, I like the layout of the loading page). Actually, viince appreciates the site too.

    Adam,

    …it is as much of an art and skill knowing when to stop.

    Nice addition.

    Thanks very much for everyone’s comments, which I enjoyed reading, and great to have a discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of logos. Bye for now.

  27. Hi David, Made Thought is the design agency who created The Mill logo and their site shows some examples of how they applied the logo and its context: http://www.madethought.com/
    its a flash site so no direct link but if you go into the menu at the bottom > archive > the mill you can see 3 images of some promotional material.

    Its worth looking at Made Thoughts work for any who haven’t because (I think) its outstanding.

  28. Gareth,

    Great to see the logo in context, thanks very much. I’m glad to see the logo shown alongside text for ‘The Mill’ on their promotional DVD.

    Are you sure Made Thought created the logo, and not just the promotional items? North Design show the logo on their website. Maybe the two companies are related.

  29. Sorry David, its been along week! I don’t know why I wrote that!
    Yes North Design designed the Mill logo, like you said, Apologises.
    Glad its friday tomorrow :-)

  30. Thanks for that link, those are really interesting to see.

    Very nicely designed and note the large use of the word ‘Mill’ in a readable format on most items! :)

    I always think it’s a bit strange when one firm designs the logo but then another the promotional material… do we think this means they were dissatisfied with the customer service from the first firm? Or maybe the first firm handle brand identity only, which I think is unlikely.

    Or maybe they didn’t think the first firm’s abilities in marketing literature were as strong as another they had found.

  31. No worries at all, Gareth.

    Amanda,

    Very nicely designed collateral, absolutely. It’d be great to know the scoop behind The Mill’s joint agency decision, as I was wondering the same thing.

  32. agreed – simple and less is more.. nice one, yet yes even too simple :)

  33. I am not 100% sure about this logo, I agree with you regarding its strength, I also like the way it has been adapted for the podcast icon on the site, I like it, but there is something about it that bothers me, it could be the fact I did not spot the word MILL for quite some time even though I knew this was who the design was for! So maybe it is because this design highlights the fact I am slow to catch on, that I have reservations about it.

  34. David, this is totally freaky! The second image that you’ve got there, the Parsons paper mill… Right this moment, I’m sitting literally across the canal (which used to be used by the many paper-producing factories in this town) from where it used to be. It actually burned to the ground a few months ago. But, what a small world :) Wow…

  35. Hmm… I agree with your thoughts on simplicity and how it captures the business, but I’m not sure it’s a great design. I actually thought it was a spin on the logos of some cell company – signal strength bars! I can’t say I actually like this logo.

  36. Lovely. Its woks really well as an identity. Memorable, simple and easy to reproduce in any format.

  37. I love the simplicity of this logo, I wouldn’t be surprised if this makes the company more distinguishable in its field.

  38. I still think, since it’s a mill and the logo represents the mill building, that it would have been even better if they’d incorporated a lone “square” right above the third stack.

  39. I hope I’ll be allowed to join here. I am not a logo designer but I sometimes look for help of designers for my websites. If I may say so, the first time I saw the logo, it really looked like a bar graph. Say, 4 months has the same output or input and 2 last months had increased. Sorry, my ignorant eyes got the wrong interpretation. But when I read the blog and all the other comments, I rather agree with the designer. It is a strong logo, very simple but needing a bit of interpretation. Standing alone, it seems baffling. But I’m sure it’ll be effective once it’s seen stamped or printed on the mill products. :)

  40. Ok, this might be a bit of a stretch of justification but the way I think the brain works to see it (once knowing that the name is the ‘mill’ is the same way code-breakers start solving a code. This is done by finding two symbols that are the same and side by side. Once we see the two lines at the end side by side, standing tall like L’s, then we recognise them actual as L’s and our brain instantly makes the association with the word.

    *shrugs* I probably shouldnt be writing posts after a few beers!

  41. Steve,

    I like your reasoning for not being 100%. I, too, am slow to catch on sometimes.

    RaShell,

    That is a coincidence! I wonder what caused the fire.

    Doug,

    I’m curious to see how that lone square would change the design. Nice input my friend.

    Ryan, Roselyn, Melody, Mark, Shailesh and Dainis,

    Thanks a lot for reading, and commenting too. Happy Monday one and all.

  42. Actual cause of the fire was a bored teenager, I’m afraid. But the mill has been out of business and building abandoned for quite a while :(

  43. That’s a shame about the arson. Thanks for letting me know, RaShell.

  44. Great logo!

    Simple, memorable, easy to use through all apps!

    Mike

  45. There are a lot of similar logos, here is another one:
    http://www.glocke.de
    It is (at least) inspired by its building
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e4/DieGlocke-01.jpg
    (its big, sorry)
    Its not a mill but a concert-hall, in the town where I used to live.

    I like your website, i try to understand everything (i’m german).
    Keep your interesting work going!

    Viele Grüße
    Manuel

  46. I think it is a pretty cool logo. Did anyone say it reminds you of AT&T raising the bars though?

  47. Thanks very much for those links, Manuel. Nice logo inspiration.

    Ed,

    You’re the first. I tried a quick web search, but couldn’t find something similar.

  48. Hi, although logo is good , but im afraid the readability factor still remains. I personally think a lil bit of space on either sides of ” i ” would do the trick.

    but good job on design front. :)

  49. Come on. It’s far too close to the MIT Press colophon. So much so, that you can’t really claim “value added.” To present this as original work is just not really respectful to Muriel Cooper, the designer who created the canonized MIT Press original.

  50. Just a heads up as the designer of the mill web site – the intent was for the emphasis was on the work and not the logo.

  51. Thanks for dropping by, James.

    I think the spacing you give around your own logo (on the mimeartist.com site) is great. If a similar amount of space was added around The Mill logo, I think it’d add more balance.

    That said, I’m no web designer / developer, so by all means take my thoughts with a pinch of salt.

  52. Not a problem… the whole site is actually based on the logo, i.e 6 columns of varying height… so the idea was that the whole site is the logo in effect…

    might add that the site is 5 years old now… and holding up well… but you never know they might redesign in the future.

  53. Ooh, nice explanation around the six columns, and given that the site is five years old, I think it’s doing a great job.

    I hope business is going well for you, James.

  54. The logo might not say a lot alone, but once tied to the company name or product, it will always and forever be associated with it. Maybe it’s not completely memorable, but It’s looks nice, it’s clean and yes scalable, could change with color schemes. It’s incredibly flexible. Also, it couldn’t offend any culture.

    If I ever have my logo redesigned I’ll be looking for some of these features. My logo has similar properties, but it’s tied to the company name. I was never keen on that. I’m happy I stumbled across this.

  55. Clean, scalable, flexible, non-offensive — all good attributes, Mark. I agree. I’m guessing you’re more keen on a logotype, rather than a separate symbol for CCS?

  56. I hesitate to answer, because of the time I spent getting my logo done. I accepted the logo after going through 2 companies. Seemed like a lot for something so straight forward. In the end the I decided the logo doesn’t have to WOW someone, I went for something easy to remember, by anyone anywhere. But when I come across a logo so simple as this one, that does have WOW factor, I’m jealous. Maybe I’ll make it a requirement next time.

    Plus I’ll be adding some sub divisions of the product, and I was thinking of marking those with their own icon’s or “logos”. So I’ll have to pop back in here occasionally.

  57. I’m not sure if you’ve seen my other blog, Mark, but you might find more logo design inspiration there, rather than here: Logo Design Love. I’d not rule out the idea of a subtle change to your logo for any sub divisions, rather than showing entirely new designs.

  58. I love the idea & the concept behind it…
    simple n creative (Y)
    :)

  59. I love The Mill logo and I’m not saying it was ripped off, but the exact same aesthetics were used by a now-defunct Canadian architect firm called Mathers & Haldenby.

    Check it out from a book of 1970’s logotypes here

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_carl/2342037163/sizes/l/in/set-72157604144345854/

  60. Simple and effective – that’s powerful branding right there!

Anything to add?

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