How a single letter can make for a striking, timeless logo design

Letters as Symbols book spread

It’s been said time and time again, that sometimes the most simple solutions are the most powerful. This is beautifully laid out in the book Letters of Symbols, a collection of, well, letters as logo designs; which has something of an interesting back story.

The idea for the book, which was finally published by Stockmans Art Books this year, first came about in 1991 thanks to Belgian designer Paul Ibou, a bit of a design legend of his time – yet one who’s perhaps not been given the recognition he deserves – whose work can be found in numerous design books and magazines including 1977’s Trademarks & Symbols of the World by Yasaburo Kuwayama and Yusaku Kamekura, Logo Modernism by Jens Muller and R. Roger Remington, published in 2015, and many editions of Idea magazine.

Back in ’91, Ibou had already created the concept, cover and layout for the book; which draws together numerous logos from various submissions by the leading brand and identity designers of the time. However, the book was never released until now, since a collaboration between Ibou and fellow Belgian designer (though of a rather younger generation) Christophe De Pelsemaker was established in 2017.

Letters as Symbols cover

Letters as Symbols cover

Letters as Symbols book spread

Letters as Symbols book spread

Letters as Symbols book spread

Letters as Symbols book spread

Letters As Symbols takes a simple premise, showing logos each based on a single letter of the alphabet from A to Z.— 306 trademarks, logos and symbols, each of which is "a celebration of breaking and pushing the boundaries of typography," according to De Pelsemaker.

He adds: "Looking purely at the aesthetics of the featured logos, they are all equal and have the qualities a good logo must have... With Letters As Symbols, we did not want to make a distinction between famous and non-famous designers.

"For that reason, the decision was made to arrange the logos in a non-specific way. The only order that is used is the alphabetical order per letter. The non-specific arrangement gives the viewer the possibility of being surprised when seeing the same level of quality between some of the most respected leaders and the less known designers."

Letters as Symbols book spread

Letters as Symbols book spread

Letters as Symbols book spread

Letters as Symbols book spread

In its new format, the book gathers Ibou’s original archive materials with more contemporary work; offering a broad selection of beautiful logo design and lettering that’s likely to prove an inspiration for designers, artists, agencies, teachers, typographers, students, and pretty much anyone interested in logo design, typography and letterforms.

Among the designers whose work features in the book are Saul Bass, Alan Fletcher, Burton Kramer, Yasaburo Kuwayama, Ivan Chermayeff, Tom Geismar, Wim Crouwel, Adrian Frutiger, Stuart Ash, Hermann Zapf and many more, as well as pieces by Ibou himself.

Letters as Symbols book spread

Letters as Symbols book spread

Letters as Symbols book spread

Letters as Symbols book spread

It must feel like something of a milestone for Ibou to finally release his project. "Throughout his long career, Paul Ibou has been a very active man in his field and at the age of 79, he still shows an admirable fire and passion for his profession," says De Pelsemaker.

He adds that Ibou is the kind of designer who has "a natural predisposition to keep creating. The many ideas and projects that Ibou had led to various book projects of which he had already laid the foundations, but never executed them."

He adds: "Like all other books Paul Ibou has published, Letters As Symbols is the result of years of dedication towards the corporate identity design industry and a close relationship with leading designers of his era."