Observations: Logos that don't win any votes

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The government has taken to using graphics in a big way. Logo design developed out of Modernist art and is difficult to perfect. To succeed it must be visually simple, conceptually clear and inspire us to identify with it. So how have the politicians fared in their attempts to get a message to us?

In the corner of the website for identity cards, there is a little friendly logo person. It is a thumbprint creature, with stick legs and arms, a big smile, and large friendly eyes. Ah. How sweet. One for the kiddies, perhaps? But no, one has to be over 16 to apply for an identity card. How embarrassing. Surely we grown ups can make up our minds without a thumbprint cutie grinning at us, moronically reassuring us that all is well?

The Department of Children, Schools and Families has a rainbow for its logo. Who could have come up with such an original idea? Anyone looking for a job, meanwhile, will be enticed by a line of cartoonish yellow footprints, showing them the way on the Back to Work website. The intent of such childish imagery might be to reassure a jobseeker but is it reminiscent of primary school and patronising to the unemployed, at a moment when one most needs to be treated as an adult.

Child maintenance, on the other hand, is jazzed up with a simplified psychedelic symbol, like the cover of a late New Order album sleeve, which is perhaps an attempt to appeal to the subconscious of an errant dad and put him at his ease. Meanwhile, the logo for the Potato Council is banal – a graphic of a field – but in this case perhaps the logo does fit.

A striking logo becomes inseparable from its product. It might be Coca-Cola or McDonald's or the hammer and sickle. These are logos that are recognisable and impossible to separate from what they represent. But these are logos at their best, unlike the government's rather lame efforts.