This week, we discussed logos and logo design. What makes a good logo? Does it need an image, or is typography enough? Do we need both?
As part of our homework, we were to pick a logo that we liked and talk about it. As my previous Harry Potter post may have indicated, I try and take every opportunity to insert some fantasy into my assignments. So this week, we explore the ultimate geekery: Dungeons & Dragons!
For the uninitiated, Dungeons & Dragons, or D&D, is a fantasy role-playing game. Players create fantasy or mythology-inspired characters, and go on adventurous romps, helped by a Dungeon Master, a kind of storyteller. Think World of Warcraft, but without the technology, and with limitless possibilities. And also that you actually talk to other humans (just saying…).
D&D products have gone through 4 major editions, each with a redesign (a fifth edition is currently being finalised). Here’s a look at the 4 versions of the logo:
So let’s take a look:
1) The first edition of D&D was released in the 70’s. I couldn’t find who the logo-designer was, but I imagine that not too much thought was put into the logo: the game was an amateur production and focussed mainly on content, not design.
It’s a simple design, just the name, set in fancy typography. I actually dislike this choice of font: it suggests Wild West Saloon, more than Medieval Fantasy.
2) The late 80’s saw the release of the second edition of the game. Again, it was hard to pin down the designer.
It does, however, look like more thought went into the logo design. The type was simplified to remove the cheesy cowboy look (though I’m still not a fan of the font choice), and the ampersand was stylized to personalise it a little more. Now the logo ITSELF was a dragon.
3) Edition 3 and 3.5 (more of a rules update to patch some glaring hole in plain old edition 3) came with a vastly different art style. Images took on a more realistic, gritty, feel as compared to the mythic look of the the 2nd edition. The rulebooks themselves (of which there were many), took on a unified aesthetic of ancient, jewelled, leather-bound volumes. The logo, consequently, become much more complex. Also, by this time, the brand had been acquired by Wizards of the Coast (who also make the widely-played card-game Magic: the Gathering), with an in-house art-team dedicated to fleshing out the look and feel of their imaginary worlds.
The logo’s not bad. The dragon ampersand was maintained but modified (into some weird, vaguely draconic gold thing, though), a much nicer font was chosen, and a “medieval-fantasy-ish” colour palette was implemented. However, it’s a bit TOO busy. You sort-of have to squint to see the dragon, and the sword is cool, but adds clutter.
4) Finally we have the current logo, which came with the fourth edition. The art style in this edition, while maintaining the realism of the third, ditched the dark, quality for more light and luminous colours. I think the idea was to present more “heroic-looking” art.
Out of the four logos, this is my favourite (though I prefer the art-style of edition 3.5). The writing is not obscured by any extraneous elements, the font is cool (notice the almost-sword points on the capital E and G) with nicely shaded colouring, and the ampersand is interestng (though it could be better. Check out this article about the design of the ampersand!). The underlining of the “Dungeons” is much better and cleaner than the clunky sword of the third edition. All-in-all, a great improvement.
And now that the fifth edition is on the horizon, we can look forward to another logo change!