By on February 25, 2009

Due to overwhelming (negative) reaction to the choices we made for Monday’s logo poll, we are starting from scratch but this time with professional graphics designers. Several have expressed a desire to offer their services, gratis, for which we are eternally grateful and we hope to provide the winner with something. I’m thinking a permanent, prominent link on TTAC to their portfolio or business site and the glory and recognition that goes with being “Designer to TheTruthAboutCars” or somesuch. I digress.

Some of the more considerate commenters on that original post mentioned that we need to explain what we’re looking for. Well, if it were that easy . . .  we’re not designers. (You’re shocked, right?) We’re writers and researchers and snarks. Big difference. But, after some research, I’ve come up with some guidelines and desires for the new logo:

1.  We prefer a vector or, at the very least, high-resolution. We’re going to be shrinking the logo for business cards and stretching it for t-shirts and beach towels and the last thing we need is pixelation.

2.  Maximum of three colors (we can’t afford more). They don’t need to be the exact colors used now on the site but please keep it simple yet manly.

3.  That said, the logo should work well in black and white, too.

4.  We’d like it to somehow convey/emphasize “Truth” since that’s our mission.

5.  A favicon would be awesome, too, but isn’t necessary.

Jason Parry (JayParry) designed “Angled Grungy” (my name for it), the winner of Monday’s poll with nearly 23% of the vote. “Gavel” was a close second, losing by only 24 votes. There were a lot of commenters who said they didn’t like any of the choices, but they were in the minority as more than 850 people voted and “Angled Grungy” (our favorite) was consistently (all day) in first place. Jason’s logo automatically gets entered into the final round.

Here’s a taste of new submissions and old favorites. We’re accepting submissions until Sunday. Thanks again, artists!

I’m allowing comments but you must keep them civil and constructive. No “these are all s**t” (and the like) comments will be tolerated. It’s fine to not like something but at least be considerate of the people who contribute their time to this project. It ain’t isn’t easy and none of us are being paid for it.

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39 Comments on “Back to the Drawing Board (So to Speak)...”

  • avatar

    How about a GM logo with a Ghostbusters red-circle-with-a-slash over it.?

  • avatar

    I though a mix between the tire tread and teh Angled Grungy would have been cool, like the angled grungy was the tire tread. (I.e. car pases through the mud leaving just the gngled grungy. I like the Licene plate too, but just becasue it looks good.

  • avatar

    3 & 4 are good.

  • avatar

    Like I said earlier, I look forward to what’s new.

  • avatar

    I like the 5th one best of the 4. What is wrong with the current logo? I like it best. I haven’t seen the tire tread version….might be cool if it looked like a burn out…

  • avatar

    I voted for license plate because I thought it would look best in context. A logo has to be considered with respect to where it will be seen; on a masthead, a T-shirt, a business card. The license plate worked best, IMHO. I also noticed that the one I liked best when the initial submissions were presented was not on the list of finalists, so maybe I’m out to lunch.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    I liked the white-on-red license plate designs – this one or the angled one, as did many others.

    Perhaps a thin/narrow variant for our EU readers?

  • avatar

    I’ve been going through a similar process with TrueDelta, and it ain’t easy. About to have to find a new logo designer. If anyone with experience in the area wants to also give a new logo for TrueDelta a shot, please get in touch with me.

    I must have missed the memo on one thing: has RF decided to embrace “TTAC?” At one point he was committed to the full name. Or maybe that was his SEO folks?

  • avatar

    Will there be a poll again? If so, will it include these four plus all the new entries received?

  • avatar

    I think Sigsworth makes a really good point.

    I’ll take a massive license plate beach towel please!

  • avatar


    The top caption could use improvement but the graphic is very good.

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    We (I)’ll be posting the submissions as we get them, then a new poll next week.

  • avatar

    Some things to consider:

    Flat, solid color is ALWAYS better if you’re planning on having the logo screen printed (such as on t-shirts). Gradients are notoriously difficult to screen print well.

    For the sake of file storage, vector files are always better, as they can be scaled without quality loss, meaning you don’t need to keep various versions/sizes of the same logo for various applications. Two files, one for color, one for black and white.

    The setup of the final file in regards to color (whatever they happen to be) can vary quite a bit depending on the print application; spot color vs CMYK process, for example. This concept especially needs to be understood by the designer. Some printers will balk at your job if the files aren’t setup properly, and will charge you an arm and a leg and various other body parts to fix it (if they don’t turn it down outright).

    Also, alot of printshops prefer a PDF – based workflow. It would be helpful if the designer understood this as well.

    What I’m trying to say, as a graphic designer by trade (and my fellow designers will most likely agree) is that there are alot of things to consider besides “I have photoshop and know how to play with it”.

    Just my $0.02

    @Jeff (below)
    The trouble with using “whatever works best” is that each application can often have its own “best” or even required file setup. For a business card, many printers can digital press print them at full CMYK for little cost, four colors in that case are no biggie. Vinyl graphics will be much cheaper and easier to produce with simple shapes and colors, preferably spot color, though this can depend greatly on the print shop’s capabilities.

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    Thanks, elloh7, that’s very helpful. Regarding spot v CMYK, please use whatever works best for a graphic that will be printed on a variety of surfaces (e.g., vinyl, cotton, plastic). I defer to your expertise.

  • avatar

    #4 looks like a Franz Ferdinand album cover.

  • avatar

    You’re absolutely going the right direction by hiring a professional. As you said, you’re researchers and snarky writers, not designers.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the technical specifications – a good design firm or freelancer should take care of these things as part of their process. If you have to tell the designer that the logo needs to work in B&W, or what sort of colors they need to use for the printer, your designer isn’t any good, and you should hire a different firm. Seriously.

    What you do need to specify to the designer is what sort of feeling and tone you’re going after and what message you want to convey. This isn’t always the easiest thing to come up with, but a good designer/firm should have a process for dragging it out of you.

    As part of the rebrand, will you be redesigning the site as well?

  • avatar

    Josho is right. As the client, TTAC dosn’t need to concern itself overmuch with the technical aspects. The post I made above was intended for the readership firstly, to give an idea of the skills and knowledge needed for this sort of thing, and for the site admins secondly, to ensure they have an idea of what is entailed in such a project, to avoid ending up working with someone who is inexperienced in the field.

    Also, good point. Site redesign. The logo could be anything, but I feel it should stick to the red and gray color theme unless you’re planning on redesigning the site to fit the feel of the logo.

    I almost feel like the logo selection process should be more along the lines of an audition, in a way. If your submission wins the popular vote, you get to work “one-on-one” with RF and the guys to come up with the best possible solution, instead of popular vote-winning logo takes all. More like the readership voting on a designer than a design, so to speak.

  • avatar

    I’ve always thought that the license plate logo (the third one above) was fine. It matches the theme and color schemes of the site, includes both the name and URL of the site, instantly communicates the subject matter addressed by the site, and otherwise looks pretty good. I think that you can stop looking and make a decision right now.

    In my opinion, this is not an ideal use for polling, because you’ll never get a solid consensus as to which one is “best”. Either the logo will work in its real world application or it won’t. Obviously, those logos that people absolutely hate should be avoided, but otherwise, this is going to have to be a judgment call made by the TTAC powers that be, not the readership.

  • avatar

    josho: where does it say they’re hiring a professional? It’s still an open contest.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Avoid these logo design sins:

    Over-convolution: don’t attempt to do too much or try too hard to put in witty icons.

    Cliché-ism: and when it comes to icons, make sure they aren’t old (ahem) retreads on your theme…yes, yes, steering wheels, tires, shifters, license plates. Got it. Must be about cars, huh? Clever. Um. In a rehashed sorta way.

    Icons-as-letters: please don’t try to make symbols or icons “into” the logo letters or word itself – your logo is not a puzzle to be pondered, it is an immediate communication, a crystallization of your brand.

    Intricate type face: go to every Fortune 500 company’s website and what do you see? Bold, straightforward, clean, easily reproducible fonts, either custom or straight from the book. There is a reason for this.

    Over-reliance on a corporate mark: Quick, the mark for AT&T? The graphic, revolving globe. Nike? Easy, the swoosh. Sears? Ah, trick question. There isn’t one. My point; unless you create the perfect, simple, memorable visual corporate symbol, leave it off. It just adds visual noise and detracts from quick, concise communication.

    The swoosh: Nike did it. Now everyone does it. Everybody feels the need to put some sorta swoosh over their name. Under their name. Beside their name. Around their name. Everything has a swoosh, and the designer always justifies it: “The swoosh embodies an embracement of company and consumer, it pulls everything together, it symbolizes the unification of thought and….” Bullshit. The swoosh is the work of the unimaginative and desperate mind. Reject immediately.

    Just keep it clean. If anything else, keep it clean. Don’t try too hard. You’re on track with the emphasis on “truth.” There are a million sources, both in the MSM and on the ‘net, about cars. Most of the content is a regurgitation of corporate PR or payola-induced whitewashes. The differentiator for TTAC is Truth.

    And what is “truth?” It is simple, forthright, straightforward, unbending, unadorned.

    Just sayin’.

  • avatar

    Domestic Hearse! Somebody buy this man a beer!

  • avatar

    Ditto to Domestic Hearse!

    Most effective logos are simple shapes. McDonalds has an “M”, and didn’t try to shape it out of french fries. Nike has a swoosh that vaguely hints at speed and agility. They didn’t try to spell out the company name, or picture a whole shoe.

    Simplicity allows the logo to be used anywhere, in any medium. Combine it with fonts, colors etc as needed to keep things fresh.

    KISS, Robert, KISS…..

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    Damnit, Hearse, why didn’t you send this to me before I posted? :)

    The polls are to help us get a general consensus of what a plurality of the B&B like. The final product may not be exactly like the winner of the poll. Meaning, we’ll work with the winning artist to tweak/refine it.

    Finally, if we have to redesign the site around a really cool new logo, it may just be a matter of redoing the stylesheet. The little thumbs up/down icons and RSS icons would have to be redone and . . . that’s it. Or am I being naive?

  • avatar

    TTAC could also help the contestants, along with the Look/Feel, Tone/Messaging guidelines+info, still important that you articulate it despite contst assumptions, but also some Competitive Analysis.

    ie: What 3 (vaguely relevant) logos do you Love, Which 3 (vaguely relevant) logos do you hate? -Why?

    General Loves/Hates, like brushed metal or UFC typefaces, GM Blue, Cerberus Yellow, T-Mobile (patented) Magenta, etc. ?

    What images (if any) come to Your mind when you think about the USP of the site? -A flashlight? -A really sassy prostitute?, Chrome truck nuts?, etc.

  • avatar

    Jeff: at least you know what css is!

  • avatar

    I’m a big fan of 4. 5 Could be good with a different font and alignment

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Not to beat a dead horse, I offer up these dead publications (only because of their format and business plans, not cuz of their logos)…

    Motor Trend. Does the logo have a catchy dingbat/symbol to convey it’s about cars? Maybe we can form pistons out of the typeface? Bzzzt. Wrong answer. The first word in the name is “Motor.” The consumer/reader is not an idiot. He/she gets it.

    Car & Driver. I know, I know, we can make the “&” into a racing helmet! And arc a steering wheel over the top of the logo. Ach! The publication may be f**ked now, but at least they refrained from logo idiocy.

    Road and Track. Let’s make the type Helvetica extra bold condensed, then run yellow lines through “Road” and put an orange cone in “TrAck.” Look how easy it is to do with the “A” in the middle! Thank God they resisted that temptation to resort to amateur hour concepting.

    Now, pick up your pencils or fire up you macs and go forth and conquer. With taste, discipline, and restraint.

  • avatar

    I was considering doing a submittal but as more were posted, several were drop-dead professional of the type the designer shows to the client with “These are the four your twenty thousand dollars bought for you to choose from.”

    TTAC evened the playing field by tossing some of them out.

    A professional designer can certainly tweak the final choices but, as someone suggested, having input into selecting the Final Eight would be awesome.

  • avatar

    Hey, All!

    I am the designer of the red and white license plate logo seen above. I have been following these comments since the contest started with interest, and I am humbled and flattered by a lot of the positive feedback I have seen for my little design.

    My intention in the design was to create something simple, fun, and with subtle humor in the spirit of what I see here at TTAC… I’m glad that resonated. There are several other really good designs that I think solve the problem in different ways.

    Having said all of that, I entered this contest because I was inspired by something I thought would be a fun idea. If any of our other designers would like, I’m happy to send along the Illustrator docs and fonts I used to create mine to play with.

    This is about coming up with a great logo for a great site, after all.

    Let me know!

  • avatar


    When the contest first started, I wondered where you came up with the license plate typeface. A link to that resource would be useful for not only this project, but future projects as well.

  • avatar

    the license plate is still the best one out there

  • avatar

    My friend owns a sign/graphics business and his advice to anyone designing a logo is make sure it can be rendered with multiple media or processes- paint, silkscreen, ink, vinyl, ect.
    It’s very easy to pick out colors on a computer that are not off-the-shelf available in vinyl or paint. Custom colors will cost more. Brushed metal looks cool, but it can’t be done in vinyl or paint at a reasonable price.
    Custom typecases (incorrectly called ‘fonts’)and
    intricate layouts (like the tire tread) should be avoided as they are very labor-intensive in some media.
    Domsestic Hearse hit the nail on the head on everything else.

  • avatar

    Custom typefaces aren’t that big of a deal generally, as long as you flatten everything before output, i.e., convert to outlines, etc.

    Good points all around. If everybody follows the advice given by cnyguy, myself and several others here, all should go well.

  • avatar

    Guys – I dont think there is anything wrong with the current logo on the site, but as they said, they are looking to put the logo on various other promotional items to spread the word… and whether its shirts, bumper stickers, etc the current ‘logo’ would be quite boring… plus its unclear how to use it on different colors.

    That said, my problem with the TTAC plate (and the others that just say TTAC) is that it reduces the full name of the site to an unpronounceable acronym. Now this is a decision for the editors but do they want to be known as TTAC or the more obvious and explanatory full name?

    Its harder to create a simple, eye catching name that uses the proper name. Bat a full name logo can always be edited down while the TTAC treatments can never be expanded to include the proper name.

    But, again, thanks everybody who voted for mine! (angled grungy)

  • avatar

    Domestic Hearse,

    What about the arrow in the FedEx logo? It seems to break your rules about Cliché-ism and icons-as-letters. Okay, so it’s subtle, intentionally so, but it’s still graphically interesting.

    I’d hate to get to the point where everybody’s logo was just a word mark using a simple unornamented sans serif font.

    As an embroiderer my suggestion to logo designers is to avoid hairlines and very thin elements. Color fades are also a pain in the ass. Frankly I think that logo designers should check with screenprinters and embroiderers before they make a final presentation to customers. Some logos don’t print or embroider well.

  • avatar

    Intricate type face: go to every Fortune 500 company’s website and what do you see? Bold, straightforward, clean, easily reproducible fonts, either custom or straight from the book. There is a reason for this.

    TTAC is not a Fortune 500 website, nor does it aspire to be one. The more your company is worth, the more boring your logo can be because the recognition comes from the company’s achievements. Some of these high-priced logos are literally just italicized Arial. They succeed despite the logo, not because of it.

    If you have to tell the designer that the logo needs to work in B&W, or what sort of colors they need to use for the printer, your designer isn’t any good, and you should hire a different firm.

    This is nonsense. What TTAC should be looking for is a page header and a color scheme. Presuming Farago doesn’t want to rework the entire site, you’d be designing for specific pixel dimensions and a specific aspect ratio. This has nothing in common with a tattoo, and I don’t agree with this notion that a design intended to be two inches wide in faded black ink has to be the same one that’ll appear on a 24″ screen with a 1000:1 contrast ratio and a billion colors.

    Put another way, you pick your rendering intent. Yes, the logos should have common features and fonts, but there’s no way in hell they will (or should) look the same when there’s such a broad divergence of the contexts in which they’ll appear.

    I made the second version of the license plate that was in the lists of finalists. I knew from the outset it wouldn’t be appropriate for anything in particular because Farago hadn’t specified where it would be used. The key takeaway was the font choice and the layout, but somehow the vast legion of graphic artists that apparently populate this site could only see clear to make fun of the text tag, the extra chrome, or the license border.

    All of this stuff can appear or disappear in the time in takes to blink. They’re options. Seriously, people. All of these submissions are not even first drafts. All you’re picking is a theme. If you like the theme, Farago can have the artist elaborate on it, slim it down, tone it up, add or remove elements, the works. If you don’t like it, he can try some other theme. Sooner or later, he’ll end up with something great.

  • avatar


    The font is called License Plate, and it’s public domain/free with no restrctions on use. You can download it here:

    I found it while hunting on this site, which does provide an interesting history of the license plate and the use of typography in making them. A cool read for design geeks like myself:

    As far as the comments about fancy fonts: just convert them to vector line art in the final piece (in Illustrator you select the text, and convert to outlines), and you’re good to go. Then you don’t have to worry about translating fonts.

  • avatar


    Thanks for the resources. Designers and artists of all colors can always use more resources. :)

    I’ll check out the other link too, sounds interesting.

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    What Knight said. Spot on.

    I’m very pleased with the quality of the comments on this thread. I truly appreciate it and have learned quite a bit.

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