birth of a logo

by Thomas Widdershoven

We got to know Ms. Kato, Mr. Kobayashi and Mr. Okada when we visited Spiral in january 2009. Dur­ing the meeting we not only discussed an exhibition of thonik in Spiral, but also an assignment. In 2010 Spiral would celebrate its 25th Anniversary and they wanted a logo for that. Or maybe they wanted a new logo all together, ready for the next 25 years. A logo that would express Spiral’s new energy and expansion: more and more activities outside of the building.

The Spiral logo was designed by Masayoshi Nakajo (pict 1). It is a typical eighties design in an international style, so it was not hard for us to relate to it. We looked at the many uses of the logo in the building, but were most intrigued by the display on the façade. Here the square type was attached to the building by big round dots. Though it did not seem to contain much logic as to where the dots were placed (pict 2).

We assured our clients that whatever the result of our proposal, the image on the façade would stay the same. In April Ms. Kato, Mr. Kobayashi and Mr. Okada would come to Amsterdam to hear our proposal. To start on the project we meticulously copied the circles of the façade type into the logo design by Mr. Nakajo. We thought the circles re­flected the architecture of the Spiral Building: an angular building with a round heart where a spiral­ ling ramp leads from the rest to the second floor.

We found that the spacing in the old logo was a bit odd: between the ‘a’ and the ‘r’ there was more space than between the other letters. We solved this by making the upperpart of the ‘a’ a square shorter, so the ‘r’ t better. The ‘r’ thus ‘connects’, as it were, to the ‘a’. This is called a ligature in typography. From there we looked for the ideal way to incorpo­rate the circles in the logo. The simplest way proved to be the most effective: a circle fitting exactly in the square, and around that a white outline, which exactly circumvents the square (pict 3). This is the new logo, very 2010: happy, open, energetic and self­-conscious (pict 4). When we proposed this new design in april, it was welcomed by the Spiral staff.


For us it is always important how a logo interacts with its context. A logo connects to a building, it connects to photos or texts on a leaflet or poster. This is why we were immediately inspired by the unexpected way the old logo was attached to the façade. The new logo can expand in a context in two distinctive ways. On the one hand we added a ‘spray’ of dots that break free of the rigidity of the logo­grid (pict 5 and 6). The dots disperse freely over the medium. This works very well with media like a banner or a letterhead. On the other hand, we developed a ‘cloud’ around the logo, formed by a dispersion of the circles in the logo (pict 7). This cloud works very well on images. But we also used the abstract cloud with dots as the basis for the design of tables, a crockery set, and an illustration: an ‘en’ monkey for Spiral ‘en’ (pict 8, 9, 10).


‘En’ was the theme we introduced for the commu­nication of Spiral’s 25th Anniversary program. ‘En’ means ‘connection’, ‘charm’, ‘performance’, ‘celebration’ but also it can mean ‘monkey’. Ms. Kato, Mr. Kobayashi and Mr. Okada at first thought it was strange to link Spiral to a monkey. But as the year progressed so did their liking of the ‘en’­ monkey. Especially since the Dutch minister of foreign affairs, Frans Timmermans, joked that he was slightly offended when it was pointed out to him that he had opened the thonik exhibition in December 2009 standing under the ‘monkey’ drawing. So the monkey­motive grew in importance and really became the mascot for this festive year. We saw him on the fingernails of girls, hanging from cell phones, on handkerchiefs, T-shirts and trays. He even became a movie star.