self identity - critique


I have just finished uni and I'm in the process of creating an identity for self promotion purposes. I've come up with a name and an idea that I'm happy with based on my surname (Watt). I've discovered an amazing observation that a bit of a pun (using watt as the question 'what') and the connection to the unit of power can both be represented in one symbol because a question mark incredibly resembles the shape of a light bulb.

After some development, I've arrived at this solution but I'd love to see what some of you guys think. Does it work? Is it too cliched? How would you tackle it or improve the idea? Obviously all comments and opinions are valued and appreciated and will be considered.


Wattsisname identity

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23 May 2005 — 3:29pm
Logos / Corporate ID Design

Hi Ed,
I think its good start, at least as far as the colours are concerned (the blue from the Scottish flag?), but without reading what your initial concept was (playing on the word Watt=name/lightbulb=idea) I don't think I would've "got" the meaning from the question mark logo. For further exploration I would look at:
1. Your design style (ie, having an affinity toward Modern, Classical, post-Modern, etc) Its often helpful to get a second or third pair of eyes to look at one's work objectively. How could you represent that visually?
2. How you tackle a design problem, and maybe turn it into a metaphor.
3. If you really do wish to stick with the ? as the silhouette of a lightbulb, maybe make it more shadowy, or start with drawing the shadow of a real lightbulb so that it just happens to resemble a question mark.
Sometimes I've found it useful to do a whole lot of thumbnail sketches of ideas, and not get too hung up about the rendering. Sometimes that yields solutions I didn't think of before.
Hope that helps :)



cool concept - though I didn't read the question mark as a light bulb right away. What is going well for it is the design - it's clean and modern; however, the concept doesn't come through on first read, and I didn't read "what's his name" at first either (actually at first I read "what's in a name" for whatever reason) Though, after I 'got it' I found it clever.

Cheers Mr. Watt!

First of all thankyou - some great points and advice there! Especially interesting how you didn't see "what's his name" at first Chad. I don't mind if people don't get the idea straight away but i might delete the concept from my first post and see if people get the idea without the explanation.

David - great suggestions but I have been through the sketching stage and I've gone for a modernist style because I think it does reflect my work well. As for the lightbulb - I don't mind it not being too literal, and the question mark should definitely be 'seen' first, which is working at the moment. I will try and strengthen the light bulb link.

I am open to suggestions about changing the typography if it will improve the readability of 'what's his name'. Would lowercase work better? Different emphasis? Bolder forms?

Also does anyone have an opinion on using an icon at all? Maybe the 'watts'isname' is enough?


Just another thought - maybe you could play around with the Westinghouse logo. It's a 'W', was inspired by a light bulb - and most would recognize it as the great Paul Rand's work. If you modified it to fit within your logo, either with or without the image, I think it would show a knowledge/respect of the older design greats. But then again, others may see it as plagerism…

Hi, Ed --

I really like it. A copule comments:

1) is the appostrophe where you want it to be? I had to click back-and-forth a couple times to make sure your name wasn't "Watts".

b) I never saw the lightbulb, it never even entered my thought process about the logo until I read it in the post. I saw a question mark w/ an equal sign at the bottom. It's a really clever idea, but I fear you're trying to be too subtle, & it'd be a shame if people missed it.

Again, I really like it.


I like the mark...honestly, the second you said lightbuld I cringed, but I was surpised and relieved to see that you handled the image with such subtlety. I would not make the symbol any more obvious than it is...and from the rest of these posts i don't think that's a problem. I happened to see the lightbulb right off, but I guess I was looking for it.

I wonder, though the image looks great and you have a lot to work with visually, is this really what you want to say about yourself as a designer? The question mark/lightbulb pairing sort of makes me think, "where/what's the idea?" It makes you look like an unsure designer, like you don't quite know what the product of your design process will be.

I do like how you've played on the pronounciation of your rings and catches, but it also raises more questions. What's his name? And in that case, where is he? and what does he do (since it isn't apparent that you're a designer through the mark alone, it actually looks like a lightbulb brand)?

I don't mean to ramble. In sum I think visually its handled pretty sweetly, but conceptually I'm not sure it's the best idea to raise questions with your identity. The client probably wants to know you'll be answering the questions, not asking them.

Watts, did you look at putting a bit more space between the appostrophe and the I and S and the N. I think it might read quicker.

Thanks all again, it's great to get some more opinions and feedback. Interesting how some of you are reading my name as 'watts'. I suppose the grammatically correct way to deal with this is "watt's'isname" since there are two letters missing, the I and the H. I decided that two apostrophies was ugly and hindered the reading dramatically but perhaps I've dropped the wrong one.

I've tried your suggestion Dan, and a few variations on the apostrophe placement in the file attached.

Jay, It's a good point but I'm not too concerned about being subtle. The logo is something that will be seen over and over on any correspondence and so there's a lot of time for the idea to emerge. The FedEx Logo (famous 'subliminal arrow') is a good example of a subtle, almost hidden, extra and I quite like that idea.

Jtyler, this really is a good point - one which I've struggled with since I got this idea. In some ways, a question mark is positive because it represents the problem solving process . . . But it also represents a problem - which is negative. It certainly gives off a message of uncertainty. As an icon, however, it raises the question 'where's the idea' - a perfect representation of my work as a positive question . . . because most of my work is based on a central idea and not just aesthetic or style. It could be almost a motto, as what I do is search for the idea - the solution.

You raised the issue of what do I want to say... well I want to say 'I am a good designer', and in my opinion, good design is design with an idea at the centre. I want to communicate an ability to 'see' things differently, expressing clever visual thinking and a high quality of execution.

That's fine when it's explained though and you're right, what I should be saying is 'here are the ideas'or 'i have the ideas!'. Maybe I will drop the whole question mark icon - bulb thing and go with a logotype. The Watts'isname idea is quite strong on its own I suppose. Anybody got any thoughts?

The main target audience for this identity is slightly uncertain because I'm putting toghether self promotional materials to try and get a job rather than finding more clients. Ideally I need something that works for both. I've thought about this and decided that designers will be impressed by good, effective design so if I concentrate on the clients as the main audience, the identity should work for designers as well.

Anyway, I've linked to two files, one working on the mark:

Mark development

and this one for the logotype:

Logotype development

I like the "What's-his-name?" idea, but the punctuation seems way off. I think it should be Watt'shisname or watt's'isname, though the latter is a bit odd. Maybe dash it out: watt's-his-name

That would make the What is his name?/Watt is his name thing a bit clearer. summary, I'd loose the abbrevaited 'his' and just spell it out. People SAY 'is but need to read his.

I don't think you need the light bulb. Just keep it nice and simple with the question mark. The verbal pun is much more interesting than the lightbulb idea, so it just seems to distract.

I second aluminum's suggestions.

In your second link the version c is the one to look at maybe with the apostrophe in the light weight. But the lightbulb doesn't work for me, apart from production – which will be a nightmare unless you're printing large – the base of the bulb will fill in or if printing on white stock will not be noticeable, I feel it's mixing your metaphors too far, counting your chickens in one basket.

Hi, Ed --

I like the (b) solution to the quex/bulb icon, much better than the shade/light line directions I was thinking. The threads let you know that there's a little more going on, w/o shouting.

Re: FedEx -- the difference between FedEx and your mark is that FedEx is the message, and the arrow is the bonus. The reason most people don't see the arrrow is they get the "FedEx" message and then move on. In your case, people might see the question mark, decide that your message equals "huh?" and move on before they realize there is something more subtle going on. IOW, you don't want the obvious message to be a bad one. The improved threads at the bottom is a very nice pointer that there's more here that meets the eye.

(...oooh, wait, you could call yourself "EdEx" and have the arrow ... never mind.)

Again, I like it.


I have a question who is your target audience? If its an average client I doubt they will get it. It just doesn't read. Are you in the design business or the communications business? If its the design area, I guess it doesn't matter if it reads or not. If your in the communications business you have to make it read clearer.

I didn’t read the question mark as a light bulb right away.

i did. but i grew up in a town where the main employer was an electrical power plant, so my mind might be bent in that direction anyway. maybe that or the fact that i'm partial to puns. i like the questionmark/lightbulb. it'd be a shame to lose it.

Ok here's the latest developments

I've tried to deal with some of the issues you have all raised, specifically:

  1. The readability of 'what's his name'
    After many different configurations and positioning of the apostrophies and word spaces, i've decided that maybe it reads best without any at all? I think the emphasis of 'Watt' is enough to communicate that it is my name, and the rest makes sense as you read it (I think!). It also looks cleaner.

  2. The legibility of the pun in the mark.
    The mark has been developed from idea b with the 3 diagonal threads. Good point about the printing problems Tim, I've addressed this by making the mark quite large in scale and scrapping the version where the mark is the same size as the letters. I've also made the lines thicker and reversed them so that there are two clear yellow lines rather than 3 white ones.

Jay, I think you're right about the FedEx thing and there definitely is an issue about my mark being a question. There's something about it I like though too - a question mark seems to be quite powerful - it grabs attention and forces investigation. Imagine a box with a question mark on the outside, it kind of says 'look inside me', if you know what I mean? I've been thinking about it and there are other positive points too and something quite ironic and interesting about making a mark out of something that almost asks 'where's the logo?'. It's almost an 'insert your logo here' statement. Anyway, I'm giving it another go but I may decide to drop it in the end.

Dan, I'm in the design business.

Thanks for your comments Paul. I'm partial to puns too. I love 'smile in your mind' design but I've heard widely varying opinions from a few professionals while on placements and from tutors etc.

Here's a thought... how much does a pun improve a logo?

The type ought to read "WATT'SHISNAME" -- you're introducing more confusion into an already-difficult-to-decipher text setting by spelling it phonetically.

Have you considered stacking WATT'S and HISNAME on separate lines, or even putting each word on its own line?

I find the A series an improvement, especially in terms of production, however I think you need to do some more work on the bulb, I mean that it looks more question mark than bulb and you have to get to the point when a balance is achieved, maybe by applying more contour to the body. As a further point is the thread on the bulb going the right way, I only have bayonet style bulbs here so I can't check, it also looks a bit steep to me. I am not trying to say that it has to be wholly accurate more that if you give the viewer something recognisable the more people will get it.

I prefer no.C but with the s after watt's the same font as watt'. I think it's a very clever play of words and the lightbulb icon may be not be needed.

Like the logo.

Reading the comments I wonder if there's a slight difference how the text is read in different regions.

"Whatsisname" is a common idiom in the UK ... that's how i'd expect it to be spelled and punctuated. Maybe it isn't elsewhere?


Not sure if I'm too late to comment, since I only just swung in, but I've got some observations that i hope you can make use of. I really like the possibilities here.

1) I agree with everyone about the phrase. There are too many visual and verbal puns of equal importance that the viewer needs to untangle to 'get it'. Pick one and let the rest fall to the side or away completely. Personally, I'd make the sentence as easy as possible (removing the UKism) to read and focus on the 'watt as watts' & lightbulb elements. "Watt is his name" could work, because the question mark changes the meaning.

2) I actually think your first lightbulb icon was the strongest. The newer ones seem to drift from the solidity of the first. I'd scale it back to the original and make subtler adjustments: Angle the thread, but don't narrow or widen the size of the period; in the U.S., the bottom of the threaded part is actually more of a trapezoid when seen from the profile. If that's true in the UK, then ditch the semi-circle. Perhaps try a thin weight for the hook in the ? because it's meant to represent the silhouette of the edge, and a thinner weight will make the lightbulb more obvious.

I've created a quick digital sketch to give a clearer idea of what I'm saying. It emphasizes the lightbulb/wattage thing over the question mark/question thing and leaves the second layer as a reward for later examinations. (like the FedEx arrow) Here it is:

I just read your profile and realised you were writing from Scotland, so perhaps your logo should be tempered by where you would like to work and develop your logo from that standpoint, although many Britons will recognise a screw-in bulb, I suspect that more would recognise the bayonet style like this one.

Hello, well it's been a while since the last post, i'm busy preparing stuff for the D&AD new blood exhibition in London but I have to get this sorted for then so I'll post any developments.

Thanks a lot for all your comments.

Crugen, some great points there to take on board and the sketch is great. I think you're right about the lighter weight - I'll give that a go.

And very good point about the bayonet style bulb Tim I'm going to give that a go too and see if it makes the bulb more distinctive. I really don't want it to be too distinctive though because it is so cliched. This is why initially I wanted the question mark to be the first impession and the bulb idea to be the second layer 'reward'.

As far as the 'what is his name /wattsisname' problem goes I'm still working on it but
really interesting seeing it as 'watt is his name'.

Thanks again for your feedback, updates coming soon!

One little query . . . I've noticed that on other posts people seem to be able to
embed images in their post without linking. Does anyone know how this is done
it would be quite handy, Cheers.


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