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Corporate image design is a form of visual communication, perhaps the oldest way of transmitting messages from one person to the other. The practice goes back in time way before there was any knowledge of a written language. Remember the Egyptian hieroglyphs? They date back from 3100 BC., and were a writing system based on logograms (signs that write out morphemes) and phonograms (signs that represent one or more sounds). In a similar way, in North America's Native Indian culture, we find petroglyphs from centuries before the European immigrants arrived.

Although the written languages have rapidly developed, the logo language has maintained its uniqueness through history. The Copts developed the Coptic language, the Greek the Greek alphabet, the Romans the Roman alphabet, not to mention the Chinese, the Japanese, the Russians, etc.... But in all these different cultures and regions, there always remained the need for visual communication. In the Roman army, ranks and legions were indicated by visual symbols, a tradition that still exists in modern day armed forces.

In the 1600s in Paris, the homeless people or "clochards" had developed a secret visual language to mark ways for survival. The symbols were painted and/or scratched on walls, doors and sidewalks to leave a message such as 'potable water,' 'free food,' 'gentleman lives here,' and 'safe place to sleep,' to mention only a few.

While the written languages further diversified, logograms experienced a similar development. With the growth of the automobile industry and the network of roads, there emerged a need for universal road signs, particularly in Europe where there are too many different written languages in a relatively compact continent. Road logograms are designed to be easily read, both from a distance and while moving. In this regard, I find that the road signs in North America are too often indicated as white boards with a written message on it, instead of a universally understandable symbol. In a culturally diversified country such as the USA, you cannot expect all road-users to understand English.

The advertising industry has long recognized the power of graphics. As corporate image development has become an integral part of today's marketing, the ancient way of visual communication becomes of present interest again. The graphic industry, however, has now gone a step further. Due to the increasing demand on graphics - logos need to be recognized in a flash on TV or on the road - graphic designers have developed 'integrative logos,' a highly sophisticated and effective technique of communication. Written words and/or names amalgamate their typefaces with the shape of the product or service itself. This way, you can see what you read at the same time.

In the 1970s, Wilfried Haest designed a logo for Ghent Grain Terminal, a Belgian grain elevator. He merged the initials GGT with the shape of an ear of grain. In this way, the logo says GGT but it shows at the same time that it has to do with grain (and not airlines, beer or any other product). Following the same reasoning, Haest designed a logo for COSFUR Shipping and Agency, a joint venture between China Ocean Shipping Company and the Dutch Furness Shipping. The letters of 'COSFUR' appear in the shape of a vessel with a bow, a Plimsoll mark, a bridge and a rudder. In 2014, it was GALLERY 901, a new art gallery on Canyon Road, Santa Fe, NM, that needed a new logo. Haest replaced the '0' of 901 with a painters' pallet. Doing so, he made sure the logo represented an 'art' gallery and not any other kind of gallery.

Integrative logos combine the best of both worlds: the written language and visual communication at the same time.