Journey to the Center of Film Production Logos: Exploring Common Traits

Remember watching Wizard of Oz after hearing the amplified sound of MGM’s Leo the lion’s roar? It surely gave me goosebumps as a kid! At the time, I didn’t understand the purpose of this dramatic opening. In fact, I didn’t even know what this unusual imagery meant.

After years of watching a boy sitting on the moon and a castle being illuminated by a light I finally got it!

The lion, moon, and castle were part of logos of the production houses, which finance and manage films. What an enlightenment.

These animated logos still delight us at the front of all movies – one’s that we love or hate, find interesting or gruesome, and funny or scary. So what is it that makes these images, symbols or words powerful enough to be remembered for decades?

These logos are a blockbuster! In the sense that they each have a fanfare. If you’re a film production startup, I’m sure you want your corporate logo to shine among the stars of this industry – make it a box office hit. Right?

Before we dig into the psychology of film production logos, remember these words.

“There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.” – Frank Capra

Same goes for “logo-making”. There are no rules, only sins. Whether you are an entrepreneur creating a DIY logo for your company or a graphic designer with a project at hand – don’t make a logo for a production house that is:

  • Derivative, as in a replica of someone else’s work
  • Uninteresting with absolutely no element of attraction
  • Meaningless – one that’s unprovocative or too simple

Also Explore: How Not Copy Designs and Protect Your Work

Common Traits In Film Production Logos

Production house logos are catchy not only because they’re attractive, memorable and repeatedly marketed. But they use symbols and design styles that are commonly understood and recognized. Nevertheless, each logo design looks unique.

Design Style

Prior to the invention and usage of television, production logos (in the cinema or theaters) were as simple as their print counterparts. But with the advancement in design and technology, large production houses adopted cel animation technique where every different frame is drawn by hand and repeated to create an illusion of movement.

By the late 1900s, production companies computerized their logo with 2D and 3D graphics. This was an eye-candy for the audience at the time. Production houses began investing in digital animation, and Walt Disney was the last to upgrade its on-screen logo in 2006.

Seven years into the millennium, production logos were geared with special effects.

The style of the logo design depends on the kind of brand image the company wants to portray. There are endless possibilities for graphic designers to experiment with when making logos. A production logo can be a wordmark, a combination mark or a lettermark.

Fly Films Logo
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Yash Raj Logo
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Working Title Logo
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Logo For A Film
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Color Palette

The color schemes of on-screen production house logos depend on the genre of movies it produces. For example, production companies that make thriller movies have “killer” shades rather than “soft and sweet” tints in their logos. The color palette is usually developed by combining tones such as emerald or neon green, jet black, smoky gray, electric blue, orange-yellow, grayed-white and bloody red.

Also Explore: Meaning and Uses of Colors in Logo Design

Ghost House Pictures Logo
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Dark Castle Entertainment Logo
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Benderspink Logo
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But this isn’t the only catalyst that determines the colors of a production house logo. For example, Universal Pictures has produced comedy, romantic and action films and their design is consistent throughout.

Still silver and golden are common because they give a sheen to the text and symbols in a logo design. A gradient or mesh helps the shapes to stand out as 3D or realistic objects – what designers also call skeuomorphic.

Typography Style

Other than color, typography has the ability to make a production company logo a socko (thumbs up) or a sucko (thumbs down). As a startup or small business, don’t jeopardize your image by selecting a typeface that is not unique, eye-catching or befitting.

Something like the usual Helvetica, the nerve-wrecking Comic Sans or the basic Arial will not be a good choice. However, companies like Strada Films, Marvel Studios, and Miramax Films have a simplistic typeface without a grunge or swirl. There are two reasons for this: a) they focus on color and symbols rather than text, and b) they make on-screen versions striking instead.

Even then, production companies don’t simply select a typeface from Microsoft Word for instance. If you want a typeface that’s identifiable then you must add some points of interest in it.

How?

Add shadow

Lucasfilm Ltd Logo
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Use shapes

Touchstone Pictures Logo
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  • Make it 3D
  • Use stark colors
  • Add texture

You should do what most film production houses do! Get a custom typeface design for your logo.

Customization is a common practice in the film industry. Every production house wants a unique selling point not only for their products (i.e. productions) but also for their brand’s logo. You should also convey your creative edge via your logo.

Symbols

Perhaps the most intriguing graphic element of production company logos are the symbols used in them. Kenneth Burke, a 20th century critic and theorist described a human being as “symbol-using, symbol making, and symbol misusing animal”.Thus we can conclude that we do not only make symbols but we have a habit of being around them. They’re closer to reality. For example, Columbia Pictures will not look as impactful without the statue of liberty as it does with it.

In Decoding Design: Understanding and Using Symbols in Visual Communication Maggie Macnab describes symbols as “visual metaphors” that contain expressions, meanings and at times illusions.

I’ve seen a ton of production house logos and found some common symbols. If you’re starting your company, you should include some or one of these symbols in your logo.

Film Strips/Reel

One of the most important aspects of a movie is a film strip, on which every frame is stored. In production logos, film strips instantly convey the message sans the slogan or if the name of the company doesn’t convey the brand story.

There are several ways to use a film strip or reel in a logo.

New Line Cinema Logo
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Film Industry Logo
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Film Company Logo
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Video Camera

Another essential element of a film is a video camera which production startups incorporate in their logos. Whenever I see this symbol, I think of “lights, camera, and action”. It captures moments and film makers also do the same thing. Then they present it to people. Makes sense.

If you want to use a camera in your logo, you can make it realistic or abstract.

Film Production Company Logo
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Film Production Company Logo
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Light

As you’ve seen above, light is used in on-screen versions of production logos and in many ways. You can add sparks, sparkles, glare, spot lights and glows for a cinematic look.

A logo maker will not give you the same lighting effects as a professional designer will by using design software such as Adobe After Effects, Adobe Photoshop, and plugins.

20th Century Fox Logo
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Mountain Peaks

Mountains are magnificent and that is the impression we get from corporate logos of Summit Entertainment, and Paramount. One is abstract (with a single continuous line) and the other is realistic or sketchy. Your logo is an essential part of your film. Would the Twilight Saga Series be the same without the Summit logo? I don’t think so.

Summit Entertainment Logo
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Paramount Logo
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Clouds

In Nubes Cum Figuris: The Interpretation of Clouds as a Modern Paradigm of Artistic Perception and Creation, Dario Gamboni shares that many would think that the “ambiguous contours of clouds make of them ‘weak forms’” but they’re more than that. They depict “constant motion and change”.

Famous logos of production houses use clouds, moon and the sky to signify a deeper meaning. Clouds appear soft and transparent yet in a bunch they’re powerful. They also suggest freedom and purity.

DreamWorks Animation SKG Logo
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Columbia Pictures Company Logo
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Depending on your production niche, you can manipulate the look of the clouds for your logo. You can make them puffy and cartoony or thin and scattered.

Animals

Each animal has its strengths and weaknesses and so does your company. Kaylie Moore of Berlin Startup Girl suggests to “choose an animal people can relate to” and one that embodies your company culture or products. Do you agree with her?

Another reason why production logos have animals is that they give a sense of movement and life. They create excitement as Anthony Goldschmidt wanted for the Tristar logo by showing a white horse with Pegasus’s wings, emerging from clouds and stark light.

Tristar Logo
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Red Raven Entertainment Logo
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Globe/Earth

Film production companies around the world use the imagery of a globe or earth to signify life and universality. If used with the correct special effects, it looks stunning and grandeur.

The moment I see a globe in a logo, words like ‘united’, ‘we’re all one’ and ‘home’ pop up. What do you think?

Eros Logo
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Universal Share
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As illuminated in an article, over the years, some production company logos have transformed or modernized. Despite the changes, we all love ‘em. So make sure you invest the most on the way your logo looks in a movie – because that’s the real deal.

So what common trait do you want in your logo?

A visual design blogger passionate about interactive, experiential and captivating techniques designers, marketers and brands use to accentuate messages, tell stories, and spread awareness. I’m a visual addict like Alice, who finds books (or anything) without pictures boring! My writings focus on graphic and web design, branding, and visual marketing. My hobbies are to write poems, draw zentangles, read, and watch YouTube videos.

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