Wednesday, March 09, 2005


OK, so here's what happened: the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) merged with the College of Science and Mathematics (COSM) to form the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). Naturally, all the web pages for both colleges had to be updated to reflect the merger. Guidelines were handed out from the web authorities, and a meeting was called for each department to help bring them and their technology into the fold.

At the meeting with the physics department, their webmaster went over the new guidelines with the CAS representative (someone from the old CLA). The CAS rep told them they needed to update any references on their site to COSM, including logos and wordmarks. "Wordmarks? What are those?" asked the webmaster. The way it was told to me, the CAS rep explained that they were images containing words that linked to something. Well, why not just call them "images" or "graphics", I wondered. Why invent a special word for linked images just to complicate things? I mentioned that I had been building web sites professionally since 1998 and had never heard a linked image referred to as a "wordmark."

A couple weeks later, the word came down from on high that all departments had to include the new CAS wordmark on their sites. The wordmark could not be squished down tiny, but had to be within a certain size, and placed in an approved place on the page. When I heard about this, I went to the physics site to see what an actual wordmark looked like. I saw that it was a graphic, a logo-looking thing containing only type. The Powers that Be were certainly treating it like a logo, why not just call it a logo?

I am not a formally-educated graphic designer. I am a poser with an AA in Multimedia and a BA in Religion who hung out with a lot of actual graphic designers while I attended the Art Institute of Atlanta. As a result, I do not always know the correct graphic designer terminology for everything, especially anything that has to do with print work. So I asked the smart folks at Hiveminds if they'd ever heard of a wordmark. Here's that conversation. I decided that it was an academic affectation I didn't need to bother with.

But then, just the other day, Jon at Veer used "wordmark" in context in this blog post about a sign mishap. The people at Veer are actual, professional graphic designers, totally immersed in the designer culture. I guess if they believe that "wordmark" is a valid word, then I have to concede that it is, at least within the context of discussing design.

However, I still maintain that it's not in the dictionary and should therefore not be used in conversations with laypeople.


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