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What’s in a Logo?

Nov 7, 2011

Branding is an important aspect of promoting a business and central to that is developing an identifiable logo. I like logos, (and sometimes wish I could be a graphic designer). The best logos, besides looking great, have a deep connection to the thing they represent. Coming up with a good one is quite an exercise.

When Eigenvector was working on a new website design in ~1998 we hired Chris Raines of Sun Graphic and now Cevado. Chris thought that we should first design a new logo and started by asking questions about what we do and how we got the name Eigenvector. I explained that we basically analyzed large tables of data, i.e. big matrices, and that Eigenvectors were central to the types of analysis we do. Besides, I’d always liked the idea that an eigenvector was a “proper” direction in a data analysis problem, and I like to think that we are moving our clients in the “proper” direction. I then wrote down the equation Ax = λx. Pointing to the Greek letter lambda, Chris asked, “What’s the swoopy thing?” I replied, “Generally, people use lambda to represent the eigenvalue in the eigenvector equation.” Chris said, “We have to use the swoopy thing!”

From that, Chris produced the logo that we use today, shown above. The four by four set of boxes represent a matrix, and the “swoopy thing” the matrix eigenvalue(s). Eigenvalues, more than any other parameters, describe the structure of matrices, and are important in our work. When we need a roughly square logo, we put “Eigenvector” on the bottom and “Research” up the side, like a matrix outer product. We use outer products all the time to analyze and approximate matrices as in Principal Components Analysis (PCA).

So what’s in a logo? If it’s a good one, quite a lot!