Mark Leeson and the art of creativity

We have just received some fabulous news from one of our much admired clients, hairdressing supremo, Mark Leeson. Mark and his team have added another slew of awards to their already bulging trophy cabinet, being named again as “British Hairdresser of the Year” Mark has also been voted one of the UK’s 10 most inspirational hairdressers in the “Most Wanted Hair Icon” category of the British Hairdressing Awards 2015.

Mark Leeson Logo

When a company with so many outstanding creative accolades chose Alchemist to design their new logo it was high praise indeed. It made us exceptionally proud. Click here to see the many awards Mark and his team have won in the past few years; we know you will be as impressed as we are. So we are over the moon to congratulate Mark on his latest awards.

When we talk about “Creativity” everyone has a different idea of what that means.

Initially, most people probably think of artists, be they the grand masters of old like Picasso or Van Gogh, or modern day celebrity artists; Damien Hirst or Banksy for example. Some may think of theatrical artists or singers or dancers, others may take a somewhat negative view and consider the art of creative accounting.

Over recent decades the concept of creative form (be that product aesthetics or packaging) has escalated in importance in a very cluttered marketplace. Given time, our mind can open to more ideas about creativity. You only have to watch programmes like Master Chef, or the Great British Bake Off to appreciate the lengths to which creativity and the expectation of creative excellence has crept into our culture.

Albert Einstein was reputed to have said “Creativity is intelligence having fun” however, it is rather more than that. Consider the likes of James Dyson, who has taken a mundane, utilitarian product and turned it into an iconic status symbols. A perfect marriage of function and form. Dyson is so convinced of the power of creativity and design that he has started his own foundation.

There are many other examples of creative designers from Phillipe Starch and Terence Conran to Steve Jobs and Sergio Pininfarina of Ferrari fame.  In the world of fashion we have the well-known gurus of style like Coco Channel and Stella McCartney or photographers like Annie Lebovitz or Anthony Snowdon.

Which brings us neatly back to those whose creative talents are focused on our “crowning glory”. The coiffures who transform us with panache and polish and provide us with the looks which define our fashion sense; from urban chic to stylish sophistication.  Naturally I am referring to hairstylists.  As with all professions, there is a pecking order. Today we are delighted to see our client and friend Mark Leeson and his team being honoured at the cutting edge of this creative talent summit with his most recent award. So congratulations from our team at Alchemist to yours.

If you are would like to see the latest examples of the Alchemist Team’s creative talents in action, please click on our portfolio gallery, or call us today to discuss how we can take your brand to the next level, creatively.

A short history of the Logo

The concept of a logo is almost as old as time. Logos can trace their history back over several thousand years to the time of the Ancient Egyptians, who were known to mark their animals with hieroglyphs to prove ownership. The great faiths of the world have all adopted symbols for ease of recognition. A few thousand years later, the Ancient Greek rulers and their dynasties used cipher as a monogram in their coins.

In the UK, while farmers would mark their stock, they used colours agreed amongst themselves rather than a symbol and coins that only had the royal profile on them. Yet the Great Barons of our small island were very clear that they wanted their “brand” to be as well-known as the Ancient Greeks had. Their first iterations were the coats of armour to reflect which Great Baron you were fighting for. When people saw the Baron’s men ride into town, their livery and badge was instantly recognisable. It reflected the power, wealth and status of the man at the top. The same is true of the corporate logo.

Corporate logos, on the other hand, were more like trademarks. They date back to the early days of the 13th Century. Goldsmiths, masons, paper makers, and potters, were among the first trades to use marks-pressings into gold, etched or stamped symbols, watermarks on paper, and simple thumb-prints on pottery.

From the 1600’s onwards text advertisements began to appear in newspapers in the UK, however, it was not really until the start of the 20th century and the introduction of colour printing and the birth of the advertising industry, that logos really came into play. As the population already understood that religious and heraldic symbols stood for dignity, beliefs and status, it was not too much of a stretch to add these values to products.

Logos were still primarily text based, yet supported by images and outrageous claims. For example, the alcohol and tobacco industry used images and vocabulary which indicated a happy and healthy lifestyle.

Ironically, as our lives have sped up, the glorious heraldic based imagery and flowery fonts have been replaced by increasingly simple icons. The evolution of the British Rail throughout the 20th century clearly demonstrates this effect. In fact, the art of logo design illustrates the design concept “Less is More” better than any other graphic form. Research has shown that a known, icon based logo can be recalled after being shown for a thousandth of a second.

British Railways logo 2   British Railways logo 1   train station sign

Naturally, we would feel that your best option is to employ a logo specialist to produce the perfect logo for your company, as there are some wonderful examples of Logo Fails floating around on the internet (Click on to see what we mean).

So, in a nutshell, for a successful logo, you need a strong, clear visual identity, instantly recognisable and representing your company’s core values and product offering. Take a look at our logo portfolio to see some of the ones we have developed recently.

Influence, Fluke or Plagiarism?

Most people have a rough idea of what the Japanese flag looks like. For those who cannot readily bring it to mind, here it is.

Japanese flag

As with many countries, when Japan won the 2020 Olympic and Paralympics bid, the commercial bandwagon began to roll, along with the need for an official logo.

The event will be taking place in Tokyo, but when the chosen logo was unveiled late last month, not everyone was thrilled with the design.  Critics took to social media to express how, in their view, the emblem’s red dot and “T” was an effort by Tokyo to personalize the 2020 Olympics rather than celebrate the games as an international showcase. However, that was nothing when compared to what happened next.

The Japanese artist Kenjiro Sano who designed the logo has been accused of plagiarising the concept.  Belgian designer, Olivier Debie, came forward last week, threatening to take the International Olympic Committee to court over the 2020 logo looking too much like the emblem he had made for a theatre in the eastern Belgian city of Liege.

Take a look at the twitter feed clip that Debie has posted in support of his claim and see what you think. There are definite distinct similarities.

According to the Mirror, Debie reportedly sent a letter to both organizations urging them to stop using the Tokyo 2020 logo, to which the IOC declined to refrain usage. Debie is claiming the logo represents copyright infringement, but the IOC and Tokyo Games organisers have dismissed the claims, saying that the theatre’s emblem was not trademarked.

In another twist in the story, Sano actually recently admitted to plagiarizing another set of logos he was commissioned to create for Japanese beverage firm, Suntory. Of that particular situation, Sano said he “failed to properly supervise his staff and conceded that they had ‘copied’ the ideas of others in creating tote bags for Suntory’s non-alcoholic beer campaign.”  Of this separate ordeal, Sano said, “I feel very sorry for causing great trouble to the people concerned.”

Mark Twain famously said “There’s no such thing as an original idea. Every idea worth having has been had thousands of times already.” That’s as maybe, however there is such a thing as being the first to give a real commercial or physical form to an idea.

When you consider that 90% of the world outside Belgium has never heard of Liege, let alone its theatre, how likely is it that Sano had stumbled across this logo?  Did Sano fail to “properly supervise his staff” again, or is it just his misfortune that his logo has certain similarities with the Belgian one. Did his recent history put dollar signs in Debie’s eyes when he googled Sano making him think, and mine looks a bit like that?  Maybe Debie genuinely thinks that Sano did copy his idea.

Only Sano will know the truth about whether his logo design’s similarity was conceived by influence or plagiarism, or if it was just a creative fluke.

As professional logo designers, we are proud of our unique and innovative designs.

Made in Britain – Brilliant Branding

car endpiece

Did you realise that a “Made in Britain” icon on your product’s packaging potentially increases it’s perceived worth significantly?

Research conducted by Barclays Corporate Banking has revealed that a “Made in Britain” label on products adds so much perceived value that it easily justifies a premium price tag.  It also confirmed that if products were made or sourced in some other countries, the value proposition fell through the floor.

The survey looked at goods such as food & drink, fashion and automotive products as well as service sector products. It observed that the Made in Britain tag gave the products a perceived exclusivity and gravitas, making many of them far more prised and sought after on the international market.

The branding added a perception of build quality and product credibility while additionally, there was an underlying belief that the raw materials were of a better standard while the staff were treated fairly.

Terms like ‘assembled’, ‘prepared’ or ‘designed’ in Britain received a Marmite response.  Where food or fashion items are packaged or hand-finished in the UK, the British stamp does not hold as much weight. The perception could be that the genuine source country may produce the base or raw materials in factory conditions in which the population of the Western World would find abhorrent.

Some UK businesses have successfully made the “Made in Britain” label an instrument of exclusivity, gaining traction in new markets and helping to grow the company.  They feel that one of the many attractions that clients had to British design is the notion they are buying into a collective national standard of quality as well as the specific professional expertise.  At the hyper-luxury end of the market are companies like Rolls-Royce. They may actually be owned by BMW yet are perceived to be a very British company.

floral car interior

Photo: James Lipman /

Rolls-Royce owners appreciate that this globally respected automotive marque buys various elements of its components from overseas, however the car is still deemed to be British and therefore every element sourced is of impeccable quality.  To be fair, in the case of Rolls-Royce this is true. They famously scoured the globe to find the perfect silk and silk embroiders for the interior of their Rolls-Royce Serenity Phantom.

Using the positive prejudice associated with being British extends beyond manufacturing to many other areas.  Across Europe the majority of music on the radio is sung in English with many British music groups being exceptionally popular overseas. 4 out of 5 of the world’s biggest advertising and creative designers agencies started life in the UK, while the 2 biggest are still British owned. Our film industry has done extremely well using our quirkiness and understated humour, honourable values and history to promote its productions.

Although the term “British Values” mean many things to many people, especially in the UK itself, the concept is an extraordinarily powerful marketing tool in the service sector.  There is an almost global perception that there is an inherent sense of honesty and fair play associated with British firms. Many international companies look for contracts to be written under British law, for companies to be floated on the London Stock Market, and insurance underwritten at Lloyds of London.  While at the other end of the spectrum, British antique dealers and auction houses are world famous, global brands; famous for giving honest valuations and ensuring that all the products sold are the genuine article and that the seller has the right to do so.

Therefore, the next time you are considering upgrading your branding or packaging, consider if the value a “Made in Britain” mark could have on your company. Alchemist Logo Design look forward to discussing your branding requirements soon.

In the Blink of an Eye

Most people appreciate that the brain’s reaction to certain stimulus is incredibly fast, yet the fastest of all reactions is the brain’s image identification time. Once it was thought that the brain could recall and loosely describe an image after seeing it for just 100 milliseconds. Yet the world leading students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology  (MIT) have developed a faster display method and managed to prove that the brain can recall and begin to react after a mere 13 milliseconds. “The fact that you can do that at these high speeds indicates to us that what vision does is find concepts. That’s what the brain is doing all day long — trying to understand what we’re looking at,” says Mary Potter, an MIT professor of brain and cognitive sciences and senior author of the study.

It is almost impossible to appreciate just how fast 13 milliseconds is but to put it simply, when the candidates in the study were quizzed and asked to describe what they had seen, they could not even remember seeing anything, although they could tell the researcher what the image was. To them is was almost like an experiment in ESP (extra sensory perception) and to an extent they were right.

What is almost as interesting is the way people react. Describing the images afterwards many people were able to recall vast amounts of detail and associate an emotion to the pictures, be it fear, joy, fun, hunger, or any other of the human gambit of emotions.

However in real life, your eyes are bombarded with a massive variety of images, constantly. So it is almost unsurprising that people invest heavily in clean, crisp logos and identities, especially when they are used on moving media like cars or lorries.

The brain picks up these images and stores them in an emotion laden information bank. Therefore, when people see an image of the famous Golden Arches of McDonalds for example, they may suddenly feel hungry, even if they do not like McDonalds food specifically, the brain logs the image which the mind may not even recall having actually “seen” and associates it with food.

The brain is equally good at filling in blanks or decoding information from known image association, using facts or even emotions to “read” and make sense of what it has seen;

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You may find this article interesting:

However the cleaner, crisper and clearer a logo is, the easier and faster it is to recall.  Compare these two national flags. Which nation is represented by each?

St Andrews Scottish flag  Heraldic Lion Rampant flag

Actually it is a trick question because they are both Scottish Flags, one is the Heraldic Lion Rampant traditional, and the other is the St Andrews.  Yet unless you support Scottish Sports then it is less likely that you will instantly recall the more complex lion.

To see some of our crisp and dynamic designs, see our portfolio or call us for more information about designing your perfect logo.

Ride of the Lions


You still have time to sign up for the ‘Waterloo 200 ride’.

We are very proud to have designed both the ‘Ride of the Lions’ and the ‘Waterloo 200’ logo so please purchase a tub of Vaseline, get your cheeks on a saddle and remember the chafing is all for charity.


Colour Coded Corporate ID

coloured pencils

The idea that colour is linked to emotion is not new.  Artists and designers have long understood that colour can dramatically affect moods and emotions for a millennia.

Our reaction to certain colours is cultural; for example in the West, the colour white is associated with purity and peace (white weddings and doves) whereas in the East it is the colour of mourning. Some may argue that in the East, the belief in the afterlife and new beginnings associated with leaving this world and arriving to the next one as a born again soul are similar, however it is a bit of a stretch.

Our emotional reactions connected with certain colours are hard wired into our psyche. If we were to see a bright red bug, snake or frog in the wild, we would instinctively avoid it.   So colour is a powerful communication tool both in terms of nature and the modern world. We use colour all the time, subconsciously to indicate status, attitude and desire.

In terms of colour as a design tool it can be used to signal action, influence mood, and cause physiological reactions towards the message that the company is trying to portray.  We all have a favourite colour.  Yet what does a colour say about your brand?


Prestigious, expensive, elitist and serious.  Black is the colour of power, which is widely used in the world of high end designer goods – think of brands like Chanel, Prada, Dolce and Gabanna.  So when relative newcomer, Jo Malone came along with her expensive hand cream, which colour did she use for her logo – Black; clean, strong, simple and exclusive.


Yes, its nature’s colour for passion and danger, however did you know that it also stimulates feelings of hunger in carnivores and omnivores? Think about the big food manufacturers; McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Kellogg’s, Heinz and Coca-Cola; they didn’t choose red as their logo by chance.


Obviously, during an election year you cannot fail to notice the environmental message associated with this colour. It is a colour of nature and harmony. It is supposed to have a calming healthy feel too.  Which is why most animal or nature charities will migrate towards it; similarly it is why some petrochemical companies have chosen it too, for example BP – their aim being that they want to look “less bad” than their competitors in terms of planetary impact.


Yellow is a “marmite” colour.  Instinctively you think of a warm sunny day, however your subconsious has a different view, it means urgency. For those who have a product which they want to be considered as fast and dynamic, a bright yellow is often selected, think about Ferrari, Nikon, UPS or Yellow Pages.  If you think about Ikea does the idea of a leasurly stroll spring to mind? I doubt it.


If you want calming cheery sunshine, orange is the colour which your subconsious will link to. Its bold, sunny, optimistic and confident. Companies who wish to look warm, kind and friendly tend to choose this colour ( amazon’s smile or even Sainsbury’s) they want to feel like a “family” place with family values.


Why do most IT companies choose this colour?  Facebook, Dell, HP, IBM GE, LG even NASA have chosen blue.  It is all about trust. Blue creates a strong, reliable emotion, which is why men often choose blue clothes, suits or shirts as office wear – they want to look strong, trustworthy and dependable.  It is also worth noting that both of the world’s biggest car manufacturers have blue logos too – Ford and VW.


coloured blobs

However if you want diveristy then you need a rainbow.  Microsoft, Google, NBC and even ebay all use strong mixed colours. They are looking for reach and mass market appeal. There is nothing niche or exclusive about their offering, they want everyone, everywhere for everything.

So when you consider the elements within your corporate logo, consider what it says about you and the image you wish to protray. If you want to know more about how the colours in your logo effect consumer reatction talk to us here at Alchemist Logo Design.

Designers Need Sunglass and Hate Yellow!

There is an old adage which goes “never trust a thin chef!”  We believe there should be a new one to add into the mix; “never trust a designer who doesn’t wear sunglasses in winter!”

The reason why, I will get to in a minute, but it is all to do with colour vision – a topic which has suddenly come under the spot light as the result of social media war!

Not since the time of the presidential intern, Monika Lewinsky has a dress caused such a furore.    Was it white and gold or blue and black? Twitter et al, went crazy for days on end and neither side of the argument would budge. The reason for this is all down to how we see colour.

You may remember from your school days that the retina in your eye contains both “rods and cones”. Your 120m rods, detect differences in light and shade. Cones, of which you have only about 7m per eye determine colour. However, it is not that simple. We all have the same number of cones, but there are different types of cones and it is those which determine excellent colour vision or make a person colour deficient or colour blind.

Anyone who has had a reason to visit an optician will have been shown images circles of coloured dots containing ‘hidden’ letters or numbers to see if they are colour deficient. However, a new and more fun test has been developed by renowned author Professor in Neuromarketing from American; Diana Derval.

Her test is simple: take a look at this strip of colours and count how many you can see.

rainbow colours

According to Derval’s research, (which you can see in full by clicking on the rainbow image) the results are quite interesting:

If you see less than 20 colours

Basically you are in the 25% of the population who are classified as dichromats, meaning that you only have 2 types of colour receptor cones in your eyes.  As a result of this colour identification deficiency, you are likely to prefer muted tones, black, beige and blue.

If you see between 20-32 colours

This makes you a trichromat, as in having 3 cone colour receptors in your eyes.  50% of the populations are trichromats, so you are in good company. It means you enjoy different colours and are perfectly normal.

If you see between 33-39 colours:

Please be one of our clients! It means that you are a tetrachromat, having all 4 types of colour receptive cones in your eyes. However, on the down side, you will be irritated by the colour yellow and avoid wearing it at all costs. Added to which you are so light and colour sensitive that you will want to wear sun glasses all year round.

If you see more than 39 colours:

You can’t count! There are only 39 colours. The bands of colour are not evenly spaced so your brain may con you into thinking that there is “another colour” where there is none.

Naturally, everyone at Alchemist could see all the colours and we love of our sunnies – even in winter, so there may be a lot of truth in what she says in her research. Hence having a cast iron excuse to say; “never trust a designer who doesn’t wear sunnies!”

Walking with the Wounded

This is blatant marketing for Alchemist’s blog….please refer to the logo design below!

Oh we do just jest, but we can’t thank “Ride of the Lions’ enough for a great day of golf at Richmond Park today and for the fantastic support and hard work they do for ‘Walking with the Wounded’.

An excellent day. Please cast your eyes over the websites for more information.

revisited logo2



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