ELUCIDATING LUCENT'S "MILLION-DOLLAR COFFEE STAIN"
(FORTUNE Magazine) – Critics call the red, splotchy circle in Lucent Technologies' brand signature the "million-dollar coffee stain." Lucent, of course, is the telecommunications equipment business with annual sales of $23 billion that was created when AT&T split itself into three pieces last year. The new company enlisted Landor Associates, a San Francisco consulting firm, to help it establish a standout name and identity. The founders of Lucent wanted a symbol that would capture the enterprising spirit of a newly independent company. Did they succeed? The reviews are mixed. FORTUNE asked some leading brand experts to assist us in dissecting Lucent's name and logo. --Joe McGowan
The word Lucent sets this company apart from all the "nets," "tels," and "coms" that dominate the industry. The dictionary defines "lucent" as "marked by clarity" and "glowing with light"; Lucent interprets "lucent" as "clear vision of its purpose and future" and "energetic and entrepreneurial spirit." Our experts say the word sounds like Lucifer. The company rejects this comparison, but nevertheless it sells a computer operating system called Inferno.
The typefaces, Frutiger Black for the top line, Frutiger Roman for the bottom, are increasingly popular with companies wanting to show their soft and mushy sides. Professor William Bevington at Parsons School of Design in New York says this "warmer, more insightful, and more feminine style conveys 'corporate,' but with feeling."
This is called a descriptor. It reminds everyone that the fabled Bell Labs is the engine fueling Lucent's innovations. That gives the new company instant credibility, a strong platform for building a new brand.
This so-called innovation ring is meant to capture the essence of the brand. It's supposed to represent evolving thought and knowledge. The brush stroke means human creativity; the color red means urgency. To us it's still just a red, splotchy circle.