Creating the perfect logo is harder than it looks. Just ask Uber, which has been widely panned for replacing its signature "U" with a seemingly random combination of shapes. Or take a look at the tide of criticism following the Metropolitan Museum of Art's new logo, which New York magazine's architecture critic called a "typographic bus crash." 

Now, Mark Maker, a still-in-prototype machine from the Emblemmatic project, promises to take the pain out of designing a company logo--and for free.

The system begins with the name of your company and randomly produces a handful of potential designs, using a variety of fonts,  colors, styles, and symbols. As you scroll through the options and "like" the ones you're into, the Pandora-style algorithm produces more logos with characteristics similar to those. After settling on one, you have the option to tweak the finer details, like the hue or letter spacing.

For each logo it creates, Mark Maker combines two elements: a font and an accent, such as a geometric shape or symbol. Emblemmatic, which describes itself as "an exploration of symbols and their meanings," uses open-source fonts from Google and publicly available icons from the Noun Project

The machine, first spotted by Fast Company, lets you download your logo of choosing once you're finished. It asks for your industry and remembers your likes, letting it grow smarter as more people use it.

The implications of an algorithmically created logo are a little troubling, particularly for designers. Plenty of graphic designers' livelihoods are based on brands needing refreshed logos that keep up with changing times. But, for now anyway, the Mark Maker's options fall into a less-lucrative sweet spot. They're not so imaginative that they'll fully replace those designed by a human, but they're passable enough to provide options for young, cash-strapped startups.

An algorithm might not lead to the most creative logos, but that might be a good thing in some cases: Maybe it will mean fewer weird, Freudian symbols like the ones spotted in the 2012 Olympics logo and the new Airbnb logo.

Published on: Apr 14, 2016