You don’t have to read Chinese to be able to translate the work in “Chinatown,” a series of well-known Western logos newly rendered in glowing neon by artist and designer Mehmet Gozetlik. It speaks to the strength of the logo designs that even when stripped of their brand name—at least in a language non-Chinese speakers can read—they’re still utterly recognizable. Of course, Gozetlik’s statement is less about making a case for the lasting impact of strong design work, and more about how a handful of companies employ such powerful imagery they don’t even need words to convey their name, let alone their message.
The artist pushes this idea further by suggesting brand names aren’t actually as important as we might think. Instead of providing the name of the company underneath each image, Gozetlik runs the word most readily associated with the logo. For example, those red and blue encircled swaths are less about the word Pepsi, and more about diet cola. Likewise, we care less about the mermaid on the Starbucks mark or the Carmen Miranda illustration on the Chiquita Banana label than we do about sucking down a Caramel Macchiato or unpeeling a ripe piece of fruit—though their presence is absolutely essential to getting our salivary glands going.
Gozetlik presents some excellent food for thought: when you hit up a drive-thru, are you thinking about the storied brand behind those golden arches, or is your mind jumping straight to “hamburger?”