john christopher burns DESIGN


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Land of many logos.

Original logo design

Because a distinctive logo is a good way to make a lasting impression.

I grew up as a fan of “broadcasting” in the classic 1950s and 1960s sense where the channels were few and prestigious; and the stations identified themselves with pride and pomp. The top of the hour ID was not a “promotional opportunity” or an FCC inconvenience—it was the place where these custodians of the airwaves stood up strong and stated their names for the record.

“This...is CBS.” Darn straight. Accept no substitutes.

I knew early on in my design work that the logo for any given station, cable network, newspaper, or magazine must be bold. It must be memorable. It must communicate, in various forms of reproduction from mushy black-and-white TV Guide ad to the fanciest 3d move. And these days, it must function clearly as a tiny omnipresent bug in your TV’s corner and stand up tall and proud when its mission is to fill the screen.

It’s always a treat, after spending careful time sweating the details—manipulating points and spline curves by microscopic amounts in Adobe Illustrator, to see a logo I’ve created then put to work in countless variations—on letterhead, business cards, vehicles, set elements, and, of course, most importantly (in the case of television and video)—on the air.

I am honored when a channel carves the thing I’ve created out of 20-foot-high aluminum and hoists it up on the side of a building; I’m touched when a master control person wears his station’s t-shirt (with my logo) to tatters because he thinks it “looks so cool.”

And I get a chill when I look up at a channel at the top of the hour, and there’s the precise collection of type, shapes, and color I’ve created, animating together dramatically, representing folks who work there every day.

Yeah, it can be a “brand” for you. For me, it’s something closer to the team colors, the crucial pivot-point of a complete on-air design. Whether it’s my own creation (which most of the time, it is) or a careful adaptation of someone else’s baby, it’s something I care about getting just right.

It’s interesting for me that the basic principles of good design do not vary whether I’m working on a logo for video, for print, or for some organization. And it’s more than just picking out a “nice eight” or a “cool three” out of a type catalog—the work you’ll see here are (I hope) very carefully hand-tweaked, altered, combined, kerned, and overlaid to create a feeling of balance and timeless distinctiveness.

I’ve put up thirtysomething examples of my work in logo design...some of them still going strong, some just memories...you can start stepping through them right here, or click on any of the channel names in the left column for your own random-access dance through the land of logos.