Last But Not Least: Dan Cooper Defends “Z”

dan cooper Z.gifEarlier this week, we chatted a bit about single-letter logos (“Give Me an ‘A’! That’s It, Just an ‘A’!“), pointing to Garech Stone‘s piece in the new issue of Eye that notes how certain letters (e.g., A, M, and T) are more popular than others and lend themselves better to modification, while “‘J’ and ‘Z’ seem difficult to resolve.” Art director, Fox News Channel co-creator, and all-around media guru Dan Cooper, however, is sticking up for the 26th letter, often typecast as the sleepiest. Case in point: the “Z” (at right and below) that Cooper created for writer Steve Zousmer, a former head writer of Good Morning America and the first senior producer of Nightline who now focuses on speechwriting.

z-buckslip-for-unbeige.jpgThe goal was to capture Zousmer, who Cooper calls “a brilliant iconoclast, a sardonic wit, and the most uncorporate of great corporate speech writers,” in a memorable mark. “In the back of my mind, of course, was the legendary ‘Zorro‘ as portrayed by Walt Disney with the sword-slashed Z mark,” Cooper tell us. “I wanted something bold and rough-hewn. Something absolutely not Paul Rand. Something that caught the eye and made Steve memorable, to reinforce his reputation, so an executive might say…if lost for his name, ‘Let’s have that Z guy do it! He’ll come up with something unique but on-message.'” And so the bold Z that whispers of a woodblock print was born.

So what are some of Cooper’s other favorite single-letter logos? “I can’t think of any. People are so wedded to icons now and names as positioning/differentiation concepts that it’s hard to find an artist who can achieve the simplification to satisfy the requirements,” says Cooper. “Of course Hewlett Packard’s ‘hp’ is a nice piece of work, but very not great, NBC’s disastrous N (was that Lippincot & Margulies?) was horrible — but using a single letter hand painted, as was my Z, is very powerful– if it’s really well done.”