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What's so special about the Yves Saint Laurent logo?

My design classic: The Yves Saint Laurent logotype and monogram

Co-founder of Barcelona-based studio Vasava, Bruno Sellés explains why the classic YSL identity is a design apart in fashion history.

Bruno Sellés

The classic Yves Saint Laurent logo design is an outstanding piece of fashion history that completely sets itself apart from the fashion clichés that are dominated by the modern serifs of Didots and Bodonis - Giorgio Armani, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren; and the uppercase grotesques - Chanel, D&G, Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss and so on. It was one of the last works of Monsieur Cassandre, designed (circa 1962) before he committed suicide due to depression.

Harmonious letterforms

He blends the letterforms with exceptional harmony, mixing sans and serifs in a subtle way, while successfully mixing roman and italic forms at the same time. The challenge lies in how Cassandre dared to break the unwritten rule of not mixing - in the same word - two typeface features that are, in principle, incompatible.

This is what makes it special and inimitable. Besides this, he faced the problem of connecting all the letters - which he managed to do in a very subtle way without creating odd ligatures or distracting, superfluous strokes.

The words flow from left to right, creating a beautiful rhythm between the capitals and the small capitals. It’s a seemingly impossible combination that works perfectly and makes this an unique gem of graphic identity rarely seen even in this day in age.

Unique design

My favourite part of this masterpiece is its uniqueness. Lame copies of the lettering have never worked well. They look more like a bunch of letters dancing the conga than a proper logo (I’m thinking about the old Price Waterhouse Coopers logo).

Cassandre managed to perfectly capture the sensibility and sexual ambiguity of the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent in this design. Years have passed but, like any good logo, it still stands strong, setting itself apart from its fellow brands.

It has become not only a synonym of the ultimate luxury brand, but also a symbol of quality. The three capital letters are turned into a charmingly elegant monogram that when left by itself still stands for most, if not all, of the values mentioned here.

Words: Bruno Sellés

Bruno Sellés is co-founder of Barcelona-based studio Vasava. Since 1997 it has specialised in cross-media projects - print, web, motion,
3D, animation and video - for brands such as Nike, Rocawear, Adobe, Diesel, 55DSL, Mango, Budweiser and Red Bull. This article originally appeared in Computer Arts.

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