Logo Study: THE ATOM Part 3

Images © DC Comics

In 1997 a new Atom one-shot was released, part of the Tangent line. All the Tangent logos were designed by Rian Hughes, and while I wouldn’t normally include an out-of-continuity one-shot in a logo study, in this case it’s relevant because Rian built on this logo design for the 2006 monthly book which we’ll look at next. Rian has graciously shared some of his design work and concept development with us. He says these designs are “all evolutions of the classic logo — I thought I needed to tip my hat to history.” It’s clear he means the 1961 design by Ira Schnapp:


And the final logo uses square, blocky shapes for ATOM that relate to the Schnapp ones, but are taken along a different, more modern, design route. Let’s look at some of his process.


Here Rian has assembled most of the elements of his final design: the blocky, slanted ATOM letters, the three-looped atomic symbol, and a smaller THE. Note that the O retains the square corners and square opening of the Schnapp logo. The A has the inner triangle squared off at the top to match, and the M is more vertical than Schnapp’s, but you can see where it’s coming from. THE is in a similar style, with the T artfully cutting out the corner of the A here, and the atom symbol is more stylized than in the past with large loops that get wider at the ends, giving it a more three-dimensional look. Unlike Schnapp, or any previous version, Rian puts the ATOM letters in decreasing size, a clever way to indicate the Atom’s shrinking power. THE also shrinks in the same way.


Here are three versions using ATOM letters that all line up, either straight on in the center, or with strong perspective top and bottom. These forms are actually closer to Schnapp’s, with the atomic symbol carrying the weight of Rian’s design creativity. I like the top one the best, especially the way the atomic symbol loop goes through the A. This direction wasn’t continued, though.


Here’s another take of the first version above with the ATOM letters overlapped, getting closer to the final idea. The atomic symbol takes the place of the inner triangle of the A.


Even closer, THE is now in a separate circle, and the square center of the O has been replaced by a circle, a design element that seems very Rian Hughes to me, and just about the opposite of what I’d do! I like it all the same.


This version just adds a large-dot glow around the nucleus of the atomic symbol. As you can see in the first image above, the final includes elements of several of these designs, though it’s simplified to a single white shape with the atomic symbol in gray above it. The white knock-out approach makes the logo less distracting when positioned right over the character, about the last place I’d choose, but it’s different, attention-getting, and effective. Nicely done.


In 2006 a new character, Ryan Choi, took on the Atom’s powers, and a monthly book featuring him began, with ALL NEW as part of the title. It was again the work of Rian Hughes, building on this Tangent logo. Below is some of his design work.


Rian submitted lots of ideas for the logo, as he usually does. These first two explore variations in the shapes of the E, A and M. The A in the second version is particularly daring, not really an A at all, but still readable in context. I like the way Rian pushes the envelope with ideas like this.


Here’s the first idea in deep perspective with a heavy outline.


And that idea in color with a giant atomic symbol. While I admire the creativity of this design, I have to say the nucleus looks a bit like a clown nose on the face of the A.


This idea gets closer to the ones Rian did for the Tangent version. I like the subtle black shadow between the two colors.


Even closer, though it’s still just THE ATOM.


The final with ALL NEW added. There are also some triangular notches helping to visually separate the letters of ATOM, which also add a slight beveled look. Very modern, very hip, very Rian Hughes. I’m a bit surprised THE ALL NEW is so small, but perhaps that was what DC asked for. Rian has made the most of ATOM, though, it’s quite an attention-grabber, and looks fine on the cover. Thanks for sharing these, Rian.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this study, other chapters and more logo studies can be found on my LOGO LINKS page.

2 thoughts on “Logo Study: THE ATOM Part 3

  1. John Rainsford

    Ever since I was exposed to Rian’s typography and logo work in 2000ad, I’ve been a big fan, he really takes classic ideas and adds his own unique style to it. Great logo study, as per usual!

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