My favourite Ghanaian brandmarks

In my early years as a designer, I traced logos all the time. I sketched them in books, I stud­ied their grids, I spent hours on their curves. (The Joy FM logo was a real adven­ture.) This is prob­a­bly the cheap­est way to learn iden­tity design, and it really helped me. So after a lapse in the past two years, I’ve taken time to recre­ate and ana­lyze some of the most dis­tinc­tive marks within my local space, in alpha­bet­i­cal order. Let’s dive in.

Accra Brewery (ABL)

Designer: N/A

(You know, I never real­ized that the play­ing card ‘club’ is actu­ally a clover leaf icon.) The per­spec­tive on this icon is a thing of tech­ni­cal bril­liance, and, after decades of use, it doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon. If you feel like a chal­lenge, try cre­at­ing per­spec­tive on a symbol in a circle, with­out using dig­i­tal effects. Then drink some water, go to bed, wake up tomor­row, and try again.

Allied Oil

Designer: Karen O’Neill (view the project on her website)

This mark seems to ref­er­ence the mobius strip, but the curves aren’t con­tin­u­ous enough to fold cor­rectly. (The orig­i­nal is a bit rounder than my ver­sion, though.) Great bal­ance, partly due to the har­mony of the palette. And the neg­a­tive space subtly sug­gests an arrow, which is nice. Allied started out as the first pri­vate Ghanaian-owned com­pany in the sector, with an iden­tity that was pretty weak. For their rebrand about five years ago, they ended up con­tract­ing a UK-based firm. (Back to the palette: I wonder if they resisted the urge to ask for green to go with the red-and-gold.)

Alomo Bitters

Designer: N/A

I really want to know who cre­ated this mark. It is so dra­matic, so very detailed, that one could say that it fails the stan­dards test for brand icons. But when you do prod­uct pack­ag­ing, it’s always a plus to have a logo that com­mands atten­tion on the label. The tree is expertly-drawn, so that bal­ance is achieved with­out an actual circle enclos­ing the mark, and with­out pure sym­me­try. I also like Ghana’s other big tree icon (Golden Tree Chocolates) but this is stronger, and more adaptable.

Busy Ghana

Designer: N/A

I’m tired of writ­ing ‘N/A’ for the designer cred­its. I think I used to know who did this, but I can’t remem­ber, and it’s very hard to find design case stud­ies in Africa, even for firms with online pres­ence. Anyway. The new Busy word­mark is an inter­est­ing exam­ple of the mod­u­lar type style pio­neered by Jan Tschichold and pop­u­larised by the Bauhaus school. It works fine, and the brand’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions often fea­ture groovy pat­tern-infused vari­a­tions. It’s a nice, techy mark.

But the old one was just so right.

This was Busy’s logo in 2016, when the com­pany rebranded and launched a aggres­sive bid for market share in mobile inter­net. The curves are soft and friendly, and that sly little lig­a­ture in ‘us’ com­bines with the gra­di­ent to offer an alter­na­tive read­ing. It stood out in the tech space. Then just one year later, they changed the iden­tity again. The tagline used to be “(Busy) Making good things happen.” Post-rebrand, it’s “Great things happen.” Not sure what it all amounted to.

Darling Wigs

Designer: N/A

I was in traf­fic, two years ago, when this icon jumped from a bill­board and hit my eye. It’s a D, and it’s a face! If I tried this, I’d likely mess up the con­struc­tion, then con­vince myself that it’s just a weak idea. (Silhouetted face for a hair/cosmetics com­pany? How orig­i­nal.) But this really works. It’s not just the neg­a­tive-space pro­file that makes this idea shine; because the locks of hair break up the let­ter­form even fur­ther, people will prob­a­bly see the face before they read the letter. And the draw­ing is excellent.

Denya Developers

Designer: N/A

I’ve only seen this logo once in the wild: on a bill­board just before the 37 Military Hospital round­about, adver­tis­ing this company’s new luxury apart­ments. I like how this staple trick of mono­gram design – cus­tomize the let­ter­form, dupli­cate, rotate – has been ele­vated with the appli­ca­tion of Ghana’s adinkra system. And it does look architectural.

Ghana Cement Company (GHACEM)

Designer: N/A

(The traced type felt too weird; this is an SVG ver­sion from their website.)

Did you know that GHACEM is owned by a European cor­po­ra­tion? I had for­got­ten. It’s a part of the Heidelberg Group, which sounds German; but this logo feels very Italian. The gothic type­face has some old-school char­ac­ter, but it’s the dis­ci­plined alter­ation to fit the abstract ring that com­pletes this mark. (For an exam­ple of a mark that dra­mat­i­cally alters let­ters to fit an enclos­ing shape, see GTP; that effect feels more appro­pri­ate for young, sporty brands.)

Ghana Oil Company (GOIL)

Designer: N/A

Please pause for a minute to appre­ci­ate the fact that this was a state cor­po­ra­tion. Friends, this is one thing that market com­pe­ti­tion can achieve. The GOIL mark is very com­plex – so com­plex, I did not try to to find the under­ly­ing har­monies; I just traced. My first guess was the golden ratio, of course, because it looks like a nau­tilus shell – but I don’t see how it applies. Whatever the case, it works. The mark is said to rep­re­sent the blurred motion of a wind vane’s blades, which shows that the com­pany is look­ing for­ward to a clean energy future. (They look more like flames, I think.) And it lights up the fill­ing sta­tion as well as the Shell logo.

But check out this throwback.

You remem­ber this? It dis­ap­peared from my memory till I vis­ited a farm­ing dis­trict and saw it at an aban­doned sta­tion. The type is really well-con­structed, but who sees it? Look at that beady eye. Check out the cheeky little tail. We were taught that sym­bolic fig­ures should always move toward the right, but this ante­lope doesn’t care. (Now I think about it, an approach­ing driver would see the mascot leap­ing toward the gas pumps. Even her­bi­vores need refills, appar­ently.) I love this logo.

Ghana Television (GTV)

Designer: N/A

I gave this a tweak – mostly align­ing the angle, and bal­anc­ing the stroke weight. It didn’t take any time really, but I think it helped. Also, the color palette needed some fine-tuning; every Ghanaian designer knows how hard it is to make these three colours play nice together. It’s a great vin­tage word­mark, and we should really be nice to it. (This prob­a­bly demands a promise to stop slap­ping 3D ani­ma­tion pre­sets on it.)

Ghana Union Assurance (GUA)

Designer: N/A

Here’s another clas­sic mark. Again, I adjusted the con­struc­tion a little, but this mark has always been respectable. The Art Deco type offers a good excuse for bend­ing the let­ters into a shape, and the result still has some cor­po­rate grav­i­tas. With that said, it would be easy to place this as a spa or bespoke gar­ment label.

Guiness Ghana Breweries

Designer: N/A

This prob­a­bly hits my top-ten for ele­gance, even con­sid­er­ing global brands. The idea of the G‑within‑g could feel con­trived, but it’s delight­fully exe­cuted. The coun­ter­forms are care­fully bal­anced, the curves relate closely to each other, and then there’s the little con­ceit of the three float­ing drops. I have no idea how the designer evolved this in ref­er­ence to the clas­sic Guinness harp, but it feels right. I’d be glad if they pro­duced cakes instead of alco­hol, but this logo makes me smile.

International Central Gospel Church (ICGC)

Designer: Nana K. Duah

I know this isn’t the stan­dard ver­sion of the ICGC mark: I tried to com­bine the clas­sic vim of the old design with the prac­ti­cal­ity of the new. All new church branches have the flat vector ver­sion on their sig­nage, because it just makes sense, and the old one had many arti­facts from the early days of dig­i­tal graph­ics. A solid mark that stands as a reproach to every church that’s still using a 90s-era school badge. (ICGC’s web­site has a page that explains the sig­nif­i­cance of the var­i­ous ele­ments, if you are curious.)


Designer: N/A

(I know I could just remove the designer cred­its, and only show it when I can con­firm the source. But I’m hoping to update this post as I find them; would be grate­ful for your help.)

The Kaeme brand covers an organic range of cos­metic prod­ucts. Again we see a simple com­bi­na­tion of let­ter­forms (K + M) trans­formed by the ref­er­ence to adinkra. The designer took the same rough­ened block type­face in the brand word­mark, used rotate and merge oper­a­tions, and the result can prob­a­bly last decades.


Designer: N/A

I really loved this com­pany. I respected their com­mit­ment to fill a gap in the market, I liked their brand­ing (with that cheer­ful audio logo), I liked the design of their phones. But they couldn’t sur­vive in the war­zone of Ghana’s telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions indus­try. I har­boured an irra­tional dis­like for the company’s rein­car­na­tion, Expresso, because their cool name and tech­ni­cally-bril­liant brand­ing had none of the warmth and home­town good­ness of the orig­i­nal. RIP, Kasapa.

Prudential Bank

Designer: N/A

This one may be a biased choice. I have a soft spot for vin­tage logos, espe­cially ones that are too well-designed for anyone to update. The colour palette of this logo is very under­stated, but effec­tive. And the fore­ground-back­ground con­cept is an idea that I added to my play­book after study­ing this mark. The bank is just about twenty years old, so it is pos­si­ble that this was done with the first gen­er­a­tion of vector graphic soft­ware. If so, more props for avoid­ing the pit­falls of dig­i­tal effects syn­drome. (For their 20th anniver­sary, it seems the mar­ket­ing team wanted to refresh this mark. So they had the remark­able inspi­ra­tion to crowd-source the rebrand. Be warned, you need a sense of humour to appre­ci­ate the results.)

Vanguard Assurance

Designer: N/A

“With Vanguard Assurance, man, you’re cov­ered.” Consistency works. Repetition works. Familiarity is an asset. This logo could be dis­missed as a design student’s assign­ment in ortho­graphic pro­jec­tion, yes. But the draw­ing is solid, and the mark is bal­anced, yet inter­est­ing. Still, this logo works largely because it has been given the chance to do so. In this gen­er­a­tion of media over-expo­sure and hyper­ac­tive mar­ket­ing efforts, will new logos be given the chance to amass the author­ity of a decade’s exis­tence? I really hope so.

I’m pretty sure that I made some glar­ing omis­sions here; and if all the mis­takes are gram­mat­i­cal, I’ll rest happy. Feedback and cor­rec­tions are very wel­come, as are sug­ges­tions for other roundups like this. Thanks for read­ing, and please pass on the link to another design lover.