“Can you fly, Bobby?”

I recently watched Paul Verhoeven’s 80s tech noir classic Robocop and thought it might be interesting to do a little design analysis on the Omni Consumer Products logo. The first thing I notice is that OCP is an inversion of cop. While this is not a visual design aspect exactly, it does carry meaning. The underlying story in the film is policing turned inside-out by a profiteering corporation, hence the inversion.

Some of the more obvious points of the design:

  • the octagonal shape, like a STOP sign. That could be read as a message or warning. It also symbolizes control over the flow of traffic
  • The metallic chrome finish. This can signify strength, a shield, technology, modernity, hardness, and also reflection. It does all of these things at once, in our subconscious, mostly.
  • the design is reminiscent of a labyrinth. I don’t know if this was intentional, but it can make for an interesting read, connecting to the concept of the minotaur as a symbol of power.
  • On the other hand, we could also see it as a web and a spider, symbolizing trap and predation, danger.

And what does this mean to today? The name, Omni Consumer Products, suggests a company that sells everything, a company that’s everywhere. Which sounds familiar, like a company currently investing in surveillance and marketing to law enforcement. In the movie, the company describes itself as one that invests in traditionally unprofitable sectors – hospitals, prisons, law enforcement – and makes money out of it. That kind of privatization was happening in the 80s. It has accelerated since.

As I was working on this I found a site that does a much more detailed and in-depth analysis of the logo design, and several others from the movies, which may be worth a look.

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