The story behind my logo

After more than nine years running Smart Translate without a logo (I used a photo of myself when one was needed), this year I finally took the plunge and had one professionally created by a talented local designer. When you’re a translation company, it can be tempting to opt for a logo based on the country flags of the languages you work with, but I decided to choose something (almost) completely different. Here is my unique new logo and the story behind it.

It features a pictogram of a graceful white bird flying eastwards inside a red quadrilateral. Below is my company name in capital letters, and then my own name. The bird in question is called a white-tailed tropicbird in English, a paille-en-queue (“straw in the tail”) in French, and a payankë (“straw in the a***”) in Reunion Creole. Its Latin name is Phaethon lepturus, with Phaethon meaning “Shining one” while lepturus translates as “slender tail”. There are six subspecies of this fish-eating bird in various parts of the world: the Pacific Ocean, Christmas Island (where a yellow one features on the flag), the Caribbean (where they are Bermuda’s national bird), Ascension Island, Mozambique Channel, and the Indian Ocean. As I live in Reunion Island it’s the last one that is shown on my logo.

By Yooshau - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

A flying white-tailed tropicbird

Why choose a tropicbird? Firstly, I like the general symbolism of birds as bringers of peace and freedom. Secondly, specifically concerning the tropicbird, I appreciate its elegance, ability to perform complex manoeuvres, and love of warm climates (this last point applies to me too, even if the first two don’t!). When you live in Reunion, you often look up and see them flying unobtrusively above, and it seems to me that this is symbolic of the translation profession: our work is present everywhere, but frequently goes unnoticed.

For the shape I could have gone for other straight-lined, four-sided figures such as a square or rectangle, but I decided that the quadrilateral – which reminds me of a kite – was dynamic while being clean and efficient. The font is sans serif, which is refined, modern, and minimal.

In terms of colour, I chose to go with an eye-catching shade of red, as it’s one of my favourite colours and evokes motivation, leadership, and energy. But for contrast I also paired it with white, which represents sophistication, clarity and efficiency, and there’s even a touch of blue (with “TRANSLATE”), as it inspires a sense of security and trust while showing reliability and professionalism. Together, the three colours red, white and blue are a nod to the British and French flags.

I also got my logo printed onto my phone case; here it is being inspected by a curious crab!

On a final note, I’d like to thank the members of Group Translator Chats for their help and advice during the logo selection process!

By the way, if you’re wondering about whether or not to get a logo, here’s a good article by David Miralles Perez about why professional translators need a professional logo.

Elsewhere on the blog:

Mauritian musings

I recently took a trip to Mauritius, a place I know fairly well as it’s Reunion’s neighbouring island, but where I hadn’t been back to since 2001.

Mauritius doesn’t have official languages, although English is the ‘unofficial’ official language, used for business and government, and French is used more in culture and education. However inhabitants’ native language is Mauritian Creole, which although still French-based, is sufficiently different from Reunion Creole for me to have trouble understanding it (although of course I’m not a native speaker of Reunion Creole; mother-tongue speakers of the latter have less trouble understanding Mauritian Creole than I do).

Mauritius has its own Google, available in Mauritian Creole.

Generally speaking Mauritians will spontaneously address a foreigner in French, but switch easily to English if that foreigner is non-French speaking. However the Mauritian bilingualism can sometimes lead to confusion, such as on the following sign which mixes the English “sale” with the French “chemise”, with amusing consequences if you understand both languages.

Another sign also made me smile, as the writer had obviously forgotten the English word ‘butt’ for a cigarette end while writing it!

Just the tonic!

I was recently in India and couldn’t help but smile when I saw the following on a drinks menu in Delhi:

Name your poison – toxic or tonic?

I know India has a reputation for bad drinking water, but “toxic” is taking it a bit far! As for “Beverage’s” I found plurals written this way all over the country. (By the way this photo was featured in The Telegraph’s ‘Sign Language’ photo gallery)

Also while in India I saw the following slogan for the state of Rajasthan. While technically not a mistake, I felt sure the double meaning was not intentional:

Living and travelling abroad I’ve had the occasion to spot other mistakes. The sign below was in an airplane lavatory on an Air Koryo flight from Pyongyang to Beijing (it also featured in The Telegraph’s ‘Sign Language’ photo gallery).

Hips don’t fly

As I lived in South Korea for three years I had plenty of chances to see mistakes in English language signs. It’s not easy when English is not your native language, and the Roman alphabet is not yours (Korea uses the hangeul alphabet).

fish from hell?

future alcoholic dogs? (p and b are the same in Korean so they’re often mistaken for each other when written English)

I used the following product but I’ve still got my eyes and lips…

does “sensitive” mean it removes them carefully?

Do you have any photos you’d like to share?

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