Ian: Your Friendly Neighbourhood Plumber


Let’s face it: calling the plumber lacks the charm of, say, buying a pair of designer jeans or a fast sports car. However, even your friendly neighbourhood plumber needs to have a brand and a logo design. He, like every other business person, must compete and convince customers to choose his business over all of the others. Ian the plumber is one good example of a small business person who is finding success from a crisp, clean logo and brand to represent a less than crisp and clean occupation.

The name of the business is the first hint that Ian is not your typical plumber. Instead of a cute name or a little bit of loo humour, the name is simply: Ian. In this logo created by Raphael Mahon, it is written in lower case letters in a friendly font that is rounded and plain. There are no frills here—which is fine, because we hate to think of the type of frills a plumber might have to offer. The lower case I is dotted by a red semicircle that draws in the eye and adds a little detail. This plumber is clearly a modern and youthful choice, which sets him apart from the pack before we have even picked up the telephone. This is a sure recipe for success.

Why is Ian’s brand helping him to succeed in the world of plumbing? First, because it goes against everything that most people associate with the profession. People see plumbing as an older profession practiced by middle aged men. Ian’s brand is as contemporary as they come, with a youthful charm that cannot be denied. When potential customers picture Ian, they probably have a more friendly image in their mind.

Second, we think of plumbing as a dirty field. This is often correct, considering the types of materials that plumbers deal with on a daily basis. However, thanks to modern inventions such as plumbing, there is no reason that a plumber can’t be as clean as anyone else. Ian’s logo design and brand make him seem like a clean, decent person—someone in a messy field who nonetheless takes advantage of running water and other sanitary improvements of our times. He seems like someone who won’t leave muddy footprints on your entry rug or black fingerprints on your bathroom fixtures.

Ian’s brand is an integral part of his business, from his signs to his vans to his business cards. It is easy to see this friendly neighbourhood plumber taking over the business in his area. After all, don’t we all want a clean, friendly plumber?

Sometimes a great small business brand works because it breaks all the rules. Few people associate plumbing with a clean contemporary feeling, but we all wish we could. Ian has managed to differentiate himself in a market where variation is rare, and he does so without a single word. This is the power of good logo design: to communicate a brand and an image in the uniquely communicative and powerful language of design.