So you want a new logo?

Everybody loves a logo, especially when it is theirs, and it is a good one. We like to see it on our buildings, our business cards, or the polo shirt we hand out at the annual picnic. But the logo itself is just the tip of the iceberg: there is so much below the surface that needs to be in place to support it, build its recognition, and communicate what it means.

Brand = Awareness + Meaning

Michael Bierut, a partner at the prestigious Pentagram design firm, has often said that “a logo is an empty vessel waiting to be filled with meaning.“ He gives the example of the Nike swoosh: when it was first introduced no one knew what it was or what it stood for. But now that simple checkmark has come to mean so much more: world-class athletic wear and people serious about their sport. Athletes wear it with pride.

nike swoosh

Not only is there a lot of work to do after a logo is designed, but much needs to go into it before pencil ever touches paper. You don’t design a logo in a vacuum and it is up to the designer to responsibly understand exactly who and that mark is to represent and how it will help differentiate itself from all the others. But most importantly, what it will come to mean to those who see it.

Because of all this, the hardest thing a designer ever has to design is a logo. Everyone remotely involved will have an opinion, want to be heard, and eventually take ownership. However, if they are satisfied in the end, they will become its biggest advocate and strictest caregiver.

And after the final mark is unveiled, there are the practical logistics to conquer: how it will be introduced, distributed, applied, and protected. But if done strategically and with intent, the very simplest of logos will make its impact felt in the marketplace.

A word of caution: no matter how good the logo, it will not save a poorly chosen name, a sullied reputation, or a bad product. People don't make buying decisions based on how good a logo looks, but what the logo stands for. For example: no matter how many logos United Airlines has, they will be my last choice for travel unless they change who they are. On the other hand, I'll always fly SouthWest Airlines regardless of what their logo looks like (not sure I do know). So, if you have a more fundamental problem, take care of that, and then celebrate with a new logo.

To all those who seek the promise of a new logo, go boldly.

Logo Basics

Logos come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. But there are also some basic classifications.

The Chase logomark is an abstract mark. The Apple logo is a pictorial logomark. Interestingly, you often see the mark without the name of the company. The brand identity is strong enough to be recognizable without seeing the name. That's a great logo.

The Thermos logomark is a combination of a unique shape and its wordmark, or logotype. Thermos uses both. Dell computer used just the logotype originally, but now encircles it. Logotypes are more identifiable than a simple abstract, or even pictorial mark, and gain recognition in the marketplace faster.

Canon is another example of a logotype, which uses a unique twist to the letters to differentiate from the straight-up word, such as Thermos curved top or Dell's tilted "E." Microsoft smartly plays is safe and never separates the wordmark from the logomark.

A quick word about color. It's important. More than you realize. Think about Shell's red and yellow vs. BP's green and yellow vs. Mobil's blue and red. Or play the color game and guess which of the colors below represent which delivery company.

Author: Brad

Tags: logos, branding