Branding with Your Logo
Identity designer, Alison Hulett said, “The logo or trademark is without a doubt the ultimate ‘branding’ tool.”
To better understand the place of the logo in organizational branding, it’s helpful to look at a little history. The word “logo” means a name, symbol, or trademark designed for easy recognition. The use of logos goes back to the early days of the Renaissance, around the 13th Century. Goldsmiths, masons, paper makers, and potters, were among the first tradespeople to use marks—pressings into gold, chiseled symbols, watermarks on paper, and simple thumbprints on pottery. Trademarks are still used for the same reason they were established centuries ago: to provide an easy method for recognizing a particular product. These “marks” made it easier to differentiate a quality product from one that was not well made. The value of the craftsmanship represented in the gold, paper, stonework, pottery, etc., could be expressed through the special, distinctive mark on the product.
It’s still helpful to think of a logo in those terms: your logo is your symbol—your mark—of guaranteed authenticity. A simple swoosh on a pair of athletic shoes transforms those modest sneakers into desirable, quality footwear with an unspoken guarantee of “authentic athletic performance.”
Logos are still the front door to products and services today. The logo or mark of an organization is often the very first impression a potential customer or supporter has of your organization. That’s why it’s important that your logo is an accurate representation of your marketplace positioning, personality, and mission. And for service organizations with “invisible” offerings (no tangible products), the logo often represents the offerings. So don’t underestimate their importance.
Some Logo Criteria
Here are five things to keep in mind when evaluating your current logo—or considering a redesign—to align your logo with your brand essence.
Your logo should be simple and readable. The viewer should “get it” immediately and be able to get a “sneak peek” into your brand through the mark itself. The challenge then, is to create a logo that is simple and immediate without being boring or institutional.
Your logo should convey a sense of emotion and personality. Think of it as the layers of an onion. As you peel away each layer—the typography, the symbols, the shapes and textures, and color palette—you learn more and more about the brand (the company) behind the logo.
Your logo should express the appropriate tone and voice articulated in your brand strategy. When you think about this critical alignment, consider the necktie. If a businessman walks into a boardroom with a loud and garish pink flamingo-print tie, that tie would speak clearly to everyone in the room even before the businessman uttered a single word. Conversely, a conservative silk tie will “speak” in an entirely different voice. Your company’s logo can act as the reputation that precedes you into the marketplace.
Your logo should be flexible and work well in a multi-channel sales environment—not just on letterhead and business cards. It should work in all mediums from black and white, tiny, low-resolution, fax, web, and full-color printing. With today’s broadband delivery, animated logos—or avatars—can also be a desirable option.
Your logo should look different than other logos—especially those who share your same marketspace or prospect base. Having a “me too” logo design will weaken your organization’s uniqueness and the differentiation you tried so hard to establish in developing your brand essence.
A Critical Starting Point
A good logo design starts with a solid and defined brand. There should be clear focus, alignment, and linkage between your logo and everything else your company represents. It’s not possible to design or commission a logo that meets the criteria of this article unless you first have a clear and focused brand essence--unless you know your organization’s position in the marketplace, your differentiating factor, your personality, your brand promise, and what your business stands for and believes in.
If your company is struggling with any of these attributes, don’t even bother exploring a new logo design. First, conduct or host a brand strategy workshop. And if you do have a solid brand strategy, please don’t let a well-intentioned designer screw it up by not considering the importance of expressing that strategy visually.
When done correctly, this synergy between brand strategy and logo design is referred to as “trade dress” or “visual identity.” When done well, a good logo will be easy to read and understand, express your unique positioning, work in multiple channels, and convey your company’s voice and tone.
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