The most important aspect of graphic design is branding, yet it’s often misunderstood or simply not carried out very well. In this blog, I’m going to share a few of my thoughts on logos and branding that I’ve learned over my years in the biz.
CLEAN AND SIMPLE: For a designer like me, there’s two types of logo projects — NEW and MAKEOVER. For either, the first order is to make the design clean and simple. This is the trend for logos nowadays and I believe it will be the rule from here on out. We’ll never go back to the days of highly illustrative/complex logos. So when designing a new logo, job #1 is to just keep it simple. Otherwise, it sets a company up for a myriad of logo permutations down the road. The same rule applies to a logo makeover because odds are that their logo is already too busy, complex or simply confusing, which is why it’s in need of a facelift. In the sidebar (right) is a sample of two well-known cereal companies. Notice that the Kellogg’s logo has stood the test of time (it started out simple), while the General Mills logo started out illustrative and busy, then over the years the company made changes to keep up with the trend toward more simple designs.
CHANGE SHOULD MAKE SENSE: Sometimes Boardrooms or CEOs just get the itch to tweak their company logo. This is usually a bad idea. But if you are going to change an existing mark, be sure it’s for the right reasons. For example: a shift in products or services; a merger; or perhaps your company logo was designed by the founder’s 12 year-old nephew and it just doesn’t look good or say anything about your company — all are legitimate reasons. But don’t fiddle with a logo just because it’s “been a while” since the last rendition. The example below is a logo re-design I did for a long-time client — Rocky Mountain Sunscreen. After about eight years, they decided it was time for a logo change. There were several GOOD reasons: 1) The original logo had fine lines and did not reproduce well in small sizes; 2) They were proud of their name and wanted their logo to do a better job of saying “Rocky Mountain”; and 3) They were about to make fairly broad changes in their product line and wanted a logo that would better match the contemporary cosmetic look their products were shifting to.
Below is the original Rocky Mountain Sunscreen logo, and the re-designed 2009 logo. A unique design element that I engineered into the logo was that the mountain would change color based on the product SPF it appeared on. The overall integrity of the logo was not compromised, and we saved money on label printing by limiting each label to two colors.
THE LOGO BECOMES THE BRAND: A company’s logo is really a symbol of how the company is perceived by the general public, and most importantly, it’s customers. Is the company seen as the leader in a service or product? Does its logo convey to the mind “service” or “quality” or “convenience”? Over time, a logo will wear the culture of the company it represents — whether for good or bad. Think of our national flag. As Americans we should revere and respect what it stands for. In today’s world, what does our flag invoke in us? What does it invoke in people around the world? For a logo to endure as a successful brand, the company itself must maintain it’s original high standards for conducting business. It’s product must always be desired, it’s service must never slide, etc.
LEAVE IT ALONE: Lastly, once a company has achieved a logo that is clean, simple and does a good job of visually representing it, my advice is leave it alone. Avoid the temptation to “tweak”. Do like Kelloggs and stay the course. In the long run, the brand will be the better for it.