The single most important branding and marketing asset you have.
It is used on every single piece of digital or print media that will ever represent your brand. Your dreams. Your mission as an organization.
And yet, it is the most undervalued. Many businesses and organizations budget less for their logo project than they would for a brochure or ad campaign.
Most places treat it as an afterthought. A tiny little 1″x1″ square of ink or pixels that their creatively gifted, yet inexperienced, teenage son should be able to knock together in 15 minutes, right?
And it needs to be busy. Really busy. It needs to include every service you provide in a pictorial landscape, a comic bitstrip, a line art drawing of each of the components of your company, right?
Nothing plagues creative professionals more than the concept many people have of a logo.
You get your company. You know what you’re about. But how will your customers?
Show most small organizations a flip book of logos from the worlds brightest and most innovative companies, and they will say, “but we’re not that important. People already KNOW who they are. They don’t know who we are.”
“Well, they didn’t get there by making pictographs their logo.” If they had, then they would have pictographs as their logo. Would they have thrown away their identity, perhaps, the very thing that catapulted them into fame and success?
In their excellent article, Logo Warehouses, Crowdsourcing and Lack of Understanding, a must read if you’re going to understand what a logo is, writer Steve Zelle says,
“Design is not a product.”
Design as a whole, and a logo specifically, is not a product you pick up at a graphics website.
“Many logos however are being sold simply as a graphic. Crowdsourcing and online logo warehouses make the purchase quick and easy with little need for any true understanding. Both the client and “designer” are released from investing in developing a deep understanding of brand, strategy, marketing and design principles.”
If your logo is the single most important piece that you have, and is going to appear on everything you make for all time (yes, all time), shouldn’t it represent the hours of thought and strategy you put into your company? A logo is not a plug and play item. It is not a generic piece.
The brilliant graphic on the article shows the logo as the very tip-top point of a large iceberg. The bottom 1/2 of the iceberg is made up by Strategy, Research and Understanding, and are buried as it were under the sea. The next 1/3 is visual brand identity. And finally the very tip, only 1/6 of the whole iceberg and 1/3 of all that is visible, is your logo. Supported by the rest of the pyramid.
You are not paying for a graphic when you hire a Designer to make your logo. You are paying for the weeks of thought, strategy, development, understanding and creatively communicating who you are as a company, all in a scalable vector image that is simple enough to be quick to recognize, quick to register in the brain, easy to remember. Most if not all small business and small organization’s logos are way too complicated. You’re not spelling out everything you do. You’re capturing the concept of your mission in a simple shape.
Here are some famous logos. Notice their simplicity. If you were to see these logos, never having heard of the company before, would you know what they do?
There is an element of mystery in all these logos. It is not arrogance. Your logo is not supposed to sell a product on its own. A logo is a symbol with meaning, that carries the emotion that all your other brand recognition has driven.
If you want your logo to do more than that, and are too lazy for the other portions of brand recognition, your brand strategy will fail. A logo was never meant to sell your product for you. All pieces of marketing together sell your brand for you.
Think of it this way. Nike has a powerful commercial featuring Michael Jordan sailing through the air making a basket, and a short quote by him about endurance. Then the Nike swish flashes across the screen for a second and the commercial is over.
The next time you see that swish, you will think of power, endurance, athleticism, success. You might even picture Michael Jordan “flying” through the air. You might even feel a measure of determination and excitement.
The logo is doing its job. All those thoughts and feelings are conveyed in one little swish.
It doesn’t hurt that the swish is evocative of fluid upward movement. It wouldn’t have the same effect if it were a square or group of blocks.
So you see, logos don’t explain, they represent. They don’t depict, they call to mind. They don’t tell full stories, they symbolize.
They should never be groupings of objects. The simpler the better. The more evocative and symbolic, and the less pictorial, the more successful they will be in bringing your brand message to mind.
But there has to be a brand message to bring to mind.