Logos: applications are important!

Logos: applications are important!

Note: this post is in regards to some 2016 “year-end” opinions on the best and worst of logos. Specifically, the Merck logo seen as a before and after image below (sourced from this article).

So your company needs a facelift. The logo looks dated, no one can find a high-quality version anywhere (even on floppy disc), it has reproduction issues, doesn’t translate well in one color, and overall doesn’t inspire confidence (roughly translated: “is old, and fugly”). Trust me on this… you aren’t alone!

Justin Long Ugly Crying
Once the emotional shock wears off, we can continue!

Before breaking into song and tap-dancing (because I very much enjoy logos… and who doesn’t like when people spontaneously burst into song and dance?!) there are some things you should know: A Logo is part of your overall brand identity. It is the entry point to your brand. Typically one of the first things people will see in association to your company and what its message is about.

One of my all-time favorite graphic designers, Paula Scher, spoke at a branding conference about identity and why it is so very important. You can see a portion of this great speech here. Why do I consider her an authority on this topic… oh, you might have seen some of her work (The logos for CNN, Citibank, Windows 8, and recently WeightWatchers… along with revolutionary work for The Public Theater). She speaks of the topic of branding in an enlightened way:

Brand Identity is: (Form + Application) X (Audience + Time).

“If you make the form and apply it consistently, but also surprisingly, theoretically with the right audience […] and enough time – it resonates… and that’s [when] you can make a judgement about it.” – Paula Scher

In this explanation, the form is the logo and the applications are a key component. So, the logo (or form) is an entry point and at the core, should communicate some kind of message about your business. Even if it’s something as simple as the company name (a wordmark). If it’s some fancy text stating the company name accompanied by some kind of unique icon/image, that’s great too! Storybooks come with all kinds of different covers, and a logo is no different.

This brings us to the next part of the equation: Applications. Name the last time you saw a logo on white and always on white, without fail. I’ll play spoiler here… it doesn’t happen often at all. When it comes to branding exercises we stress the importance of seeing a logo exist beyond being lost in the white abyss of a piece of paper, because 98.675% of the time an audience won’t see it that way! Logos are forms that are meant to be applied and experienced. People interact with the logo and your brand on multiple levels, and sometimes, multiple times a day. Some items are printed, others are electronic. Some are tactile, others will always reside in the interwebs. Sometimes you’ll see a logo small, and other times it will be ginormous!

The results of seeing a logo applied can drastically change opinions on a particular brand identity/direction. There are some extremely smart logos that are very simple in nature and when applied they come to life. At a minimum, when considering a new logo, one of the steps should be seeing applications. The possibilities fluctuate given the company’s needs. Sometimes apparel is big, other times it’s a stationery set, a proposed mast-head (“above the fold”) section of a website, and a portion of a social network that is frequently promoted and used.

If your logo isn’t flexible then it’s limiting potential growth, at least in the public eye. There are times when an audience will look at a company brand identity and say all of the things first mentioned in this article. If the logo and complimentary branding LOOKS old that is the audience’s perception. In the mind’s eye perception is reality. Your brand should inspire confidence not have a reverse effect!

So before taking that leap to update or refresh your company brand, take a look at all the items in the equation (form, application, audience, and time) and reflect on each one of them as it relates to the big picture. Then maybe shoot us a call or fill out a simple form to contact us!   To see more examples of branding, check out our work.

Joshua Schmitt

Joshua is an award winning graphic designer, who has been working in the field for the past 14+ years. As a part of 4CDesignWorks, he operates as the Senior Graphic Designer and has experience in web, print, user interface (UI) design, layout, illustration (digital and traditional), corporate identity, as well as branding areas of design. In his free time he hangs out with his family (wife, daughter, son, and dog), wears flannels, avoids hair-cuts and reads comic books.

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