Elements of brand logo design. The brand Logo
There are a number of cool-looking three-dimensional logos in the marketing landscape now. It’s a trend worth noticing because, in this highly competitive selling environment, companies of all sizes are constantly reaching for a visual advantage and often see three dimensions as representing that advantage over the traditional two-dimensional logo. The question to ask, however, is whether the perceived benefit is worth the cost – or whether there is a benefit at all.
The purpose of a brand logo is as a symbol for the brand strategy.
When done properly and most effectively, a brand logo is a symbol or distillation of the brand strategy. Its purpose is to convey the strategy in the most immediate and direct way possible. In order to do this, there must be an idea – a concept – not a mere decoration. And its design must be simple in order for it to have meaningful resonance for audiences who usually see it in a blink.
Simplicity is key to communicating the concept.
Simplicity is key because complexity means interference between the viewer and the concept. The primary goal of the brand logo is to create focus for the concept that can only be achieved when there is a single point of action. If target audiences are distracted and allowed to wander, they lose focus, lose the concept and forget it altogether. (See some of Stealing Share’s logo design work here)
Dimensions add complexity.
In contrast to 2-dimensional logos, a brand logo with several dimensions adds immediate complexity – and the third dimension adds another layer. Unless the design considers the potential for this complexity, the viewer is forced to work harder in order to get the concept. Instead of immediately seeing the single action point (and concept), the viewer has to digest more information – and the single action point may be diminished.
Dimensions add cost.
If the only application of a logo were for multi-tonal media like onscreen or halftone printing (print ads and brochures), then cost would not be a consideration. By adding dimensions to the logo, tones are necessary in order to achieve the effect. Notice the additional tones needed to turn these simple shapes into 3D. For the square, 3 colors are required. For the circle, gradient tones are needed. For signage, packaging and premiums (folios, shirts, pens, etc.), extra tones require extra costs for each additional tone. Even in halftone printing, which breaks up solid colors into tones by way of small halftone dots, there are limitations regarding size. Small logos (1/2” or smaller) will begin to look rough as the halftone dots cannot adequately render a sharp edge at very small sizes (without extra expense). Dimensional logos are also impossible to stamp or etch on products.
Dimensions are less readable small.
Dimensional brand logos are less readable at small sizes because of their complexity. The tones tend to blend together and the definition of shapes is greatly reduced.
Logos with dimensions are a trend.
With the advent of the technology age and the ubiquitous computer monitor, graphic designers and advertising agencies the world over jumped to adding dimensions to their artwork. Computers allowed brand logo designers to “dimensionalize” symbols and art with the touch of a button. That simply, a trend was instantaneously set in motion. Whether it helped reinforce a particular strategy or message was immaterial. The “look” was “in” and it was king.
Dimensions and the resulting need for two logos – AT&T.
AT&T was one of the first to turn to adding dimensions in their logo in order to signal that they were part of the new technology age. They took their well-established “world” symbol and gave it dimension with added tones, gradations and transparencies. It looked great on TV and online, but for all physical products (phones and equipment), a single color version had to be created. It simply wasn’t feasible to print tones and gradations on every product that, up to this point, had a single color silkscreen or emboss. In effect, the second brand logo was a symbol for the first brand logo. Two logos are not a good idea for any company. Although the differences may seem slight, it causes a loss of focus and some subtle confusion among target audiences.
Today’s world of logos
Dimensional logos have become part of an entire landscape of logos today. Many are three-dimensional, but the majority of the big brands are 2-dimensional. Think Nike, Samsung and others, proof that two-dimensional does not necessarily mean a company is any less progressive or current. Three-dimensional logos require greater management and production costs throughout a company. They take discipline and commitment, and brands usually don’t get much back in return. They can provide a measure of a progressive presence but the extra dimension does not help most meanings, especially when you consider the additional cost.
The Logo as an Icon
By Tom Dougherty
What makes a great logo? People the world over have come to expect a logo when encountering a company or product — It’s so ingrained in how we size things up. A logo will stand for everything a brand represents to us — and most often within an emotional context. Just think of the famous brands and your own personal reaction to them via their logos.
You see the Coke logo and you think/feel/associate “authenticity” and “relaxing good times and refreshment.” When you see the Nike swoosh you conjure up “winning” and “personal triumph.” These companies have done a brilliant job building emotional brands and connecting them with their visual symbols. Business logos are no less emotional nor influential than consumer brands.
It’s all a matter of association in the hearts and minds of your customers. Who could deny the emotional power in the Merrill Lynch bullish icon? From an insider’s point of view —as the practitioner who creates these symbols — there is much to consider when evaluating or creating the little piece of art that will come to represent an entire enterprise. To the layperson, the logo is just there —part of the overall impression. They don’t actually study the logo’s form, color, and style in all it’s detail. They simply experience it. But for all it’s apparent simplicity, a great logo is really quite sophisticated.
Beginning with an Idea
There are rules for logos, at least there are rules for great logos. Like great advertising, all great logos start with a solid idea. The idea is the foundation for all that follows. Without the idea, a logo is just decoration — a ship without a rudder that is unable to steer itself or the viewer towards a meaningful impression of the brand.
The idea can be abstract or representational as long as it leaves you with a sense of the company’s unique personality and purpose. Here are a few examples. Black and Decker uses a hex shape like that of a steel nut (nuts and bolts). Along with its caution orange color and all caps bold sans serif type, the logo (symbol) and logotype (name) convey this company’s product strength and industry category. CBS literally converted its “eye on the world” into a symbol that has successfully branched into all its many content venues. Sprint’s “pin drop” from it’s signature TV campaign – “So clear you can hear a pin drop.” was used as the inspiration for it’s updated “pin in motion” logo. The distinctive and contemporary “black on yellow” color palette helps separate Sprint from its competitors.
Understanding the Craft of Logo-making
Craft in logo making refers here to the formal design relationships. Like the formal relationships in an architectural masterpiece, there are basic rules of entry in order to even be considered architecture — size, placement, thematic structure. The construction must be sound and plumb, and the connective relationships must be elegant and true. Anything less and the viewer focuses on the imperfections and misses the message. It’s hard to imagine Frank Gehry or I.M. Pei allowing a wall to be out of square or out of proportion (unless of course they meant it to be that way as part of the effect).
Simplicity is the Way
A logo must not be complicated. As a symbol for an entire organization and brand, it’s job is to connect with the viewer in an instant. This can only be done when the idea is direct and unfettered by unnecessary ornamentation. This goes to the idea of using only one visual “trick” in a logo. Focus needs to be on the one main idea. For example, the three logos above for Black and Decker, CBS, and Sprint use one visual device and focal point – so there’s no doubt as to where to look — “nut”, “eye”, “pin drop”. Verizon however, has diminished their impact with two separate and disparate devices – the check mark over the “v” and the stylized “z” – that lead the viewer in two separate directions thus creating confusion.
The other value in simplicity is its flexibility. A simple design can be placed on nearly anything from a blimp to a golf ball – and everything in between. Tradition had it that logos were only to be created in “line art.” This is where the forms in the logo are either positive or negative with no gradations or tones. The reason for this is that tones are more difficult (expensive) to reproduce in certain environments like signage and specialty items – like the blimp and golf ball, for example. Tones also do not translate as well in small sizes and are more difficult to print consistently. Today however as the technology focus for online and video is greater than ever, more and more companies are sacrificing flexibility for animated on-screen impact.
Check out this update for AT&T. AT&T’s venerable globe logo (line art — above on the left) created by Saul Bass in 1984 received a more 3-dimensional appearance in it’s 2005 (tonal) update (above on the right) by Interbrand. Some designers call it sacrilege. Decide for yourself what feels more “today.”
Style and Personality
Along with the idea and craft of the logo, there is much more to convey in terms of style and personality. If the company in question is a progressive technology company, it stands to reason that the typographic style and overall design theme should be accordingly “progressive.” No sense wasting time looking at Old World calligraphic fonts, or dark and recessive colors.
The Sweet Spot
The sweet spot in logo design is found when the logo grows out of a company’s vision for itself and its customers — the very thing that customers respond to at a deep and actionable level. The best possible scenario occurs when the logo is created in tandem with a unique and powerful brand theme-line (think “Just Do It”). This logo/brand theme-line combination or “lockup” as it is sometimes called, can then be used as the foundation for a comprehensive brand identity and visual thematic that crosses every media type. It’s then that the logo becomes a great logo and creates a formidable tool in changing perceptions and gaining market share.
First Financial Bank – Market Share – Brand Mergers
By Tom Dougherty
First Financial Bank (FFB) is Headquartered in Hamilton, Ohio, First Financial Bancorp is a $3.7 billion publicly owned bank holding company with over 4,000 shareholders. The company is committed to satisfying the financial needs of its clients by building long-term relationships with a value-added approach. Founded in 1983, First Financial Bancorp is the holding company for First Financial Bank, N.A. which has a total of 105 banking centers in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Indiana. The banking brands are First Financial Bank, Community First Bank & Trust, and Sand Ridge Bank. The First Financial Wealth Resource Group line of business includes First Financial Capital Advisors LLC and First Financial Insurance. First Financial Bank came to Stealing Share® as a conglomeration of a few institutions, all operating under different brand names. The main banking brands could be grouped into three main players.
Brand is much more than a name but often the brand essence is most visible in e new logo an mark. The new name combines all the existing brands and elevated the corporate identity to a strategic level. Being FIRST. Careful behavior modeling and deep consumer research revealed a deep desire to “win” amongst the target audience and a belief in the power of choices. FFB was careful not to claim responsibility for the winning and success of the target audience but sought to assure them that this bank was a choice that helped winners keep on winning.
Before work began on the new mark, the category was researched to find available colors and marks with the goal being both different and better then the competition. It is important when creating a logo that the color palate be distinctive and “own-able” without borrowing on the competitive set’s marks. The goal is to have the mark set apart from the competition.
Brand work always includes a review and revision of the brand architecture. All of the marks need to relate back to the parent brand.
The signature system needs to fit within the strategy. It should be timeless and help position the brand as strategic.
A brand identity Guide is an imperative. It assures our clients that the brand focus and meaning will not be come watered down and diluted over time. It provides a framework for conveying the brand in everything the company does. 4/20/07 Update: First Financial Bank 2007 first quarter results were up $.12 per share over 1st quarter 2006. Congratulations, First Financial and best wishes on “your path to success!”
Visit First Financial Bank by clicking here
Brand Identity is how the strategy becomes alive
Once the strategy is established all visual and verbal customer touchpoints must be aligned with the new brand. As with all things visual, there are many signals between the lines that communicate to your potential customer. Color palette, typography, graphic and photographic style all contribute to the personality. However, without a core concept to drive the way, the parts can only amount to mere decoration.
The Importance of concept in logo design and brand identity
When we speak of the concept, we are talking about a central idea. In logo design, there must be one central idea that connects with customers. Further, all energies must be staged so that they are immediate and apparent. If the viewer has to work to get it, then the logo is not doing its job – being a symbol for the brand.
Simplicity as the path to clarity and immediacy
Simplicity is the only way to ensure the logo concept is immediate. Complexity adds confusion and is, therefore, a barrier between the brand and the viewer. The thing about simplicity, however, is that the elements can be elegant. It always must be of the utmost quality and craftsmanship.
Simplicity and production values
Simplicity also greatly affects the ease and difficulty in producing the logo in a vast variety of required sizes and media. Complex logos are difficult to reproduce when they are small – in addition to being unreadable. Complex logos are always more expensive to a company as well, because additional production processes are required to make them readable.
Brand Standards should be more than a set of rules.
They should promote the strategy and personality. When done correctly, Brand Standards help an organization reinforce the brand with energy and guidance. Examples with rationales go much further than direct commands. They should also address language and messaging in order to make all parts work together in concert towards a dynamic impression. In our Brand Standards, we also have a list of Do’s and Don’t’s that keep the focus tight.
In these logo and identity examples created by Stealing Share, notice how simplicity helps promote each strategy.
Stealing Share creates comprehensive visual and verbal systems. It’s one thing to create a system that works together. It’s quite another when the standards help create a personality and messaging system that reinforces the strategy.