Business Logo Design: What It Means for Your Brand StrategyWednesday June 11th, 2014
Brand identity is nearly everything associated with a company, its mission and value proposition. The corporate logo, just one component of brand identity, is one of the most important.
“Brand is much more than a name or a logo. Brand is everything, and everything is brand.”
These are the words of Dan Pallotta. Dan is an entrepreneur, author and humanitarian activist. This quote is taken from A Logo Is Not a Brand, one of the many articles Dan continues to contribute to Harvard Business Review online. With A Logo Is Not a Brand, Dan explains that a brand is much more than a name, icon or the look and feel of a name. Brand is a company’s strategy, how a company addresses customer service, what a company’s facilities look like and so on. In essence, brand is an all-encompassing experience that creates consistency for every customer, employee and with each company initiative at every touchpoint.
I agree with Dan that by itself, a logo is only one of the moving parts that makes up a brand identity. I will caution however, that a company should not underestimate the perception and value a logo creates. Like a flag waves for its country, a company’s logo is its badge. A country’s flag (think stars and stripes) represents a country’s ethos just as a logo sits at the forefront, embodying a company’s character. Whether it be a startup shaping its brand for the first time, or a 100 year old company reimagining itself, the logo is often the first manifestation of a business’s brand strategy to reach the customer.
A company’s culture, its mission and value proposition are essentials that come together to shape its brand identity. A good logo visualizes a company’s brand identity using font, color and composition. Creating a logo that aligns with a company’s brand is by no means a trivial task. Good logos are meticulously crafted and guided by a logo design process. A good logo design process will take into account that research and strategy are just as important as creative and design. Before handing over the reigns to the next “creative” person or organization to design your brand, be sure they have a process that considers the following.
Research and Discovery
A company’s vision is only as good as its execution. It would behoove you to understand how your company, your product or the service you provide fits within its market before taking it to market. The same principles apply to developing your brand. How your brand distinguishes itself is made clear once you understand how you are positioned within your industry and amongst your competition. A thorough understanding of your value proposition combined with a point of reference to current design trends and styles across your industry, will set the tone, voice and image of your brand.
Placing an emphasis on research before designing a logo leads to smart, educated design decisions. Logo design choices are are never arbitrary and everything from fonts, colors and composition should represent a well thought out effort. Investment banking firm Mufson Howe Hunter transitioned from a classic to a more contemporary font style, appearing modern and approachable in what is otherwise considered a rigid industry.
MHW’s classic vs contemporary logo
Colors speak volumes, catering to specific feelings that can evoke anything from trustworthiness to enticing one’s appetite. Don’t believe me?
FastCompany’s Rachel Gillett does a smash up of job breaking down the psychology of color in corporate branding with What Your Logo’s Color Says About Your Company, with the added benefit of infographics galore.
The shape and geometry you choose for your logo directly affects its application. For most companies, you will find several applications of the corporate logo across company websites, business cards, letterheads and envelopes. Airlines are a great example where logo application requires versatility.
United Airlines logo system
United Airlines logo application: (from top right to left) tail, coffee mug, cookies and crew tag
Logo and Tagline
Lexicon analysis is an important part of the research process. It will reveal the verbiage that resonates with your customer. Company taglines are carefully researched and crafted to reinforce the customer’s memory of the company’s product or service. Logos are often designed and delivered as a system where the logo may stand-alone, or include the tagline.
Truly successful brand identities do not need to display a tagline with their logo for customers to recall it. For example, the Nike “swoosh” alone is enough to conjure the phrase “Just do it” in the minds on many people worldwide.
Nike logo: stand-alone and including the tagline
Boldly brandishing a tagline is not the only option, and some companies will take a more subtle route when reinforcing their brands, leveraging good design and creative implementation. Known for its “31 flavors”, Baskin Robbins has mastered the art of nonchalantly reminding you of their value proposition.
Baskin Robbins logo: notice the pink lettering in the “B” and “R” spells out the number 31
How Logo Design Reflects Company Culture
Your culture may be your differentiator. I had the pleasure of speaking on a roundtable during Techweek New York several years ago with Zappos.com CEO, Tony Hsieh. Tony explained that Zappos’ success had little to do with selling shoes online and everything to do with the priority he placed on providing exceptional customer service. Excellent customer service made the shoe buying experience a pleasantry for Zappos customers, subduing some of the pesky inevitabilities related to products which vary in size by manufacturer. Customer service is the Zappos culture, culture is their brand and the company uses their logo design to reinforce it all.
The Zappos exclamation point, also cleverly represents the sole of a shoe, is a reminder that the company handles customer service expeditiously. In addition to Zappos, the following are some companies I like who have done a good job illustrating their culture with their business logo.
FedEx prides itself on speed and precision. The space between the “E” and the “x” forms an arrow, signifying a company culture that strives to move forward.
The smiley face in the Goodwill logo doubles as a lowercase “g” and intends to accentuate the organization’s mission for providing happiness and relief for those in need.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ name pays homage to the steel industry that has been the economic backbone for the city of Pittsburgh for decades. The three colored diamond shapes, called hypocycloids, represent the three materials used to produce steel: yellow for coal, orange for iron ore and blue for steel scrap.
In conclusion, every brand identity can be unique in its own way. Having a proper business logo design process to guide the way is the difference maker between a good logo and a great one.
Learn more about how Brolik thinks about branding and see how we put it to work for our clients: