11 October 2017

The Logo. On its last legs? Or fit as a fiddle?

Of late there has been a school of thought which argues that the static logo is terminally ill.

In a world driven by content and social conversation the logo has lost its voice. As an industry though, do we place too much weight on this ‘signature’ of a brand?

I’m always a little uncomfortable with the uproar and creative social media frenzies that ensue when a TV station or credit card company reinvents itself and I won’t even mention the classic 2102 Olympics debate for fear of kicking up another hornet’s nest! Cries of “how much did that cost?”, “I could have done that myself”, “the kerning is out!”. It’s not wrong to have an opinion (I’ve witnessed some shocking examples which get what’s coming to them!). Conversely, it’s much better to create opinion rather than ambivalence, but maybe it’s better to give something a chance. And more importantly, are we all missing the point about logos in the first place? But I digress, already!

Let’s get some perspective here. We all know the logo isn’t the brand, it is a signature which is meaningless if it doesn’t have positive associations and a story behind it. So before we get our knickers in a twist about the latest logo reinvention, let’s all count to ten, step away from the forums and wait and see what comes next on a brand roll out. We may be pleasantly surprised!

For example, Nike has its iconic ‘swoosh’, costing a princely sum of $30 (and not exactly received by those who commissioned it with any particular enthusiasm). However, they then set about creating strong messaging, good products and brand associations. Et voilà! A great logo! Adored worldwide, full to the brim with what the brand stands for, who it represents and most importantly, what people want to be associated with. I think we can safely say that we could now put a few zeros on the end of the original price in terms of brand equity and it’s fair to say that Nike later rewarded the designer (Carolyn Davidson) with an estimated 500 shares of stock, a nice gesture if ever there was one.

I’ll be shot for saying this, but imagine if the logo with the afore mentioned ‘bad kerning’ was filled with positive associations and experiences. Then imagine if we compare it with its immaculately dressed competitor which is filled with empty promises and bad experiences. In the long run, who wins and who will consumers want to be associated with? I’m not excusing bad design, but here’s a thing, why can’t we have both? Why can’t we simply create something beautifully crafted that actually works?

Michael Beirut (Pentagram) sums it all up in a much more eloquent way:

“When we look at a well-known logo, what we perceive isn’t just a word or an image or an abstract form, but a world of associations that have accrued over time. As a result, people forget that a brand new logo seldom means a thing. It is an empty vessel awaiting the meaning that will be poured into it by history and experience. The best thing a designer can do is make that vessel the right shape for what it’s going to hold”.

Meaning is paramount and having that instant ‘front of mind’ association in our memory structure is what turns a $30 logo into something much more valuable. It’s not just about making the logo ‘the right shape’ but (as a creative agency) giving brands the collateral, advice and tools to help it get to work! If you don’t think meaning and associations matter, take a look at the switched logo below and record your gut feeling. Would you buy the latest handset from this brand?

So, going back to my opening words, is the static logo terminally ill? Not quite, we’ll always need that static signature. I’d prefer to say that the multi-platform world has not started to kill it off but allowed it to evolve and give it life. Let’s say it’s now a bit more ‘with it’! The logo is now able to come out of the top corner of corporate letterheads kicking and screaming when it chooses to. It now works harder, showing its brand personality, morphing and flexing in response to audience, channel, conversation and message. It can meet the demands of the digital and traditional channels. No longer a static signature for a brand and messages, but a dynamic message in its own right. It almost builds meaning and associations single handedly, and surely that’s a good thing.

So, long live the logo. Here’s to your good health.

Steve Conchie
Creative Director