Logos and lighthouses

lighthouseThe term “logo design” has become passé. Contrary to my repeated use of the phrase, I’m well aware of this fact. I’m even confident enough to believe I understand it.

Logo design fell out of fashion because of the popularization of the concept of brand. According to Wikipedia, “brand is a collection of symbols, experiences and associations connected with a product, a service, a person or any other artefact or entity.”

Brand is compelling because it goes beyond the aesthetics and purely visual symbolism of The Logo; it represents the far more important (and more mysterious) issue of audience perception. Entire companies can cheat themselves into believing these issues are cosmetic, but you can no more powerfully augment your brand with a new logo than you can your personality with a new haircut.

This doesn’t mean that the importance of identity design is necessarily overestimated, but erroneously defined. To carry the personal appearance metaphor to its merciful conclusion, attempting to make a good first impression with an ugly (or worse, misguided) identity is like showing up to a job interview with messy clothes and unkempt hair. It isn’t impossible to sell your skills regardless, but you’ll waste time and effort redeeming yourself in lieu of real progress.

Great logos are more than just a calling card. They’re a unified and distinct symbol of your brand’s character and aspirations. Oftentimes, they’ll influence the viewer’s first impressions, but their continued trust demands real follow-through.

I don’t sell the zesty hipness of “brand” because, ultimately, you’re the one who has to deliver. Logos I can deliver. When used to proper effect, they are your “brand lighthouse,” aiding your audience’s navigation in a sea of choices. Just make sure their destination is what you’ve advertised.


Bruce Colthart Creative (@bccreative) says

Right you are! As designer Milton Glaser is reported to have said, “A logo is the point of entry to the brand.” It is every bit the entry point, yet it is merely the entry point. The designer needs to create a logo that will live up to the brand promise, or will reflect it or at the very least allude to it. But the client, responsible for the brand, absolutely needs to live up to the brand, by behaving in a manner in line with the brand, and not contrary or oblivious to it.

A nicely worded post. These issues needed to be repeated over and over, in various voices, for brand shepherds – and designers – to really “get it.”


Tyler Sticka says

I couldn’t agree more, especially given all I’m learning with each and every project.


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