Don't Ask for a Logo, Ask for a Brand

The days of pasting your logo in the corner of every brochure and calling it a day are over. Brands need to be conscious, consistent and calculated in how they appear online.

Monday, December 17, 2018
Alex Di Giovanni

Too often online we see not only laypeople but qualified designers focusing on the logo above all. From The Gap, to the 2012 London Olympics, and more recently Formula 1, a new logo reveal will often invite memes, fan redesigns and open ridicule among social media communities. In the case of Formula 1’s rebrand, undertaken by Wieden + Kennedy London, fans who thought they could do better even took to Twitter to show off their own logo ideas (inadvertently proving that their ability to miss the point was far better than their ability to design).

But these brands are also to blame. By focusing the press attention on the logo alone, they invite people to do the same. In reality, modern brands are constructed from a system of interlocking and interchangeable elements that vary across different mediums. The Formula 1 rebrand, for example, had a specific mission to perform across multiple channels, three custom typefaces and was backed by an extensive global brand health study performed by a separate research agency. More than that though, Formula 1 had the sporting-specific challenge of appearing unique and identifiable in a sea of sponsor, team and manufacturer logos at every event (the new logo is even specifically constructed to be paired with sponsor brands if the need arises). Without a flexible and defined brand system, this global brand would fall apart as their various stakeholders played fast and loose with the logo on their own collateral.

Image credit: Wieden + Kennedy London.

Instead of a big logo reveal, Formula 1 would have been better served telling the story of the process and need for a new identity while highlighting the entire brand system that supports it. Once your audience understands the problems being solved, they can better judge the validity of the solutions.

The answer is a brand system; rejecting the old ways of logo worship, and accepting the far more daunting challenge of learning who you truly are as a company and reflecting it in everything you do.

If you want to see which way the wind is blowing, look to the world’s leading companies, such as Silicon Valley darlings Dropbox, and global consumer brands such as Apple and Coca-Cola. In Dropbox’s recent rebrand, Collins created a brand system built around the concept of “co-creation”. Through this rebrand process, Collins created colour and composition systems designed to surprise and delight users, mirroring the happy accidents that happen during the creative process.

Gone was any pretence of a set brand colour. The Dropbox logo can and does appear in various colours, not just between different pieces of media, but within the home page itself. Alongside this novel but understated logo evolution, you’ll see wacky illustrations, strange compositions and a focus on the power of creativity. Dropbox’s rebrand is a celebration of its user-base and the things they cherish. And when I first saw it, I hated it.

Image credit: Collins.

It was only in interviews with Brian Collins, the firm’s Chief Creative Officer, that the inner workings of this rebrand became clear. Before discovering that Dropbox examined their demographics and found a sea of creatives using their platform to make their work easier and collaboration seamless, I saw the quirky, childlike doodles as a trendy misstep for a file management software. Before I saw the almost mathematical framework underpinning the bipolar compositions of its poster layouts, I thought they were garish and bizarre. It took the story of creative co-creation to see this brand system as the perfect solution to an increasingly common problem – When your customers come in contact with your brand through so many channels, how do you ensure they understand who you are at a glance? The answer is a brand system; rejecting the old ways of logo worship, and accepting the far more daunting challenge of learning who you truly are as a company and reflecting it in everything you do.

When thinking about your own company, ignore your co-worker/friend/mother’s opinion on the logo and think about the bigger questions around your brand identity. “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company” Marty Neumeier explains in The Brand Gap, “While companies can’t control this process, they can influence it by communicating qualities that make this product different than that product.”

Your logo will never convey everything your audience needs to know in order to do business with you – your brand is conveyed in the colours you show, the tone of voice you use, and the things you stand for. In the case of Apple, it’s that the stone used in their iconic stores’ flooring comes from a single, family-owned quarry in Italy, or that Starbucks ditched their short-lived toasted sandwich experiment because the melted cheese overwhelmed the smell of coffee – a key part of their store experience. Once you untether yourself from the logo, endless opportunities for branding reveal themselves to you.

Modular is a business to consumer brand consultancy based in Perth, Western Australia.