Personal preferences, prejudices, and stereotypes often dictate what a logo looks like, but it is needs, not wants, ideas, not type styles, which determine what its form should be. The question is, “Whose needs? Whose ideas?”
Before the designer puts pen to paper, management has a number of important tasks to perform. The first is to convey a vision of where the organisation is going, which involves a clear assessment of the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses, what markets it will compete in, how it will compete, and the major programs now in the works and planned for the visible future.
Various design concepts and approaches are developed and shared with the client. A vital dialogue is necessary at this stage to produce new insights and further clarification in order to bring out subjective feelings about the various design options open to the client-consultant team.
At the end of this most important meeting, a clear picture of what direction the final design should take should emerge and be agreed upon by all parties concerned.
The decision can be equally as important as selecting a new name. For once a symbol undergoes implementation, its visual impact is apt to be far and wide and, given the organisation’s investment, long-lasting.
Because the right symbol has the proven potential to profoundly influence corporate growth-internal as well as external-the designer or design team should be given as much access to the organisation’s long-term strategic thinking as sound business practices will allow.
The designer brings to the table his or her creative skill, but unless and until that designer becomes very familiar with the various “faces” the organisation wants to project (as well as those it would rather not) the designer will find it difficult to anticipate management’s likes or expectations.
One of the first things Steven Jobs did after being ousted from Apple Computer – the organisation he co-founded with Steve Wozniak – and setting up his newest computer venture called NeXt, was to engage the counsel and design services of Paul Rand.
Rand has created many timeless images, including Westinghouse, and IBM, for which he is still design consultant. Jobs insisted that Rand involve himself “totally” in the organisation’s planning, participating in as many conferences and discussions as his busy schedule would allow. Jobs was convinced that names and symbols are as much a part of any corporate culture as its product. He just proved it at Apple, especially with the Macintosh.
The symbol may be both artistic and artful but it should not be seen as “corporate art”.
Corporate art, is form over function. The logo is function over form. Use it on everything that moves, and doesn’t move.
It should be no different in the realm of corporate identity: once the design investment is made, the organisation will want to use the symbol in whatever way it can, not just on letterheads, in ads, or on packaging.
For that reason, certain questions dealing with application must be asked near the start of the design/development cycle, not at the end. Here are the obvious ones:
- Will the logo be flexible in a variety of applications? How will it look on a variety of materials and surfaces-glass, plastic, chrome, brass, wood, kraft-board? Raised, embossed, embedded? Can it be used in TV commercials? In videotaping?
- Will the logo reproduce well in many different sizes? Will it be as effective in 1/4-inch size on an embossed business card, lapel pin, or tie tack as it is in 20ft.-high letters on outdoor billboards?
- Will the logo enjoy a harmonious shelf-life? How will the symbol look when endlessly repeated, as on product after product on store shelves? Is it boring? Annoying? Trite? Or does it make you want to reach for the product?
- Will the logo work well in print advertising? Is it strong enough to stand out on a full-page black and white newspaper page, which often resembles a blur of lines, tones, type-and other ads? Is it as dramatic in black and white as in colour?
“Less is more”
For high retention value, simple graphic forms are always preferable to complicated illustrations, because there are fewer lines for the eye to take in. The same applies to the design of symbols and marks, especially under today’s varied and sometimes difficult viewing conditions. Symbols that cannot communicate in short exposures, poor lighting, and competitive surroundings are likely to be those that require viewer interpretations.
Ideally, a logo should explain or suggest the business it symbolises. But this is not always possible, and not always plausible.
A logo has little value at the beginning
A logo takes on meaning only if, over a period of time, it is linked to some product of a particular organisation. What is essential is finding a meaningful device, some idea-preferably product-related-that reinforces the memorability of the organisation name.”
Symbols come in a number of basic forms that can be expressed in a variety of shapes, colours, typefaces, and even textures (They can be described as follows:
The Seal: a name or group of words worked into one total form that are often recommended to and chosen by companies who might find it difficult to depict the scope of their business in a mark. It might also be appropriate for companies that want to use their names but against a background that will give the letters depth, warmth, and a design element that set them apart from all others.
The Monoseal: A monogram or initial within a shape or seal-like form resembling a seal. The monoseal offers the same advantages as the monogram (below) but has the added benefits of being accented by the seal’s background. The monoseal also satisfies those who feel that initials alone are too sterile.
The Monogram: A letter or combination of letters rendered in a distinctive manner devoid of confinement. The initials are made to work in a unique manner, ideal for companies that are known by their initials. Such symbols also travel well multinationally, as long as the same alphabet is used in those markets. There is nothing about the IBM symbol that suggests computers, except what the viewer reads into it.”
The Signature: A organisation name rendered in a particular and consistent manner, usually proprietary. Signatures are much preferred by companies that value their unique typestyle almost as much as their names. Some feel the advantage of the signature is that there are far fewer elements to worry about.
The Abstract: A graphic device, geometric or otherwise, that represents a organisation or service. The Abstract: a geometric device. Abstract marks such as Chrysler do not express gender or describe the nature of the organisation as well as the glyph. The intent of the abstract is not to be descriptive. Any visual connection to the organisation’s product, services, or name will have to be established through promotion.
The Glyph: A pictograph that suggests a organisation’s service or area of competence. The Glyph: comprised of simple graphic lines to tell a visual story about the organisation’s name, major product lines, or area of business concern. Easy to learn, easier to recall, the wordless glyph is understandable all over the world.
The Alphaglyph: A pictograph formed around a letter or letters that pictorialises a organisation’s service or area of competence.
The Wordmark: A signature which encompasses a glyph within the word. It combines two elements of identity into one. Coca Cola is another example
The Life Span of a Logo
Theoretically, once selected and implemented, symbols should last forever, or at least until such a time as the logo no longer works, because the organisation that commissioned it merges, undergoes restructuring, or goes out of business.
In practice, symbols do change, either entirely or only cosmetically It is probably a good idea that dynamic organisation’s every so often step back to take a look at their visual presence and ask, “Is that symbol still really representative of us today?”
And not only the visual imagery should be considered, but all the ‘communicating’ aspects.
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Dr Brian Monger