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Logos are overrated

If I could have a metaphorical pound for every-time I have reminded someone that their brand is not their logo, I would be a rich man.

Your brand is the emotional meaning people attach to your organisation.

Branding is therefore not simply coming up with a logo design. It's much wider than that. It's the discipline of the management of the meaning you desire your audience to attach to you. It's about telling your story, in the right way, to the right people.

Yes, this may include a logo design. But this is a tiny part of the thinking needed to 'do' branding.

The discipline of branding

Branding comes in two parts.

1. Internal - Branding requires leadership. It requires a brand to unite around a core vision and strategy.

2. External - After step 1 a brand requires a consistent way of communicating and behaving so that audiences can connect meaning with it. This is not simply a logo. Its a whole system of communication - a "visual language" as well as tone of voice.

Into the future, the brand has to behave in accordance with it's promise and story. Enhancing it's audiences lives and delivering on its promise is something requiring that 'branding' influences business strategy.

Your brand really is not your logo (and there's another metaphorical pound I should have).

A recent example

Before and After of the UK Parliament Logo by SomeOne

This way of thinking of a brand only as a logo has recently hit the news with the new brand style adopted by the UK Parliament. Despite the fact that a whole branding exercise was completed by Parliament and the design agency SomeOne, the press have simply focused on the logo-mark. Here's some samples:

Why is this? Because the wider public believe that a brand is a logo. And it is not (another pound please).

The wider design system for the brand.

Having looked over the work that SomeOne have put on their website, it seems that their focus was indeed on setting up the visual system for the external communications of the brand. However even in this their focus was not simply on the logo but on the whole visual system ensuring that when someone comes across any aspect of communications from Parliament that they can easily connect it with the Parliament organisation in a way which is consistent with the meaning behind the brand. An emphasis has been put on how the whole system works together and, according to Simon Manchipp of SomeOne "Clarity, Simplicity and Efficiency all drive the new design work, so that anyone can get to the information they want, when they want and how they want it."

A huge amount of work and thought has gone into - not just the logo - but how the brand presents itself.

Personally, I think they've done a great job. The brand comes across as being modern and much more approachable and friendly. If this was the desired outcome of the meaning they wanted me to feel - then they've got it spot on. Want more on this? Read the Brand New review.

Simple Labels

Having worked in design agencies for the last 16 years it amazes me how hung up business leaders can get over their logo. It's like they want to cram everything they can into their tiny little graphic as if this is how meaning is going to be conveyed to their audience. Design iterations go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Hours of time is wasted on 'logo design' which will have little or no impact on bottom line - if anything, a hugely complicated end design could have a negative impact.

In fact, a logo is simply a label. A sign-post.

Huge swooshes, elaborate illustrations, huge amounts of colours - I've seen them all. They only 'sign post' a viewer to a competitor because people want simplicity not complexity.

Simplicity also says "confidence". It says clarity. It says "I know what I'm about". This is the type of meaning consumers desire.

Think of the worlds most famous brand identities. Sure, some will have an emblem - but most of these are simply lettering.

The meaning audiences attach to these 'labels' though was not created simply by the logo. It was created by the context that brand played in its audiences life.

So first work out that meaning and ensure you are delivering on it. Next ensure your 'sign post' of a logo is clear, uncluttered and labels your communications without a fuss.

Design Systems

Most of the time your logo will be seen by your audience in context. For example on your website, on a brochure, on social media, on your building signage, etc. In all of these instances the context will be more important to the viewer than the actual logo. The meaning that a viewer will attach to your brand will be based on the surrounding messages and communications. The logo is just a label for these so the consumer attaches them to your brand.

Therefore how you surround your logo with messages, images and communications is more important than the logo itself. What are you saying? How are you saying it? What will this mean to the viewer? These are the real "branding" questions overlooked because we are obsessed with "logos".

I am a huge advocate for design systems which I call the "visual language" of a brand. The way the organisation presents itself must be designed consistently.

It used to be that brand guideline documents were produced to help teams communicate consistently - however now modern businesses are creating these online as it means they can update them and wherever anyone of their teams or suppliers is in the world they can access the latest assets.

Atlassian's design system

If you want an example of how modern brands are managing their design systems have a look at the below online examples:

From these examples you can see how much work goes into ensuring communications are consistent and that within this context is key to adding meaning.

Logos are overrated

So - in conclusion remember: your brand is not your logo (final metaphorical pound for me!). Its the meaning your audience attaches to you. Stop focusing on your logo. Focus on the meaning. Then focus on the system which will convey that meaning to your audience.

Your logo is simply a signpost or a label. Get over it.

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