This post is part of the Ask a Designer series. You ask me questions, I answer them to the best of my ability. The questions can be about design process, branding, software, technical things – or even completely unrelated. Want to play? Leave me a comment here, or use the contact form.
What if every designer that you’ve ever talked to says that you need to get rid of something that you just happen to love in your logo? You know what you want (it’s in your gut somewhere) and you have a fairly good instinct for what feels right to you and your clients, but you’ve been constantly told that you’re wrong. You can’t have cats in your marketing just because it makes you happy.
Are you wrong? Does this make you difficult? Should you just bite the bullet and kill your kitten? :P
Whoa, I am sensing some rather heated unresolved arguments there! So first of all, let me assure you that no kitten killing will be happening here! Now or ever.
And no, it doesn’t make you wrong or difficult.
You get to decide what your logo should — and shouldn’t — include. Of course, if you come across proof that your would-be perfect clients are staying away from your business because the logo does not resonate with them, that would be a very valid reason to reconsider. (Either the logo or the perfect clients.)
But you say that this image or element feels right to you AND your clients, so clearly that isn’t the issue.
I’m guessing the issue here is that this image doesn’t fall into the category that is normally associated with your business. (You know, scissors for hairdressers, a leaf for environment-associated businesses, piggy banks for financial services, books for libraries, and so on.)
But I don’t believe I have ever seen a rule that states you MUST use an image directly related to your business in your logo, nor a commandment that states “Thou shalt not use ironic, fun or otherwise non-straightforward imagery in your branding materials.”
In fact, I would strongly advise that you don’t.
Do you know how many similar-looking logos you will find if you do use those typically-associated-with-category images? More pages of Google results than I have patience to click through, that’s how many. (And my Google-page-clicking patience is legendary.)
So, to use a completely random, hypothetical example here: if your business is, say, a library, and you want to use a cat in your logo because cats make you happy, all you have to do is find a connection.
Actually, pardon me, YOU don’t have to find a connection.
Your designer does.
There is a bit more brainstorming and thinking and time that goes into this process than the first-thing-that-comes-to-mind (i.e. ooh, I know! Let’s use a book for the library logo!) process, which might explain all the negative feedback.
And see, here is the thing: unexpected connections are the very basis for memorable ideas. So it’s certainly worth the extra trouble.
An off-the-top-of-my-head connection for this completely random, hypothetical example might go something like this:
- Cats make me happy.
- I have a library.
- Cats are allowed in MY library.
- In fact, smart cats are very welcome here.
- The library is so great, cats who stick around here get even smarter.
=My logo can show this super-smart cat. (Cat with glasses? Cat in a graduate hat? Cat teacher?)
And that is only one possible angle, without even knowing the details. There are many other ones. (Maybe your library is a place for crazy cats, or playful cats, or some other kind of cats.) These possibilities for me usually come through in the initial chat I have with my clients. You know, the ones where some fun personal cat-related stories are shared.
But, as a copywriter, I suspect you already knew the answer. After all, this is just the visual version of story-telling. Asking “Can I use a cat, a flower, or a space rocket in my marketing materials even if it has no relevance whatsoever to what I do?” is similar to asking “Can I use a story about purple panties to explain a marketing concept?” And the answer to that — as we both know — is hell yes!