We have all read the numerous articles on the importance of a logo. The virtues of world-famous logos like Nike’s swoosh and the unique Coca-Cola wordmark are hard to argue with. And yet…
This cause-and-effect theory that a sleek logo will make you instantly recognizable has always sounded a bit forced to me. Just think about it for a minute:
What is it exactly that makes the Nike swoosh so recognizable?
Is it the fact that it’s unique and represents the exact values that identify Nike?
Or could it possibly be the fact that we have all seen it a million times?
(Of course, once we have seen it a million times, we begin to associate it with those values. But only because Nike has been consistently inspiring us to “Just do it.” In many interesting and compelling ways.)
Somehow, I think that by promoting the importance of a professional, unique, recognizable logo, we have created a new problem: the line of thought that you absolutely positively have to get your logo “right”. (Whatever that means.)
Before you even have a product to sell. Or even if you can’t deliver on your promise yet.
I have seen so many times when logos were tweaked and cajoled endlessly, to make it express every possible value that the company wanted associated with it, to force it into some shape and form with universal appeal, to show more, as much as possible… Often these logos started out as interesting, easy to understand concepts — but ended up a mix of images and styles.
Trying to say too much. Not really saying anything.
All because of the belief that it has to be just right, perfect for you, and if it isn’t, you might as well not start your business at all — because it will make or break your brand.
Even though, as a designer, it might be best for me to let you believe just that, I would rather you knew the truth:
Your logo is not everything.
Before my designer colleagues bury me in a storm of flying tomatoes, let me explain:
I think a logo is an important part of your brand.
Just not the most important one.
(Actually, if I had to make a top ten list of the most important things for building a brand, it would be near the bottom. Little things like product quality, customer support, and the ability to deliver what you promise — time after time — would come first.)
Your visual brand identity — the way you present your business visually to the world — is very important for first impressions and recognition. But it can’t communicate everything you stand for.
In the same way the clothes you choose to wear to a party do not say everything about you.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that you should show up to a black-tie party in torn jeans and flip-flops. Or even naked. (That would certainly attract attention, but probably not the kind of attention you want. But more on this in a future post.)
And it doesn’t mean that you should let your 15-year-old nephew with a copy of Photoshop make your logo for you, or go without one, either.
All I am trying to say is this:
It isn’t easy to express everything you want to say in a tiny, universally recognizable image.
And that’s ok.
Accept the fact that you can’t say everything with your logo. That will free you up to have some fun with it! And since playfullness boosts creativity (just ask Thomas Edison), the result will be much better than expected. Especially if you and your designer are both willing to be playful, to collaborate and to explore; and to not discount anything right from the start, even if it doesn’t seem to be your usual style.
Over-analyzing, taking it too seriously and trying to say too much are the things that can kill the creative spirit before it has a chance to take off — and destroy the possibility of creating something that has a unique flair. You are playing dress up — this is supposed to be fun!
If you are not ready for the equivalent of a Versace gown for your logo just yet, that’s ok. A little black dress with a unique accessory can do the job. Or maybe showing at this particular party in torn jeans is exactly the effect you are looking for. It all depends on what you say once the attention is on you.
We will look at some more parallels between dressing up for a party and logo design, explore some of the recent logo redesign fiascos, and what they mean in the real world very, very soon.Until then, stay playful!