4 Logo Misconceptions

by Blake Howard    May 30, 2012

A great brand mark is a powerful thing, but the reality is it can't do everything.

A brand’s mark (or logo) is the simplest form of communication. They are beautiful identifiers for the brands we love. They can add a huge amount of business value to any organization, from shaping perceptions to consumer recognition to inspiring customer loyalty. As great as they are, they do have limitations and misconceptions of their true purpose. Here are four common misunderstandings I’ve recently been thinking about:

1. Brand Marks won’t make bad companies good

The best designed logo in the world wouldn’t have saved Enron. Their evil habits long excluded them from the benefits of great branding. The same is true with Comcast. Rebranding to “Xfinity” with a modern new word mark and soft fluffy clouds as a design signature cue won’t solve your customer service atrocities. The beautifully simple Apple logo didn’t make the iPhone a mobile game-changer. It did, however, beautifully represent the company’s DNA of simple functionality. It is one more reason for us to love them.

2. Brand Marks don’t have to be descriptive

If you are a house painter, your mark doesn’t have to have a paint brush. If you are a printer, your mark doesn’t have to have the colors CMYK in them (colors used in the printing process). A mark’s purpose is not about describing what you do, it’s about who you are.

3. Brand Marks don’t have to tell the entire story

Some organizations have value propositions galore. They have 5 audience segments and different positioning statements to match. A brand mark shouldn’t try to force fit every single angle. It should boil down to the most simple DNA, essence, or heart. The goal is to craft a symbol for differentiation, identification, and memorability – not a novelette.

 4. Brand Marks don’t have to be self-explanatory

When Paul Rand presented the infamous striped IBM logo, one Board Member exclaimed, “Looks like prison stripes to me!” in a 50′s Texan-oil tycoon kind of a voice (at least in my head). He was under the impression that a brand mark’s origin should be easily understood at the blink of an eye. Luckily for IBM, that rogue comment was bypassed and the mark has proven successful for their company. Brand marks, by nature, are visual art, so subjective opinions reign in gathering feedback. Ask a hundred people and you might get a hundred different responses. Ineffectively, we tend to treat the process of designing brand marks like ink blot tests asking our friends, “What do you see in this one? What about this one?” This is a big misunderstanding. True meaning in a brand mark only comes through proper time and context from experience with the brand.

Let’s try this out, what do you see in the ink blot above?

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