Why logos matter.
Logos are more than a tool to tell the audience that a product or service they consume is created by your brand. Logos act as an ambassador, sometimes performing as the only “face” a client will directly associate with a brand. Logos directly influence how an audience member thinks and feels. They can represent:
- Who you are
- What you do or make
- What value you provide
- What makes you different or special
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TWO QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
1. Do I need a refresh, a complete redesign, or neither?
The first question to ask is whether a logo needs to be refreshed, redesigned entirely, or neither. You should only update a logo if there is a real need or purpose, such as:
- Expanded services,
- New audiences,
- Updated mission,
- A changing market, or
- The logo is dated.
Before we move on, I’d like to touch on the idea of a dated logo and extend a word of caution. Just because a logo has some years under its belt does not mean it is dated. When well-designed and thought-out, logos can represent brands for decades without looking dated. In fact, an older logo is rich in value, offering brand recognition and integrity.
If your only concern is that the logo does not follow some new trend, or that it’s been a few years since the last update, I ask that you seriously consider whether a refresh or redesign is appropriate. Often, a trendy element or style will only cause a logo to look dated once it’s no longer “in.” Usually, this trendy element doesn’t represent the brand’s identity well in the first place. That brings us to our second question.
2. What is my brand’s core identity?
The most important step to any logo design, refresh or otherwise, is understanding the brand’s identity at its core. You should be able to answer questions such as:
- What does the brand stand for? What are its values?
- What is its voice? Its tone? If it were human, how would it speak? What would its personality be like?
- What words can you use to describe the brand?
- How is it different from the competition? How is it special?
The answers to these questions should act as a roadmap throughout the remainder of this process. Frequently question if decisions are accurately reflecting the identity of the brand, and if not, it may be worth reconsidering.
- What does the logo mean to your audience?
- How do they currently feel about your brand?
- How you want them to feel about your brand?
- What is happening in the market?
- Are there any new technologies or exciting changes?
- What are local and global design trends?
- What styles and colors are your competitors adopting? What themes or symbolism are they utilizing? Why?
- What makes your brand different from your competition?
- What is working with the current logo and why?
- What isn’t working and why? For example: Are there too many details that make it hard to read at small sizes? Does it use outdated elements? Does it no longer represent your brand’s identity?
After you’ve collected your research, put it to work in the concepting phase. Use an understanding of your brand and audience to strategize a concept for your updated logo. Remember, you want to stand out from your competition, but still fit into your industry’s niche. Don’t be afraid to produce a lot of ideas and sketches to really find out what works.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind during this stage:
- Break the right rules! Anything can be a plausible idea if it represents the brand well.
- Don’t rely too much on color. Sometimes you won’t be able to use it, and there are people with visual impairments who don’t perceive certain colors. A structurally sound logo will convey the same message in black and white.
- Consider the psychological impacts of form and color on your target audience. For example, color connotations can vary based on location, so be considerate of this, especially if you cater to a geographically diverse audience.
A word of caution for the concepting phase: minimalism is a valuable tool. Concise design decisions that convey your message quickly are good practice. But, flat design has been trending for years, and we’re learning that overuse of its tenets can take away everything that makes a brand unique, alienating its audience. Don’t design your brand’s personality away!
To address this, many companies are now shifting towards using a semi-flat style, which reincorporates depth into the user experience with shadows and gradients. This added depth provides visuals cues to the user and can reinvigorate stiff designs. But as with all trends, don’t jump on the semi-flat bandwagon because it seems great (and it does)! Think about whether this style will work for your brand long-term to avoid any need to re-update your logo when the next trend emerges.
Once you’ve settled on a concept, try to take it even further. It’s surprising how very small changes can make a massive difference. Develop meaningful iterations and lay them side by to side to see the impact. Here’s where you really find out what’s working or not in the design.
CONTEXUAL LOGO DESIGN
As the design is finalized, you might consider developing alternates based on the different contextual situations your logo will found in. While people have been developing multiple versions of their logo for years (such as different versions for light and dark backgrounds), contextual logo design takes that concept even further.
For example, it is becoming good practice to develop “responsive” logos that transition alongside responsive websites. A responsive logo sheds unnecessary details as it becomes smaller to preserve readability. The smallest version of the logo would contain only the crucial elements required to express the very essence of the brand.
Another way people utilize contextual logo design is for packaging applications. The different shapes of the packaging provide a shifting canvas. This practice allows a brand to best represent themselves within any given space.
TESTING & DEPLOYMENT
The final step is to deploy the new logo. Most often, a new design system will need to be developed to complement your updated logo. Its good practice to produce a brand and style guide that lays out your refreshed design system. Be prepared to rebrand everything: your website, promotional materials, collateral, social media pages, etc. Every design decision should speak to your brand identity, so it is undoubtedly understood as your brand, no matter the platform.
So, is 2018 the year to update your logo? The answer is a resounding maybe! There are many exciting developments coming from the design world.
Carefully consider your options, and if you’re ready to move forward, give us a call!
CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
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