Once upon a time, I had a client starting up his first online company, and this is how the conversation went:(well, sort of. It was a while ago, but you get the idea.)
Client: All I need is a logo.
Me: okay let’s figure out what you need it FOR.
Client: I’m creating an online store. So all I need is the logo for the header and that’s it. Thanks! Invoice please?
Me: you sure? who is going to design everything else?
Client: what do you mean everything else? there’s nothing else to design. I’ll just put the products on the site with some slider images of the product and that’s all. We’ll market via social media, with an FB page, an Instagram community…It’s gonna be GREAT!
Me: Um. What are the slider images going to look like? What are they going to say? What’s in the background behind the products? What fonts are you going to use? What’s your FB cover image going to have in it? What colors are you going to use most? Who is going to make sure all the images look like they’re from the same company?
And that’s where I come in. This is the field called Branding. Not only do you need a logo, you need a whole PERSONALITY. And the logo is one teensy, weensy little piece OF that personality.
This is what goes into making the decisions that lead to your final “look”: Before touching mouse to photo, you ideally work with your marketer (or your educated graphic designer) and come up with a consistent brand message that you want projected throughout your materials. At this point in the process, that brand message does not include designs or images, just descriptions and a deep understanding of who your company is and what you want to accomplish for your customers. After lots of meetings and homework (more on that later), the designer learns all about your brand. For example, the designer will ask who your target audience is and what works for them. Where they are going to encounter your product. HOW are they going to interact with it?
You’ve ironed out the ideas. You can talk about your brand for two hours or one second without contradicting yourself. Congratulations, you’ve created your brand. Now your designer steps in to ask MORE questions to create your brand identity.
What colors and typefaces give the kind of message you want? What textures work? What is your target audience used to seeing? Great! Now that we hashed all that out, we can finally start the actual designing. We’re going to take all that talk and turn it into colors, shapes, textures, moods…and yes, also a logo. All these pieces together, when applied to things like ads, packaging, videos, convention booths, billboards, whatever, those are called your brand identity.
These are the kinds of decisions your designer will make: Is your target audience 16 year old girls? Your whole look has to be cool. I mean, super cool. And then you have to figure out what cool means anyway. What if you’re selling knitting supplies? Hmm, maybe dark and moody concrete backgrounds aren’t the way to go. And if you’re selling corduroy armchairs? Maybe not a motorcycle crew…unless you’re being ironic (and you have a carefully crafted, consistent message–which you planned with your aforesaid marketing team–that makes it all come together.) What if you’re marketing the latest in must-have gadgets on kickstarter? Can’t imagine colors from the 90’s and boring typefaces will convince anyone that you are ahead of the game.
On that note, since I brought up knitting, I feel compelled to share this knitting site with you:
The home page utilizes a turquoise knit texture and matching colorful images with muted rollover tones, accomplishing two things at once: this is fun, but it’s also crafty chic. The rollover colors repeat across the rest of the site, in images overflow with natural beige textures + muted colorful highlights. What’s amazing about this site is that the images are carefully tuned to lean towards warm and fuzzy hipster rather than out-of-fashion grandma. The text is a round yet modern typeface with that occasional turquoise splash, maintaining that young-yet-warm feeling. The site icons are crisp and sparse, not sentimental.
Here’s another site that is so much more than its logo. And it made me laugh. The “big city” background, the ticker tape of monetary successes…big, bold. LOUD. Newsworthy. (A ticker tape!) They’re talking to you from everywhere. In a video front and center; In a little chat window, making it super easy to talk to them, too. Lawyers, talking confidently. Perfect! But all this stuff is organized, not messy. And that tells me good things about them as lawyers as well. But wait, there’s more. See all that blue? Blue is professional, capable, stable…and they sure use blue with a vengeance. And they use it in the interior pages for the sidebar menu, which is so clean and well organized. Quiet. It’s the reliable and useful element I need it to be. I want these confident, professional lawyers on my side.
And NOW it’s time to discuss the logo. Here’s the secret: your logo is really a shorthand reference to your brand identity. (Now you know!) How can anyone create a logo without first having a thorough understanding of their brand?? So it’s not a little picture that looks cute next to the name of your company. It’s an integrated part of your brand. Brand first, logo second.
Sure enough, on these above sites, the logo is at one with the brand.
For LoveKnitting, the handwritten + rounded text turquoise logo carries along the warm and fuzzy yet hipster chic feel. Yuppies who bike to work at their open-plan startup offices will be searching there. And for the personal injury lawyers logo? It’s a strong, old-school typeface–because these are lawyers with a lot of experience–with a shimmery city image embedded in it that gives it a little bling. And bling is what I want because, just as the ticker tape advertises, it’s about the money here.
Really, the brand you create is based on one simple question: “How will our consumers FEEL when they see our stuff?” so no matter what part of your brand identity consumers see, you want them to always feel the same. And the question may be simple, but the answer is not.