This article originally appeared on Creative Bloq.
“The logo is dead.” If you’re a designer, you may have heard this recently (or said it yourself in a jaded rant to uninterested friends or coworkers). It’s a notion that’s gaining traction. Those responsible for developing brand logos are starting to wonder if they matter as much as they used to.
And with good reason. Traditionally, logos have been static symbols or logotypes that were created by corporations as the embodiment of their brands. Think of Saul Bass’ AT&T globe or Paul Rand’s IBM logotype. Logos back then played an enormous role. You could argue they were the brand.
Visual identity is no longer logo-centric
But in today’s world, logos are not brands. While they may still be a central element, they are part of a larger picture. Brands today are comprised of many unique identifying elements (colour, typography, graphic elements, photography, tone of voice, messaging, advertising, packaging, signage, retail design, sound design, jingles, mascots, catchphrases… the list goes on) coming together to tell a cohesive story and create a cohesive experience.
Saul Bass designed the sixth AT&T Bell System logo
Maybe logos are no longer the entire brand, but they still play a critical role in the brand’s visual identity. Even with all of the other elements, brands simply wouldn’t exist without some kind of logo to tie everything together.
And now, brand logos can do more than ever before. As technology advances, brands are evolving in the digital space, and logos no longer have to be static and lifeless. Brands like MIT, Aol, Nordkyn, The City of Melbourne, the Brooklyn Museum, and the New Museum are starting to push the boundaries of what a logo can do and how they live within the experience. They can continuously change, flex, generate, and personalize.
Brands like The City of Melbourne are starting to push the boundaries of what a logo can do
Logos are part of the brand experience
So are logos really dead? Gone? Extinct? I’d say no — their role and function have just evolved. That’s right, everyone, you can rejoice; the logo is very much alive!
And it turns out, people are really passionate about them.. With super-fun things like the Internet and social media, those passions and opinions (and hilarious memes) have become louder than ever before. And brands are listening.
In cases like the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, Gap, and the University of California, we’ve not only learned how much passion people have for the logos in their life, but we’ve also learned how much influence they can have over their existence. Changing a logo on its own without really considering the holistic experience can lead to some serious consequences.
The Presidential contender’s new logo design generated quite a stir
So the logo is alive and people typically hate it when you mess with them. Does that mean they can never change? Not at all. But in order to find success, there are some things that should be considered…
1. Changing your logo: do it for the right reasons.
People change logos all the time for things like leadership changes (new boss, new logo, why not?), trying to chase a fad (make it look like web 2.0!), or thinking a new logo will solve a larger or more systemic problem. These are stupid reasons.
Brand logos should change when they are no longer relevant to who a company is and what they are evolving to be; there has been a significant merger, acquisition or change in strategic direction; or the logo was drawn by hand in 1950 and is illegible on a mobile device.
2. Know your audience.
Why are people passionate about your brand? Understand it. Embrace it. Build upon it. If your history has equity, don’t throw it all away for something flashy. When a brand sacrifices what we remember, it can run the risk of becoming a brand we can easily forget.
3. Get professional help. Seriously.
Work with people who know what they are doing. Build a brand strategy with brand strategists and design with real designers. Don’t think you can do it in-house because Greg from accounting knows Adobe Illustrator (or even worse, your CEO — looking at you, Yahoo!). If you want people to take your brand seriously, you should take your visual brand identity seriously.
4. Don’t listen to your committee. Or better yet, don’t have one to begin with
Great brands come from visionaries. People like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos had a vision and delivered on it. Great brands do not come from 40 middle managers giving pointless feedback in order to feel like they have participated. Have a point of view, give clear direction, and get rid of redundancy.
5. Tell the right story
If a logo that has been in our lives for the last 50 years is changing, it might be a good idea to tell people why. Whether it’s a launch campaign, a microsite, a video, an event, a flash mob, whatever… if you want people to support your change (and thus diminish any backlash), be clear about what you are doing and why.
6. Stick to your guns
If one universal truth exists in logo design and visual identity today, it’s this: the Internet will have something to say about it. Maybe it will be good, maybe it will bad, or maybe it will just be a tumblr dedicated to how the new logo looks like genitalia. It will have its say.
But more likely than not, the brands that changed their logo for the right reasons – with a just cause, with a clear vision, with their audience in mind, and with a strong story – should believe in their decision and ride it out. In the end, people just may come around and embrace it, and your new logo won’t have to die.
Mike Preston is an associate creative director at Siegel+Gale.