Brands, Logos, and What It’s All About
“When we work with clients to develop a new brand, we want to get know what the brand really means to people.”
People often ask me if I can help them with their brand. “Yes,” I usually say. “Depending on what you are talking about!”
This happens because it is easy to confuse a brand with its logo. Too many times, a client wanting a brand really only wants a logo. They probably also want a brand and all of its components, but they are not sure how to articulate it.
But a logo alone is not a brand – it is only the visible signpost pointing it out. A brand is complete sensory and emotional experience. It is so much more than just a few marks on paper that comprise a logo. When we see a swoosh or the Golden Arches, we know the brands behind them. The logos serve to remind us their meanings.
A brand is like a friend. When we meet someone for the first time, we see their face (their logo) and we hear their name, but maybe we do not know anything more about them. Later, when we get to know them, hear their stories, and understand them better, then we become friends. As friends, seeing their faces begins to mean a lot more than it did that first time. It reminds of all the reasons we are friends. It gives us a warm feeling inside. Has the face changed? No, what has changed is our understanding of who the person is behind the face. Now the face reminds us of their stories and how we met.
A logo works in the same way. A logo can be anything. It can be a literal representation of the product (like a typewriter as a logo for a writer), or it can be a symbol, like the horse and carriage for Hermès. The logo for Starbucks is a two-tailed mermaid. How many mermaids do we know who drink coffee? And an apple, before Steve Jobs, was just a piece of fruit.
The process of branding is all about conferring meaning on a product – and the logo is instrumental for that. When we work with clients to develop a new brand, we want to get know what the brand really should mean to people. Once this is established, then we can think about what kind of sign or symbol or design might evoke that meaning the best.
The best logos are easy to remember and simple. There is no sign or symbol that can hold all of the meaning of a brand all by itself, but a good logo will make us remember how we feel about a brand. Those feelings are developed though storytelling and experience. So when we help design a logo, we are thinking of all of those things as well.
Think again about the new friend. Her face does not change from one time to the next that you see her, but each time you learn more about her until one day, just thinking of her face can make you happy.
And that smile says that the brand has succeeded!