Over the past few years, I have really put a lot of research focus into logos/identities and branding. When I was in school there seemed to be two terms that were kind of ethereal in nature. One was “white space”. It seemed like everyone talked about white space – but they didn’t really know what it was. The other was “branding”. We learned quite a bit about branding. But it seemed that even some of our professors didn’t quite understand what branding was. I’m sure they did – but maybe they had a hard time explaining it. … Or, conversely, maybe we had a hard time understanding it. In a funny way, even a couple of years out of school, designers seem to have a stronger opinion on what branding is. Unfortunately I find most definitions incredibly narrow minded. Typically they’re all about the visual aspect and, if they do think there is something more going on, they don’t understand their role or the real meaning behind it.
This article partly sheds light on it, but again, try not to read it with just the visual aspect or the just logo in mind. Yes, it’s based on how a logo best represents brand value. But I rarely talk about “logos” anymore. I always used “identity”. Because with an identity, or visual identity, there is much more going on than just an icon or a mark. To me it connects the visual aspects of the logo and visual branding to the non-visual aspects of a company or client. It becomes about their culture, their place in the market, in their community and speaks to their values. This is where a level of socially responsible design comes in. As a designer, how in agreement are you with the clients values and what they do? – True, we can’t turn down every client we don’t love. But it’s important to at least have the mindset.
People often say life is a journey. It’s a lame saying, I totally agree. But it’s also not about golden sunsets reflecting in sunglasses, driving classic convertibles with leather interiors, bare feet on beaches, terms like “wanderlust” and “explore” and “roam” and “kale chips”. – The journey of life is about making decisions. Sometimes hard, real life decisions. And then, sometimes these decisions aren’t emotionally draining, but they still require our attention. The designer/client relationship lives there. Our careers are a tapestry of those decisions, those errors and those successes. –
This is going to be a two part blog post. The following article isn’t mine (the base article is from the MITSloan Review). But, in an effort to make it a little less jargony and more understandable for those who don’t work in design or marketing, I’ve edited some of the content.
“Recent research finds that effective corporate logos can have a significant positive effect on customer commitment to a brand — and even on company performance.
Think about legendary brands such as McDonald’s, Apple, Aflac, Michelin and Starbucks, and one of the first spontaneous associations is often with the brand logo: the golden arches, bitten apple, Aflac duck, Michelin man or Starbucks mermaid. Red Bull’s two charging red bulls in front of a yellow sun differentiate it from numerous competing brands and signify the brand’s promise to provide energy.
Differentiating your brand from others is critical to business survival [or growth]. So is communicating the benefits of your brand. …We found that a logo can be an integrator of the marketing efforts of the brand, a reflector of such effort and the icon of what the brand means to its customers. In short, a good logo can be a synthesizer of a brand that is readily used by customers for identification, differentiation and positive associations.
Differentiating your brand from others is critical to business survival [or growth]. So is communicating the benefits of your brand.
[The research found that an visual identity/logo must be symbolic of the company’s values to be effective. The differentiating from it’s competitors is important, but contains no value if it does not represent the brand values.]
The goal of our research was to answer the following questions:
- Which important benefits can logos offer other than enhanced brand identification, and how can logos influence customers’ brand commitment and company performance?
- Which type of logo most effectively strengthens customer commitment and company performance?
- Can a logo promote the company’s growth? Specifically, do logos help brand extensions succeed?
A Point of Connection
Throughout history, logos have been an important part of cultural and religious rituals. Roman legions of the ancient Roman Republic proudly carried SPQR (for “the senate and the people of Rome”) standards. Under the Meiji constitution, no one but the Emperor of Japan was allowed to use the Chrysanthemum or Imperial Seal. The Jolly Roger flag (with skull and crossbones) that ship crews flew to identify themselves as pirates symbolized the pirates’ ferocity and willingness to fight until the bitter end.
As the visual representation of a brand, logos have the potential to communicate and reinforce a brand’s core values and principles, which we call its symbolic benefits. Logos thus play a critical role in serving as a point of connection between a company and its customers.
For example, Polo Ralph Lauren’s swinging polo horseman logo conveys the brand’s exclusive, casual-chic style, while the logo of Patagonia, Inc., featuring a mountain range against the background of the sky, helps the brand communicate its connection to the environment and free-spirited ruggedness. Nike Inc.’s swoosh logo visually communicates activity, flow and energy. Even the word “swoosh” stands for moving with or making a rushing sound. The tag line “Just Do It!” further reinforces Nike’s call for action. Apple Inc.’s logo, the bitten apple, in and of itself effectively communicates a company that is different and unique and does things its own way. It was a very unusual and radically different logo for a high-technology company. The U.S. Marine Corps logo of the eagle, globe and anchor strikes a chord with young people to become one of “the few and the proud.”
However, surprisingly few companies trade upon the opportunity that logos represent; most logos fall short in visually expressing a brand’s values and principles.
In our research, we found that logos are capable of communicating and underscoring a brand’s functional benefits. Consider Arm & Hammer’s logo, which clearly expresses the brand’s ability to get things done — be it in baking or in getting rid of odors in the refrigerator. Similarly, Swiss Army Knives’ bold, equilateral cross logo suggests quality and dependability, reinforcing the company’s Swiss craftsmanship and problem-solving capability in a way that makes consumers feel self-confident and helps them in their quest for self-reliance.
Logos thus play a critical role in serving as a point of connection between a company and its customers.
Or consider Glock’s stylized safe-action gun trigger logo that symbolizes the firm’s focus on firearms engineering, design and manufacturing quality. It gives consumers “confidence to live your life.” Brands that are able to create a sense of capable and efficacious self in customers are likely to be rewarded with deeper, more meaningful customer-brand relationships.
It is surprising how unappealing many logos are. Yet logos are capable of offering fun, aesthetic appeal and pleasure to consumers, which we call sensory benefits. For example, Aflac Inc.’s now-famous duck logo helps to create warm feelings toward an industry (insurance) generally perceived as rather cold and boring. Logos that are aesthetically pleasing or fun have a positive impact on customer relationships.”
The original article can be found here: