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Lessons to learn with logos

Glenda LeGendre Big

Do logos matter? I have had numerous opportunities to work with diverse organizations over the years to help them develop logos and logo identity systems to define, illustrate, and grow their brands. One memorable one was for Sinai Hospital. From a marketer’s perspective, there really wasn’t a logo to start from; rather there was brownish letterhead with an unmemorable typeface and a few medical photos that didn’t copy properly on a copier machine. Along with the CEO at the time and a good designer, we developed a bright blue and clean white look with a distinctive and bold font that said the name SINAI dramatically, proudly, and which was viewable from a distance in its diverse uses. A variation of that long-used logo persists today.

I also assisted a cosmetics company, a surgical center, a few law firms, and more recently, a university in developing strategic and diverse logos and theme lines. In each case, major constituents were involved but the ultimate choice was left to a few key decision makers. You can’t design well by committee, plus there is time and expense involved in the finished product. The logos also needed to have the right brand image, ease of viewing and replicating, and were anticipated to not go out of date quickly by following some design or color trend. For example, almost any logo with stripes in the alphabet letters are clearly 1980s remnants. Time for a change if that design trend was used.

Logo changes can be simple or complex. Black & Decker has had a commitment to redoing its logo once a decade. The brand is a strong one, so the change even became an anticipated consumer story, and each iteration of the logo reflected a more modern version of the company and its product vision. Xerox developed an entirely new identity system nine years ago that is still used successfully.

More than design

But it’s not just about design. There is clearly a major cost associated with changing the logo system for an international company — all print and other materials needed to be revised. Such companies as the specialized New York City-based Interbrand help large companies like Xerox figure this out, and they often suggest a regional rollout marketing strategy to save money and to work logically.

We mimicked this roll-out approach on a smaller scale for the university, because the logo system involved a name change and major re-branding. We began by meeting with all internal stakeholders to carefully anticipate print and signage needs well in advance of the name change. This team approach effectively enabled us to budget and use up stock — ordering less stationery, brochures etc., and to delay new signage. We were able to announce the new name cohesively with public relations flair along with a sophisticated and useful style guide that included a logo system, colors, fonts, and correct logo uses.

The university logo system was complex in that we also developed a complete identity for the 18+ sports teams and ran into a slight trademark brouhaha over an “S” design. Trademarks can clearly play a key role in developing, growing and protecting products and services, so your design team needs to have this awareness. Under Armour, the Ravens, and the Orioles are great local examples of firms that continue to protect their valued logos.

 ‘Social-friendly’

Developing a new logo design in this new marketing era adds additional layers of design needs. Will the design work well on social media as well as in print and signage uses? Locally based Abel Communications recently developed a new firm logo (a modern yet distinctive lower case letter “A”) that effectively meets those goals. Since Abel assists clients with social media campaigns, it was a goal of the agency to demonstrate its own social-friendly and recognizable logo for its own social pitches on Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Logos remain an important marketing brand investment, with increasing complexity in places to reach and effectively convey your organizational messages. Take time to develop and launch them. There’s more to logos than just design.

 

Glenda LeGendre is principal of Strategic Marketing and Communications and can be reached at glegendre@comcast.net


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