At some point, companies may take a look at their current visual branding and think "this doesn’t really reflect who we are anymore."
They may have hobbled along with a just-OK logo, but realized its shortcomings over time. Or maybe the company has changed, and its once-appropriate mark is aesthetically out of step with their current reality. It might be time for a re-brand.
Why do companies conduct a visual re-brand?
There are many reasons a company might decide to subtly tune or completely redesign their visual brand, including:
- Shifting demographics — maybe a company has expanded beyond its original users and now wants to reach a wider, or different audience.
- General tastes/trends — trends come and go, and it’s possible a company launched with a logo that’s since gone out of style (think horizontal lines of the ‘80s, or bubbly neon of the ‘90s, or the glossy, candy-like sheen or skeuomorphic cues of the Web 2.0 era).
- Different company direction — maybe the company has been acquired, or has itself acquired another company, or pivoted to face a new challenge, possibly with different competitors, and wants to look like it belongs in the new space.
To clarify, visual branding is more than just a logo. It can include typography, color, photography, iconography and patterns. That said, a logo is a tangible visual shorthand for a company in its simplest form and is usually a first step in a visual re-branding process (often coupled with typography and color).
A logo needs to do some pretty heavy lifting, and to create one correctly, all possible use cases need to be considered well in advance.
In short, a good logo is:
- Distinctive — A logo needs to stand out from others, especially within a specific industry.
- Appropriate — A logo should suit the company it identifies (e.g. a hot pink script logo with lots of playful flourishes probably isn’t appropriate for a bank, where trust and security might need to be visually conveyed).
- Flexible — A logo should work in a variety of contexts without falling apart, becoming illegible, etc.
- As simple as possible — A good logo, if seen enough times, should be something a child could draw from memory (think Target, Nike, Apple). This doesn’t mean a logo can’t have fancier, more embellished variations for when the occasion calls for it, but at its simplest, a logo should reduce well without turning to illegible mush. The old test was "Will it fax?" (Faxes were something we had in the 20th century, kids); the new test is "What does the app icon look like?”
Logo Flexibility (or Logo Versions)
Besides color and black-and-white variants, different aspect ratios should be considered. While a short, wide logo might make sense in the narrow strip at the top of a website navigation bar, there will likely be cases where a square (or even narrow and tall) variant will make more sense. That’s why both "portrait" and "landscape" variants are always a good idea (and in cases like an app icon, a variant with just a mark or symbol—decoupled from any text—makes the best use of available real estate).
Another consideration is animation, as well as possible responsive variants of a logo (whereby additional detail appears when real estate allows, much like responsive web design).
Fleshing out all possible versions of the logo in advance is crucial, so when new opportunities to display the logo present themselves, the heavy lifting has been done and the correct logo for the specific job has already been specified (in a style guide, one of the most important artifacts of a branding or re-branding exercise). This means specifying, at minimum, landscape and portrait logos in both color and black and white for screen use, and separately for print.
The whole process can be fraught, with lots of potential wrinkles. There may be equity in the existing brand (symbols, colors, etc.), which should always be considered when visually rebranding. Visuals are subjective, so there’s a good chance stakeholders won’t immediately agree on what "good" looks like. There may be an existing visual system with which the new logo needs to visually align. And revealing the new identity (across digital properties, signage, stationery, etc.) may merit a phased roll-out.
I’ll cover the logo creation process (intake, ideation, refinements), the use of a creative brief, and roll-out, in a future blog post.
If your company is thinking about a visual re-brand, contact NST as we’ve created everything from promotional logos for WD-40 Company and corporate logos for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and more.