The logo is not enough.

So you have your logo and now you start marketing with it. No its not that simple. It needs support with a variety of content. Simply slapping your logo on everything is not enough. You need more.

I posted on Facebook recently a rebranding exercise by the Australian Open designed by Landor Australia which caused some divisive opinions as to whether it is suitable. There was no tennis racquet in site or silhouette showing tennis being played anywhere to be seen “what an outrage!” the critics cried out (well it seemed like they were saying that. Not in those words but you get the idea).

AO logo

There was no hint of what the logo was for or who. As a logo maker and brand creator, it was interesting to hear the opinions on the whole in regards to logo design and branding and how the public sees's it on a local, national and international level. Does the logo have the dubious task of all the heavy lifting in the marketing game? Is that all you need? A good logo? I say no. Heres why.

AO logo brand language

AO logo and banners

It got me thinking. Did the Australian Open new logo and branding get it right? Does it need a tennis racquet to truly work? Now in this instance, the mentioning of a tennis racquet isn't literal. What I mean by that is a graphic or symbol to show what the logo represents. Does it need to have some blatant depiction of a tennis activity to communicate to us? How sophisticated are our design palates? As a public how switched on are we? Do we really need it spelt out for us?

The short answer. No. Why? Because logos are devices that are used to represent a company. Since the advent of advertising and graphic design, support material has been used to add to the story of that device. It adds meaning and substance. It can change perception depending on how that material is used and it can inform, educate and sell. Here a few things I learnt while making logos and brand identities along the way.

When I struggle sometimes to catch that glimpse of reference in the work I think back to when I was sitting in a creative group of young students wanting to change the "commercial art " scene with breathtaking, innovative and thought provoking work listening to my lecturer talking about logo design and how "you must create a special mark or graphic that instantly communicates to people its intent and at the same time tell's a story, creates curiosity or encourages them to react in a relevant way about the business". What did that mean? I thought at that time it meant a business logo or mark should show what that business is about. It had the unenviable job of telling the story of that company in one cool graphic swoop. All explained and laid out in front of our eyes by this one mark.

Well, times changed and we got more daring and intricate with logo and brand identities. Early on in that decade, we were going to be more sophisticated turning Japanese. We didn't need to be wired for sound anymore and video was going to commit a crime and we were spun round and round like a record machine from the jarring pseudo art decoism and the fluorescent hit of colours and geometric shapes of the 80’s.

Swooshes appeared on our sports gear apparently with no need of an explanation, fruit symbols implied state of the art computing and well here we are in the so-called enlightened digital age without a pencil in sight to doodle on a paper napkin after a long lunch with clients thanks to Mr Keating. Remember no more tax right offs for business lunches? Even so, he would keep us hangin' on till the recession we had to have ended.

My point? It was an exciting time of change! We entered the digital age with a force! Design and advertising all streamlined on a Mac! Entire industries felt the impact. Processes were automated and we bought and listened to video and music in a different way. Did it change anything as far as how we design? Yes, it did. It empowered some individuals while taking jobs from others. Did we find a new way of logo making and brand creating? Was there a groundbreaking process on the development and philosophy behind creating a logo? No, the basic elements still remained title, mark, strap line. As basic as it gets. But the mediums and opportunities to appear in those new digital channels increased and became increasingly popular. Here was an opportunity to tell a story to suit a particular audience when and where we chose. So the need of suitable content.

A picture says a thousand words. The mark or graphic.
A good logo doesn't need to show a literal portrayal of the business, but yes when done properly it does help to add meaning to the story. Meaning can come from a clever abstract depiction of a service or object that relates to the company in a symbolic or pictorial way. This we call the graphic. Supporting that with the use of text, graphics and collateral material. Images and infographics, video or downloadable reports, product visuals in use and as hero shots. All add to the mix. In other words the telling of their story or a story. This doesn't happen overnight. It takes time to create and a little experimentation to find out what works well and what makes the most impact communicating in any media.

Here are some great examples that dont use a literal interpretation of what they do or who they are.

coke logo

Nothing, zero, zilch about drinking or liquid etc. Just a font treatment that is used over and over through the decades.


Apple Logo black
"Where's my computer dude!" (The fruit symbol reference above) Again no sign of a hardware symbol or graphic to be seen for gigabytes.

google 2015 logo detail

Just recently completed a brand refresh but no symbol, graphic or representation of who they are or what they do no matter how much I search. Just the text treatment refined and used with colour.

Ford logo 1929 1440x900
Another font driven logo. Sure there's a badge. But that could be for a button-making company. I don't see a wheel anywhere or a vehicle body or chassis in sight!

These logos have stood the test of time for a reason. And yes they are big companies with big budgets and they developed and evolved over time, but the one thing that gives them a strength, longevity and functionality is the recall that they evoke in their markets or audience. How? Lets see.

Support the logo with appropriate content. The graphic language.
The Australian Open example of a new logo and branding has all the elements of good graphic design and a solid logo. I think they got it right by creating support material in the form of images, patterns and special text treatments for example in the titles. Picking up the letter/symbol "O" and using it in the imagery reinforces the logo further and gives meaning to it.

AO branding language in title

This makes for a versatile brand language that could last for decades if nurtured and used carefully over time. Good branding collateral establishes the logo and gives it recall and tells a story. It makes it stand on its own and raises it above all the other visual noise and cuts through the mediocrity.

think different poster picasso

Here's a past example that might make you “think differently”. You're at the airport lounge (back in the day) heading to Las Vegas (where it stays) your flicking thru the latest Wired magazine and you see a full page black and white image of the artist Picasso clutching his forehead with a catchy headline and a minimal layout. You're intrigued, amused and delighted. What was all that about. What did it mean for you? The short answer as you scan the magazine ad is Apple Computers. So what happened there? The logo was supported by a story. It turned a negative perception into a positive one. A story you were engaged with for just a few short seconds.

This gives meaning to the logo or business mark. It adds to the story of that logo. All these bits of communication are tweaked to the finest pixel. The slightest kern of a font. To the millimetre of the layout. All this done by an expert or professional team in their field to maximise exposure and support the logo or mark with imagery and messages specifically researched, developed and produced to suit the medium they use. Whether a TV spot, radio ad, online or print. Ford, Apple, Nike and Google to name a few implicitly understand the value of that storytelling created by that individual, persons, or agency using those very skills honed over years and even decades on similar brands.

Use a professional. The brand management.
A logo takes time. It shouldn't be faddish, trendy or gimmicky. Remember this will represent your business and your livelihood for some time especially in the starting out period. Take no chances. It will reward you in time over and over again. Look for a professional logo designer with experience in developing a brand.

You know what they say, content is King. And this is where a good branding and company logo creator comes in. It's important to source a good brand manager or content creator that understands the importance of good branding and storytelling. There are a lot of logo designers out there and even 5 dollar solutions that give you ninety odd designs or more even a logo design app!. They are quick and easy and seem inexpensive and convenient. You get your logo and then what?

How do you use that logo and its assets? Does it have a comprehensive variety of brand assets to communicate and inspire people about your brand? Find top Graphic Designers or Art Directors that can design a logo online, create memorable content and apply it to all mediums. Print and online. Remember first impressions always count. It only takes a few seconds and we switch on or off just like that. Now, I wish I could do that with creativity.


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