So you’ve decided it’s time for a new logo. You’ve started to review some design concepts, and then something funny happens. You become lost. Designs start to look the same, you lose track of which designs you’ve changed and which you haven’t. It can even become hard to realize why you did or didn’t like a design in the first place. Why did this happen? Because, in a complex process like this, it’s easy to lose sight of very basic things – like what a logo is and isn’t supposed to do.
Always keep in mind that, at the end of the day, a logo is just another tool in your messaging toolbox. Now, that doesn’t mean that a logo isn’t important – far from it! Designing (or redesigning) brand identity is one of the most important processes a company or organization can undertake. I simply mean that, because the importance of logos is sometimes overstressed, it’s easy to forget that a logo is a tool like any other – with specific purposes and guidelines for success.
The secret to maintaining perspective on the purpose and function of a logo is to keep in mind the most important element in the brand identity equation – your audience. Like all of your messaging tools, your logo’s primary function is to help “tell your story” to your audience. Let’s look at our handy Messaging Pyramid to see where a logo fits in this process –
There it is – right at the top. Does that mean it’s the most important of all these tools? Not necessarily. This pyramid more sketches out where these tools fit in the process of telling your story, and how much of your story they’re supposed to tell.
For starters, let’s look at the logo’s location on this pyramid –
That “point” at the top is both literal and figurative. It’s literal in that it indicates that your logo is often at the tip – the very front – of messaging for your audiences. It’s usually the first thing they see, and many of your other messaging tools are affected by it – from the colors used on your website to the graphics used on your letterhead.
That is also a figurative “point” – it’s the “entry point” into your brand. It’s the “foyer” of your messaging. And, like a foyer, your logo can only hold so much. It’s a very delicate balance: it can’t try to say too much, or it will be too cumbersome for the timeframe in which it’s supposed to make an impact (just a second or so). It also can’t say to little (or be too vague), in that it won’t make an impact at all.
Your logo is supposed to relate on a gut level – encapsulating the very essence of what makes your company special. No more, no less. Anything less means you’ve got a pretty design that doesn’t really say anything about who you are. And trying to say anything more is the job of messaging tools further down the pyramid – your tagline, ad copy, and so on.
Revisiting this pyramid and these parameters can help you in your logo design journey. You’ll start to see which designs are “trying too hard”, and which are just design for design’s sake. Remember – if it’s not telling the right part of your story in the right way, it may be time to go back to the “brand identity drawing board”.