We don’t want to overemphasize the importance of logos. They’re just logos, after all. The world’s full of organisations that succeed perfectly well with logos that are forgettable, weird or outright ugly. And having a fabulous logo is not an instant passport to success.

If you act with intelligence, integrity and consistency you’ll develop a ‘brand’. And whether you’re a person, a non-profit institution, a small organisation or a giant corporation, if the product or service you’re offering is helping people or making the world a better place, or is simply desirable or worthwhile, you could do almost anything with your logo and your brand will still work.

But what’s fun about logo design, and why it holds so much power for us, is that there’s something very primitive about it – tribal even. Many logos are just simple marks that aren’t much more evolved than hieroglyphics or marks on cave walls from millions of years ago. What makes them interesting is that over time they are invested with meaning.

If you take something like the iconic Nike swoosh, or the Apple apple or any symbol really that represents a big company, a lot of what we see in that logo isn’t happening within the logo. It happens in our own minds. This type of telegraphic communication is inherently participatory and personal. You’re taking all the experience you had with that product, or with that institution, or whoever that symbol represents, and you’re superimposing it onto what are often very simple shapes that have no inherent meaning at all.

For us in brand land, it’s a delicate thing to manipulate, and very hard to talk about with clients sometimes, because it’s confusing – people can interpret things in different ways.

A client discussion might go like this. Clients want a new logo. We show them the new logo. And they say: “Well, that doesn’t mean anything. I want a logo like Nike’s.” ... or "Coca-Cola's" or "Apple's" or ... you get the point.

But get this: when the people at Nike were shown their logo in 1971, they wanted a logo like Adidas. That’s what they wanted. They wanted three stripes. And instead, they couldn’t have three stripes, because another shoe company had three stripes. But there was something they could have. It’s this thing that looks like a chubby check mark. And they were like, “Oh, well I guess we’ll use that then…”

Today people think that the Nike logo means something. Back then, it didn’t really mean anything. But over time, Nike supported it to build the powerful meanings it has today. (FYI: Nike’s first print ad in 1976 didn’t even feature the product, but relied on an emotional connection to sports.) We’re not just talking about Nike advertising, or the campfire stories for their employees. It’s about the experience you, or I, or anyone else, had wearing those shoes, doing something athletic and taking some satisfaction out of it and coming to associate it in some way vague way with that particular brand – there’s a magic and a joy in it that makes it fun.

So.... where does that leave you when developing your brand?

Whenever we start the process of brand building, we like to start simply. We talk through your challenges. We ask lots of questions. And then we go away and think about what you’ve told us and do our own research. Once we have a strategy in mind, we come back to you with the top actions that will make the biggest difference to your brand right now. Ultimately, our job is to find what makes you amazing, and then give people a reason to love what you do.

If you need help creating meaningful experiences, and building the best kind of emotional connections for your customers, call us, or drop us a line. We'd love to hear from you.


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