A disastrous new logo can undermine a rebrand process. Case in point: the recent GAP debacle, and the new controversy over Prince William County, Virginia’s new and rather corporate mark (both GAP and PW design fails included a navy blue box–hmmm!) For what it deemed solely “technical” implementation of the input from several stakeholder focus groups, the county paid just $750—not enough to cover a full day of a designer’s time, let alone the critical strategic, research and “listening” work that goes into thoughtful mark development. Kinda reminds me of those scenes in the old Batman TV series when they would feed info into the Bat-computer and then out would pop the answer on a little card—“Holy logo redesign, Batman!”
So. How to create a better outcome?
Successful logo (re)design begins with an assessment of the values, culture, aspirations and mission of an organization or community. A great design should reflect these key components:
1. Respect For Your Past. One of the biggest hurdles in a redesign is respecting and incorporating the past while still looking to the future. And you need to decide if you want an entirely new mark or an updating of your current one. One of the complaints about the Prince William logo was that it didn’t take into account the county’s rich heritage and crest. Moving away from an historic crest or famous mark can be a big challenge. Sometimes it’s important to incorporate key colors or visual elements that can carry over to the new mark. When my high school alma mater commissioned a logo redesign, they maintained the original color and olive leaf from the old crest. The updated website includes a ghosted image of the crest.
There are many wonderful logo designers out there, but my colleagues at C&G Partners in New York @cgpartners are particularly great at respecting historic elements while developing a fresh design approach.
2. A Flexible Identity System for the Future. A mark is not static. It will appear in many different forms—from letterhead and websites to mobile apps and signage, and things you can’t even imagine right now. The mark design needs to take into account all of these iterations, and be designed so that it will work in all. One of my favorite new iterations of the Citibank mark is the logo for the new bicycle sharing program they are sponsoring in New York, cleverly called Citi-bike. In a less flexible world, executives might have balked at using the bank logo in this way, but it’s absolutely brilliant. It connects the brand with a green activity, and builds market share (you get discounts for your membership if you use a Citicard.)
3. A Lasting Impression. Your mark should encompass the best aspirations of your organizational identity—where you want to go, your vision for the world. Trends are common in this business–one year everyone wants red logos, another year, everyone is doing blue. The key to success will be a mark you can have for many years to come. Two critical components (out of many) in good design are attention to negative space and typography. In fact, some great logos are type-only!
And while the internet is filled with logo-on-a-budget options and crowdsourced design that claim to do all this for just a few hundred bucks, the reality is, the time spent delving into your organization for the best possible mark design will be money well spent.