Logos are back in the spotlight. Creative Review is on a quest to find the creative industry’s favourite logos while more and more voices are raised to declare the demise of the logo; even D&AD is asking ‘Is the logo dead?’
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, graphic designers working in the field of corporate identity (‘branding’ is now the favoured term) were labelled ‘logo-louts’ by an often hostile and uncomprehending media who accused designers of exploiting clients and extracting from them huge fees for what journalists saw as trivial and easy work.
In the intervening years, branding has gained more respect; it has evolved into a subject worthy of academic study and research and its proven effectiveness and value are better understood.
But, today, it has become fashionable again to knock the logo; and now the ‘logo-louts’ are frequently found to be those people working in the branding and design industries. We are told that branding is no longer about logos and design – it is about everything else; it is about corporate behaviour, customer service, product design, product performance, environments, customer communities, consumer experience, consumer power, integrated communications. Of course it is; it always has been. Nobody I have met who has worked in branding over the past 30 years has ever claimed that branding is all about logos. But, there is no doubt that the logo has played, and continues to play, a central role in brand building.
As products become more alike – take, for example, consumer electronics – it is the logo that signals the differences; when products are invisible (as petrol and financial services are) it is the visual identity that makes them tangible. Not just the logo in isolation but the logo as the core element in an integrated visual identity and communications system.
To begin to appreciate the value of logos, imagine the world without them. What would Coca-Cola be without its wordmark and visual identity – just another sweet brown fizzy drink? Imagine Nike without its tick (all sports products look alike), and imagine Apple without its cool livery.
Brands aren’t just useful identifiers; they are also highly valuable assets. In 2010 the Coca-Cola brand was valued at 33 million US dollars. That’s just the brand: the name, the logo, the identity system and the associated goodwill; if you wanted to buy the tangible assets too: the factories and other physical assets, you would have to pay a great deal more.
And, brands aren’t just valuable assets; they also add value. A plain baseball cap can be bought for as little as £1; add a Nike tick to the same product and it will cost you £10.
Not only do brands add value, they also give good value. As product life-cycles become shorter and products come and go, the brand endures and provides continuity; it is a platform on which to launch new products, it reassures customers and it provides a guarantee of quality. And, at the heart of the brand promise is the logo.
By all means give credit to the researchers, analysts, strategy developers, marketers, behavioural scientists, advertising and PR specialists, webmasters and viral communicators, but please don’t underplay the role of brand designers. Corporate design isn’t easy; it takes a great deal of talent and hard work to create a branding system that will last. So, let us stop knocking logos and logo designers. Let us celebrate the essential contribution of the designer to the building of brands. Let us be pro-logo rather than advocating no-logo.