Welcome to part 6. Last time I talked about pushing yourself too hard when trying to get your startup going. This time, I’m going to take a detour and talk a bit about branding and logos.
As you may know, I’ve had a “hobby” company for decades and have been producing shareware, utilities, and minor apps mostly for myself. I had a logo designed (a newt wearing glasses) back when I was doing some Apple Newton MessagePad development. Unfortunately, I never received the original model of the newt, and have had to “make do” with the original graphic and photographs.
As part of my startup efforts, I decided to have the logo redone and updated. Not having a ton of money to invest, I decided to go the crowdsourcing route and investigated various design sites online, settling on DesignCrowd (http://web.designcrowd.com). The other reason for exploring crowdsourced design site was that I felt I wouldn’t be limited to a single artist or style.
If you’re a large corporation, you may be avoiding crowdsourcing for various reasons. Maybe you like to micromanage and control. Crowdsourcing allows you to provide and get feedback from both the artists and your own teams. Maybe you think crowdsourcing is a waste of money and of poor quality. It’s probably cheaper than doing it in-house, given the salaries you have to pay for your design teams. True you may get some poor quality submissions along the way (I got a couple I wasn’t thrilled by), but there is no commitment to buy or spend money if you don’t like any of the designs. You can’t really do that in-house. Salaries are salaries, you can’t avoid paying them. Maybe your designs are proprietary. All of the sites I investigated had privacy and ownership clauses in their agreements. Or maybe you like working with a marketing design firm. It will cost you more and you are pretty much working in a single environment. With crowdsourcing the designs you get can be as varied as you want and they come in to you in parallel rather than being “presented” one at a time–at no cost. You don’t pay for design work you don’t like.
I’m not saying crowdsourcing design is for everyone. It’s not. But I would definitely recommend not dismissing it out of hand.
So, I now have a new logo or brand image. Now what? Why did I choose to get the redesign done now? After all, I don’t have a real company at this point. I’m not incorporated? I’m still working on a business model and plan. Why now?
First of all, I’m trying to build a professional business image as well as a startup. I have websites, I have blogs, I already have a presence. But now that it’s not a hobby, the earlier designs are a detriment to that image. That’s why.
Here are a few of my thoughts on branding.It’s your corporate identity and the style reflects your company’s values and culture. Compare logos such as Apple’s, IBM’s, and Airbnb’s. Each is unique and easily distinguishable, and has a different style. Luckily, mine has been unique from day one, and I’ve gotten various comments on how “cool” it was.
A lot of experts claim a logo needs to be consistent across everything you do to be easily distinguishable. I’m not sure who made this rule. I agree, it may be more easily identifiable if every apple is identical. But, the apple logo has changed over the years. It’s still uniquely Apple. Why can’t a logo change based on its context? That’s going to be my approach. No, I’m not saying Apple should have a logo that has 2 bites in some cases and 1 in others. What I am saying is that, it makes more sense to adjust the text and color based on context. After all, different contexts have different moods. A product that is a game has a different context than a spreadsheet. A game context, and its company logo, needs to reflect fun. A spreadsheet, and its company logo, needs to reflect business–unless its a fun spreadsheet.
So what can you change and still maintain your corporate identity? To be identifiable, you need to maintain the core shape. In Apple’s case, it’s the apple. In IBM’s its the sliced lettering. In Airbnb’s it’s the puffy cloud shape of the lettering. If your logo is your lettering (think Coca-Cola), then you can’t do much apart from change color. If your logo is something like the apple, then you have more flexibility with the text and colors that surround your logo. You always have the option to play with size and positioning as well.
“Blasphemy!”, I hear. “We don’t do things that way.” Logos change over time, and logos evolve. Even the meaning of the word “logo” has evolved. It’s origin is the word “logotype”, where a “logo” was a piece of physical type that had two or more uncombined letters–a syllable. It had nothing to do with images.
Uniqueness counts for something even within a logo’s usage.
So, in my logo, the newt with glasses is the uniquely identifiable element. It’s color, and associated text will change.
Here is an original version of the VisualNewt logo. Even back then, I was using context as a key differentiator.
Think different, and if you don’t like my approach, at least don’t brand me.
The Origin of Branding: http://www.iuriel.com/brand-management/the-origin-of-branding/
All references to company names, and their associated logos are owned by the respective companies and are used for illustrative purposes only.