Logo or Lo-gone?


After suffering a rough year in 2010, filled with several announcements of its demise, the humble logo is still here and it’s still as vital as ever.

To give a little context, three weeks ago the president of GAP’s North American division resigned after 24 years of service. Her decision to do so has been strongly linked to the failure of the company’s attempt to rebrand in October last year. A relatively low-key release method (simply updating the logo on the website) soon turned into a media storm within the design and marketing community, not to mention the uproar from loyal customers who placed so much value in the previous mark. Countless blog posts, news articles and even a fake twitter account for the logo itself (with followers in their thousands) popped up over the ensuing days to voice their negative opinions, leading to a rather scrappy reversal from GAP. They even flip-flopped around the idea of ‘crowdsourcing’ a new logo – that is – to open up the rebrand as a kind of competition for loyal fans and budding design students alike. Needless to say, that didn’t go down well at all – doing no favours for Gap’s reputation as a strong-minded, professional outfit. Soon enough, the simple, understated if not slightly dated original logo was reinstated. And while it is merely media speculation that this eventually led to Marka Hansen’s resignation, it certainly pointed out just how influential a simple logo can be in shaping the reputation of a brand – as well as how much publicity can be generated from such a change.

This then led to several ‘logos are dead’ articles, some from highly reputable publications and agencies. This perhaps gave new life to the discussion that arose earlier in the year surrounding the idea that the logo-as-a-symbol is dead, and that wordmarks alone are the way forward in the internet age. That particular discussion may not have applied directly to the GAP situation, but both certainly contributed to the rather defamatory year the humble logo suffered.

If anything though, the only thing it proved is that both designers and the public DO care about logos. Most of the time, the typical ‘logo funeral’ article is a) written with a strict agenda to sell some ‘fresh’ new social media service, or b) written only to allow the author to triumphantly say ‘I told you so,’ when the apparent logo apocalypse is finally upon us.

In its simplest form, a logo is a symbol designed to demonstrate what a company does, whilst differentiating it from other companies who do the same thing. It is the first impression your company will have on a customer or client. Often a customer sees it before they experience the brand in any capacity, so it is important that it gives a strong, immediate impression. This doesn’t mean it needs to be an advertisement of your services, but it does need to effectively represent your company’s personality – if your logo does this well – then your customer is more likely to connect it with the experience they have with your company later on.

It’s important to remember that we can’t all be Apple, Nike or McDonald’s and rely on a symbol for instant brand recognition; this is something that must be earned over time.

There is an argument that because Google is such a huge force now, a symbol is no longer relevant, and that words alone must rule the marketing landscape. It is hard to deny that search engines have had an effect, though the power of a strong brand is undeniable once you get past the search engine listing and onto a company website. And we mustn’t forget how the internet was once free of marketing altogether, so as search engines develop we will no doubt see more and more visual elements coming into play.

Already the logo has found new importance in the worlds of twitter and most web browser tabs, where a small square space is all the room you get to implant your first impression. If your logo can stand out from the crowd within a 73×73 pixel square, then it’s safe to say you’re doing something right.

The logo is only a small part of your brand as a whole, and along with literature, marketing, solid customer service and even the latest social media trends, it helps to form the overall image of your company, and ultimately defines it. It has never been “alive” in the sense that it will sell your product or service simply by looking pretty, but we humans are visual creatures, and a good logo will remain in the mind of the customer long after the experience is over.

So, Logo or Lo-gone? Why not add your thoughts and comments to the debate.

Harris » Logo or Lo-gone?