The return to the visual was inevitable, really. Modern media demands it.
Communication as pictograms means we have come full circle — a return to a day when images provide the best way to satisfy the insatiable “need to know” while on the fly. We don’t catch our info while fleeing from woolly mammoths anymore. Instead, our big, hairy, audacious stressor is modern culture itself.
Words are important, but pictures say so much more when skimming the social streams and checking in with the myriad of digital devices at our fingertips. Coupled with the need to “tell a story” in order to engage and capture the imagination of our audiences, you can see why the visual has risen to such prominence in today’s business communications, digital platforms and overall marketing efforts.
“90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text.” ~ Source: 3M
More than ever, communications need to be crisp and clear — quickly and effectively repurposing themselves across an almost infinite array of media and digital devices, all with different screen sizes and technical requirements — changing on an almost daily basis. Even getting just a few words working in all these different contexts can be a challenge, but a simple visual or icon will work for them all.
Restroom symbols are what they are because "ya gotta go when ya gotta go” and nothing will get you where you gotta go quicker. Same with modern media.
Yet, with all this simplification of ideas down to visuals, are we compromising depth of understanding for practical convenience? Are we forever stuck in a type of Plato's cave where all we ever see are shadows rather than true meaning? Can we stop for just a second and contemplate this notion? Please?
Thoughts as visuals. Every social media redesign makes the pictures bigger. Every logo redesign seems to bring us closer to the purity of a basic circle, square or triangle. It is part of the natural progression from complexity to simplicity. Our modern culture demands it, our overloaded brains require it, and science proves it.
You can choose to resist this reality or accept it, but you can’t deny that our world has changed and our communications have changed with it. We interact with content differently now. Or is it really just a return to the way things used to be?
If you don’t adapt and move your communications strategy towards the visual, you run the real risk of going unnoticed and unheard. You and your business will basically be rendered invisible.
The choice is yours. Fight or flight.
Photo of cave drawing from the Lascauex Cave, France.
Businesses and solopreneurs sometimes have difficulty justifying the expense of hiring a professional branding and design pro. In other words, “What am I going to get for my money that I can’t get done on the cheap somewhere else?”
These types of questions are often asked by people either new to marketing, or those debating whether other priorities should take precedence in their spending budget. Even if they are the ones proactively seeking out these specific types of services, many still require convincing that a smart branding, design and communications program is worth the dollars they’ll be spending — and that it is an investment with countless dividends.
When prospective clients ask me what they’ll be getting for their investment in professional branding and design, I can answer in many different ways, but sometimes I think it best to tell them what they WON’T be getting:
1. A website that hurts the eyes, the brain and your business
People like to fly when they’re online — they zip from one page to the next, from news to entertainment, from Facebook to Twitter, around the world and back. When they land on your site, they will not be intrigued by a mess reminiscent of what two year olds leave on their bibs. Not only won’t they bother navigating past the home page, which is likely to be a masochistic exercise in search for something that will only leave them frustrated, but your crowded, ugly, chaotic website will convince people to make another one of those split-second clicks — to your competitor’s website.
2. A media kit that bursts at the seams with odd-sized materials that don’t match
Fitting that body into jeans three sizes too small may work in certain parts of town, but not when you are trying to convince somebody to do business with you. My son comes home from school with a book bag that looks like a sack full of dirty laundry, but he’s not going on client meetings with it. Not yet, anyway. And if he does, we’ll have to have a talk.
3. A logo that is a diagram, a mission statement, and ten years of strategy all rolled into one
A logo that tries to “say it all” and put every little thing into that one little graphic is never going to say anything. What it will say is that you have no idea what you’re doing, and no business wants to communicate that. Leave the laundry list of services and detailed illustrations to your brochure — you know, the one that doesn’t look like the one in #4.
4. A brochure that confuses, obscures and begs for the trash bin
People’s offices already have a lot of clutter. Your brochure comprised of all your best Word docs set in eight different fonts with fuzzy screen captures for graphic blandishment may get YOU excited, but everyone else will have a different reaction. Trust me on this.
5. A social media page that screams “DISENGAGE FROM ME” rather than engage with me
You see them everywhere — even from those you think should know better, which baffles me. I’m not even talking about the eggs and empty profile silhouettes — I mean the blurry little portraits, logos that look like they’ve been photocopied twenty times and bios full of hashtags and exclamations that make you cringe. That stuff just sends people for the hills. And those busy, confusing, garish visuals used for backgrounds and header images that would make Times Square laugh at you? Oh my.
6. A web banner that looks like one of those crass supermarket ads
Unfortunately, these tend to be the norm rather than the exception. Yelling “BUY ME NOW!” was supposed to have gone out a few years ago. Too bad so many businesses persist with this worn out tactic of trying to attract eyeballs and clicks. I tend to look the other way, how about you?
7. A newsletter that is tossed as soon as it is seen
This goes for about 95% of the newsletters out there: a flimsy page or two, crammed with small text, blurry photos and tired clip art. You may be enamored with your content and that you figured out how to create it “all by yourself” in Word or PowerPoint, but nobody else gives a rat’s ass what you learned on a rainy Saturday afternoon. You saved a few bucks, but your business will pay the price because the only thing you are influencing is a poor reflection on your business.
8. A business card that never leaves the dark recesses of somebody’s pocket, unless to dispose of a piece of gum
When I’m handed a business card on thin, crappy stock with an irrelevant stock image and ugly type, guess what I think of them and their business? “Oh, this is a person with weak skills, bad taste and not much respect for themselves or their business.” Be honest, you know you do it too.
9. An email campaign that doesn’t make it past my ever-increasingly quick-scrolling preview pane
Most people already sigh a giant “UGH!” at the amount of emails they receive every day. Throw in yet another overly promotional, ugly looking email with lots of big fonts and sparkly, futuristic 3-D images that look like they’re from some low-brow sci-fi movie from the ’70s and… well, good luck with that.
10. A PowerPoint that goes on, and on, and on, and on, and… *snore*
Not sure if you’ve seen many of these because you were probably fast asleep, but… you have certainly suffered through them. Repeating every word you are saying and putting up every piece of data you can for “graphic interest” kind of defeats your reason for being there in the first place, doesn’t it? Redundancy and boring your audience to tears is not an effective marketing strategy.
11. A web landing page that makes you sorry for landing there
Long, tedious forms with lots of asterisks that require you to give a lot of personal information are deal breakers. Your intention to capture prospects just turned into the opposite — they will leave and may never click on one of your links ever again.
12. An e-book that looks like that lame school paper you once whipped out the day it was due
This isn’t school anymore — this is business — and crunching to crank out something mediocre just because you can is supposed to be ancient history now. So why do so many e-books look like they were created under the same duress and lack of enthusiasm you had for that boring sociology class you once had? This is your business we’re talking about and doesn’t it deserve a little more care and professionalism? Of course it does!
Remember what your mother once told you: “You only have one chance to make a good first impression.” Usually all it takes is some clean underwear, brushing your teeth, flashing a winning smile and you’re golden. Sometimes it takes a little more.
And oh yeah, even if you have the skills to create some of these things yourself, you need to be a cut above the rest if you really want to make an impression in this hyper-competitive world. Hiring a pro is well worth the investment, and could very well be the difference between success and failure.
So… what terrible, awful, dreadful things will you not be giving your clients? And if you are the client, I hope you appreciate what you won’t be getting from re:DESIGN.
We believe a big key to winning in today’s business world is a smart, integrated approach to marketing and communications. In order to make an impression in these busy, distracted times, design can be the differentiator. Sure, your image will be leaps ahead of the others — but your messages will also be fine-tuned and cohesive; your communications will be clear and user-friendly; but most importantly, they will be powerfully integrated together!
re:DESIGN is excited to share a few exciting projects that we believe do just that, as well as earning us three awards in a national design competition, The American Graphic Design Awards sponsored by Graphic Design USA.
What is re:DESIGN?
re:DESIGN is a boutique agency that specializes in strategic design, branding, social media, and communications — bringing standout design to our clients so their businesses rise above the competition.
We excel at helping companies and professionals achieve special things through smart strategies and sharp, award-winning design that gets noticed while delivering a clear, convincing message. From custom logos to comprehensive branding and cohesive communications strategies, re:DESIGN reenergizes businesses by creating integrated programs throughout all of today’s media touchpoints: from digital to print to experiential.
What are the American Graphic Design Awards?
The American Graphic Design Awards is the biggest and broadest of the three national design competitions sponsored by Graphic Design USA for nearly five decades. It honors outstanding creative work of all kinds and across all media, and is open to advertising agencies, graphic design firms, corporations, institutions, publishers and more. There were more than 8,000 entries and of these, only a highly selective 15% are recognized as winners with an Awards Certificate of Excellence.
We are proud to share a little peak into these three unique award-winning projects, representing three completely different types of projects and media: logo/branding design, website/mobile design and an exquisitely designed print brochure.
Logo/Branding — My Book Club
This is a classic example of a logo that is deceptively simple yet complex in its execution. The witty design effectively sums up the brand at a quick glance, conveying its personality — and all through the use of type. It was designed to work as well online as it does offline, and even at the smallest of sizes.
“Your logo symbolizes all that is your company, product, service or event. It is also the ‘handshake’ for when you can’t be there in person, so it is vital for a business to get the logo right from the very beginning.” ~ Paul Biedermann
, 12 Most Essential Ingredients for an Exceptional Logo
Website/Mobile — The Dorsey Group
A comprehensive redesign of a corporate web and mobile presence that was also bound up with a brand refresh that infused energy and new life into this company. With smart, strategic design and focused attention to detail, the site is engaging and easy to navigate while the custom mobile landing pages offer easy access while on-the-go.
QR codes were also utilized, linking print communications to these other digital communications, creating a cohesive, integrated brand experience no matter the touch point: viewing a website at work, checking a mobile device at a conference, or reading a print piece at home.
Print — McGraw-Hill Construction Outlook
This is a flagship publication for this business and the most highly respected economic forecast in the construction industry which includes detailed analysis, market research and industry trends. This exquisitely designed and printed communication is a valued resource that analysts and industry professionals depend on for timely information every year, culminating in an annual conference in Washington D.C.
Distilling complex information down into engaging, user-friendly experiences that communicate clearly and powerfully is something we excel at. re:DESIGN is proud to have consistently won awards for this report’s design and communications excellence, year after year for over a decade.Looking ahead
While it is an honor to receive such accolades, we are not ones to rest on our laurels — it’s literally back to the virtual drawing board as we continue looking forward. These are exciting times, but we believe the key is not to focus only on digital, social media, or any other flavor of the month — but rather to bring them all together in a powerful, integrated way that surrounds your particular market at every touch point, including print.
To our online community as well as our families and friends: thank you for the support — you are appreciated. We are excited for the future and all that it brings for re:DESIGN! What can we do for you?Read the Press Release Like us on Facebook!
Take a look at more of the logos we’ve designed
And here are more of our branding and websites
All images copyright © 2012 Paul Biedermann, re:DESIGN.
What is a personal brand
It is you. Your story. This intimate story is portrayed via an overall message that weaves throughout your communications and social media platforms.
Just as major consumer brands have well-known, universally recognized images, individuals can have them too. But more than just a mere surface image, it is important to have a deeper story
too. This serves as the backbone for all you are about, who you are and why you do what you do. How successful you are in telling your story will determine how deeply it resonates with your audience and will ultimately determine the success of your brand. When you are first learning about social media, you are usually unaware that you are creating an online persona for yourself with each post, status update and tweet. It is all experimental at this point as you learn how to navigate the various mediums.
The essential element in creating your personal brand is to be authentic
. ee cummings said, “it takes courage to grow up and be who you are.” Don’t copy someone else’s style: be yourself! Being an imitation of the most fabulous thing imaginable is still just an imitation, and people catch on to this behavior very quickly. Consider your avatar to be your logo: keep it fresh and real.Be outstanding
Each person has unique qualities and gifts
that make them special. Find yours and amplify them. If you are hesitant about what image you are projecting, find interesting blogs or links to share that fit within your strategy and build up your confidence as you go. Pay attention to what people “like” or retweet; figure out where you are connecting with your followers and build on that. Above all, please be interesting! You may start with a little kindling and end up with a big bonfire if you create the proper base.Consistency is key
If your goal is to be viewed as a professional
, this needs to be seen across the board throughout all of your social media efforts. The language that you use is the currency and relevancy to your message. Make wise choices and remember that the internet is permanent. Linking your social media channels together makes it seamless for a follower to travel from your Twitter bio or other social media page over to your blog. This does not mean that you should show all your tweets on LinkedIn and tweet your Facebook statuses. A separate, similar message is fine — no need to be redundant.
Your personal brand will evolve over time but you start projecting your brand from your very first tweet or post. You might not think you have a personal brand yet, but you do. Consider what this might be and polish it up if necessary. It is not just your avatar but all your interactions woven together to create a personal story: your personal brand
. Make it a good one!
Many brands are caterpillars
, lounging and crawling along without a clear message and without direction. But realizing this is just the first step to progress, next comes the cocoon stage
in which dreams begin to be shaped into something palpable — a dynamic brand that commands attention.
The planning phase sets the stage for your brand, supporting its evolution into a butterfly. Once your brand’s core message is in place and your unique story is defined; once you determine exactly whom you want to engage and what you want to accomplish: it’s time to spread those wings and fly!
Many brands fall short and fail to execute properly. Don’t skimp on these final steps — refine your image and turn it into a dynamic brand force! A carefully-executed, smart design will polish your brand and give your message the professionalism and oomph it needs to make one clear, powerful statement. A well-crafted brand takes everything you are and distills it into one succinct, compelling message that is packaged in a way that slices right through today’s busy, noisy world.
Consistently used throughout all of your media touch points, both online and offline, your fully-evolved brand will speak with the same, unified voice no matter where it appears. The hard work of your brand evolution pays off in its authenticity, it’s clarity of message, its focused strategy and its intelligent design that is both appropriate for your audience and packs a punch.
But remember: your brand cannot forego visual impact! So much more than trite decoration, it is what delivers your message and gets your brand noticed. Strategy and message alone won’t cut it — a strong brand will unify both for an effective, integrated program in both traditional and new media.
Just like the most wonderful of butterflies, your brand needs to soar and captivate its audience. The wind beneath its wings is your carefully crafted brand message that comes only from determining who you truly are and what you really want.
Design built upon strategy: the secret sauce to becoming a beautiful butterfly and for realizing your full business potential. Now fly!
Once your brand has passed the caterpillar stage
of being stuck and it’s not sure of the best way forward, it is time for some serious evolution! This begins by defining your core values.
Take the time to assess, evaluate and examine the unique elements of your brand that will transform it into a beautiful butterfly. There is no rushing and skipping the cocoon phase. Think and reflect — what makes you and your business special? Try to go beyond the obvious to get to “a new obvious”. Ask others what they think and listen to what they have to say. The answers may surprise and even enlighten you.
Perhaps using self-evaluation tools will help get to the root of who you are and what you do. No doubt, this is not always an easy process. We become so used to who we think we are and what we think we do, that it can be difficult to see past these preconceived notions. But soar beyond the obvious you must, because that is where the sizzle is that will set your brand apart from the rest.
Shape a dream into a reality by defining clear goals. After allowing the proper time for self-reflection and determining the best, unique you, make sure that your goals are realistic and sustainable. Be clear and defined. Don’t let things just happen anymore and don’t be fuzzy — that’s for caterpillars! Let the spark and sizzle of your ideas inspire and invigorate your brand. Take charge now and make it happen!
Honing your core values and unique story into a sharp, clear, concise message will take you to that next level of brand evolution and growth. No more waiting on a branch searching for that next leaf to eat! Plan your metamorphosis into a dynamic brand by:•
Defining your core values•
Finessing a dream•
Creating your message
Next? Become a butterfly
Image courtesy of borman818 licensed via Creative Commons.
Your logo symbolizes all that is your company, product, service or event. It is also the “handshake” for when you can’t be there in person, so it is vital for a business to get the logo right from the very beginning. Conversely, if done incorrectly, it will be a poor reflection on you and your business for a long time to come.
Take advantage of this exciting opportunity to breathe life and energy into your business, providing something tangible for people to rally behind. And for Pete’s sake, don’t let your niece or nephew “do your logo” unless they have the proper training and professional background. Countless brand identities have been compromised and otherwise good businesses relegated to the lowly rank of amateur status, simply because their logos looked like Sally or Joey whipped them up in five minutes on their iPod Touches.
I hope the following list helps you understand all the things that need to be considered when designing a logo. It is much better to be prepared from the outset, rather than caught off-guard later in the game, with deadlines looming and business opportunities hanging in the balance.
Simple is anything but simple to do. Taking a complex set of business objectives and distilling them down into one simple symbol or logotype that encapsulates everything a particular business is about, while still accomplishing the eleven things that follow, is anything but simple.2. Unique and memorable
We have all heard there are no new ideas, just a re-hashing of the old ones. However, a first-rate designer will find a way to give your logo a new twist that makes it compelling, triggering a positive association with your business every time it is seen.3. Don’t be trendy
It is important for logos to be current, but that doesn’t mean trendy. Things that follow the latest gimmicks and hottest trends get old really quick. Shoot for quality design that will stand the test of time — I am sure your business plans to be around for awhile, so your business image should follow suit!4. On target
No matter how attractive or memorable a logo is, it won’t mean much if it doesn’t satisfy the business and brand objectives determined at the outset (you did take the time to do this before beginning number 1, didn’t you?). As your business identity continually reinforces your brand, it should also be emphasizing the right things.5. Work cross-media
Logos need to work both online and in print. Experienced designers account for this in the earliest stages and design accordingly. This needs to be addressed when producing final art files, as well. Depending on the particular circumstances, it may also need to work for things such as embroidery, engraving, etching, embossing, etc. These may even require alternate logo versions to be created but not all logos are that easily adaptable.6. Hold up at all sizes
Logos need to look good when scaled up to the largest billboard or when reduced to fit the slimmest of pens. There is nothing worse than a logo that reveals its imperfections when giant or looks like a squished bug when small. And here’s one little tip: be sure your logo is designed in vector format (if you don’t know what this is, skip immediately to number 12!).7. Effective in full-color and one-color
There will be occasions when a logo still needs to look great when there isn’t the luxury of using multiple colors and costly inks. From low cost promotional items to fancier items such as crystal awards, metal plaques, and embossing on special papers, one-color art is required that will exploit these special manufacturing processes to the fullest.8. Ease of use
A logo that even a professional designer has trouble using is not a good logo. Nor does it help if the usage guidelines are complex and difficult to understand. In fact, it practically guarantees that the logo will appear incorrectly more often than not, thereby fragmenting the brand.9. Mass appeal
While I believe strongly that there is good design and bad design, logos can be very subjective and what appeals to one person may not appeal to someone else. In fact, many people seem to enjoy shooting down logos as some new kind of blood sport.
A quality logo, charged with functioning effectively in the world of commerce, should appeal to more people than not, leaving a positive impression that drives business.10. Fit the big picture
A logo, no matter how good, is only one component of any comprehensive branding program. It should fit seamlessly with the overall design strategy, ideally forming the foundation of a cohesive program that speaks with one, powerful voice. In the best of situations, the logo provides the visual impetus from which everything else is derived.11. On budget
Whether you are a fledgling startup or a huge mega-brand, there is a designer or agency that fits your needs. An expert designer will partner with clients to arrive at the best solution, while working within the available resources determined at the outset.12. Hire a professional
To ensure that the 11 steps articulated above are taken into full consideration, work with a professional designer or agency. A professional will partner with you to create the right logo for you and your business. It will save time, headaches and money in the long run, and be one of the most important investments your business can make. Designers and branding experts enjoy seeing their clients succeed as much as the clients themselves — pick one you trust and see the results for yourself!
If accomplishing all this in one logo seems a bit like standing on your head, chewing gum and rubbing your tummy all at the same time, it is. Only more difficult.
Logos are widely misunderstood and their simplicity can deceive one into thinking they are easy to do. But if you look at the list above, I think you will see that a good logo which may look simple on the outside, is anything but simple on the inside. In fact, most designers consider logos to be among the most difficult of assignments.
So, what has your experience been with logos? Are you happy with yours and has it been effective for your business? Is there anything you would have done differently?
This post first appeared on the best list site on the web, 12 Most.
Featured image courtesy of Paul Biedermann, re:DESIGN.
When Gap recently announced their new logo on Facebook, they were caught off-guard by the strong public backlash. The logo was really bad and bowing to the criticism, Gap quickly abandoned the idea (see links at bottom for a full recap).
The company then proceeded to make an even bigger mistake, smugly announcing a contest to design a replacement logo that anyone could enter. This is called crowdsourcing, and when a company does it, it demonstrates a total lack of understanding and callous disregard for what design brings to business. When a major corporation does it, it’s beyond comprehension. Presumably attempting to garner goodwill by “listening” to its customers, this raised the ire of the professional design community and even angrier mobs rose up and chanted things like “Shameful!”, “Abuse of power!”, and “Idiots”!
Through crowdsourcing, design is reduced to an amateur beauty competition, where thousands of designs are submitted and a committee votes on which one will be designated the winner. There is no reasoned process of analysis, research, and design development, let alone a holistic branding strategy. There is also little, if any, compensation for the designer. The crowds spoke
The overwhelming negative consensus (not to mention, a $247 million dollar stock loss the day after the original announcement) shamed the company into dropping its amateurish approach to logo design and its manipulative attempt at making its audience think a feel-good logo contest was their original intent. Ultimately, the crowd spoke and got what it wanted from the company, not the other way around.
During this debacle, the company received thousands of free opinions on their logo, their brand, their process, and what they should do about it. So in a way, crowdsourcing worked, just not in the way Gap intended. The AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) played a critical role by engaging in constructive dialogue and “educating the client”. To their credit, Gap admitted their missteps and issued a mea culpa, promising to do a better job if and when they ever decide to redesign their logo again (don’t hold your breath!).
I’m sure the company was embarrassed by all this, as it became clear in a very public way that they really did not have a handle on how to execute an important branding initiative. Even worse, they seemingly had no clue about who they are and what their brand has meant to consumers over the years.
With friends like this…
Some say that any PR is good PR, but when thousands flock to “Like” your Facebook page only to tell you how much they don’t like you, I beg to differ. When you are mocked on Twitter by design and branding professionals, when accounts are set up with the sole purpose to ridicule, when apps are developed so you can create your own “Gapified” logo and negative blogs flood the blogosphere, I really don’t think the company is benefiting from all the publicity.
Yes, Gap is being talked about, but the brand that once stood for hip, simple design has now shown they are anything but.
Gap Introduces New Logo, Mass Criticism EnsuesGap Speaks Out: Yes, the Logo Is RealDear Gap, I have your new logo An open letter to our neighbors at Gap
AIGA post and letter to Gap: How do businesses balance crowd participation and design? Statement from Marka Hansen, President of Gap Brand, North America