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Logos & Brand Expression

Logos & Brand Expression

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Published by justj03

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Published by: justj03 on Apr 06, 2012
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07/14/2013

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The Role of theLogo in BrandExpression
Your logo is your signature, not yourself-portrait
by Christopher Armstrong - September 2008Interbrand, Toronto
Redesigned by Joseph Roberts - November 2011Final Project - ENGL 3250
 
Te Rle  L Br Ere
Having worked on the creation of logos and visualsystems over many years, I’m constantly struck
by how difcult it is to create logos. It seems
like hundreds of viable designs die a sad andpremature death due to seemingly unachievable
expectations.
Okay, I know this sounds like some designerwhining about clients not understanding his work,but I believe there is a larger issue with people’sunderstanding of the role of logos within visual
identity systems. Although, in general, clients
have come to understand that the brand is muchmore than the logo or corporate identity, the logostill seems to be regarded as a sacred article; a
precious gem in the crown of a greater brand. After having gone through the process ofredening the strategic positioning of the brand,
some clients want their logo to fully express allpart of their new platform, including the core idea,
positioning statement, and attributes. In doing so,
they pose a nearly impossible challenge for the
logo designer.
While it’s true the overall expression of the brandmust encompass all elements of the brandpositioning, it is not necessary for the logo itself to
express the entire strategy. Although the logo is a
vital element of a brand identity, it is a component
of a larger system of expression. While important,
it is limited in its ability to express emotion and
convey meaning. As such, the visual system as a
whole is a far more important consideration than
the logo in isolation.
REmEmBER – signaTuRE,noT sELf-poRTRaiT
 The logo is often referred to as a corporate
signature. This analogy is a good one, and
describes some of the functions and limitations of
the logo. A person’s signature identies a person, and
through a kind of subtle graphology, suggests an
individual’s personality traits. Is the signature boldand energetic, or restrained and conservative? A signature can hint or indicate this. A logo does the
same, identifying and subtly revealing a brand’s
specic qualities. At the same time, a signature
 a l, le  l,  rr eter rete r  e ee te e  et te vewer te wt t.
 
cannot, by any means, paint a complete and
accurate portrait of a person. Like the logo, it canonly allude; it cannot speak with eloquence. Another, perhaps, more powerful, component
of the signature analogy is that a logo, like a
signature, functions as a promise. By applying
your signature to a contract, check, or letter, youhave given your seal of approval and indicated yourownership and obligation to what you have signed
for. The logo acts as a promise in a similar way.
When a logo is applied to a product, it promises
that the product will deliver a specic quality thatalludes to the brand’s identity. For instance, Apple’slogo promises innovation. Likewise, Volvo’s logo
promises safety, while the Hermès logo promises
elegance. But again, the logo can only allude to thepromise of these qualities – it cannot speak witheloquence.
 WhERE doEs ThE Logo fiT in ThE WoRLd of BRand ExpREssion?
Brand expression is made up of two streams: visualexpression and verbal expression. Initially, it wouldseem that the logo ts primarily into the visual
expression stream, along with typography, imageryor photography style, graphic devices, color
palette, and layout conventions. On the other hand,
the brand name itself, tone of voice, messaging,and the tagline all comprise the verbal expression
stream. In addition to brand expression, there are a
large number of touch points that create customerexperience, as well as many internal components
that build employee brand culture and behaviors. Along with the visual and verbal expression, these
are all designed to convey the character of the
brand.
painTing picTuREs WiTh WoRds andgRaphics
 
 And yet, while the logo would seem to t into
 just the visual expression stream, it is interestingto note that it is really an unusual hybrid of both
word and picture. This ability to combine both isthe logo’s strength. It’s often said that a picture
is worth a thousand words, but any avid reader
knows that the opposite is also true: words canpaint thousands of pictures.If the word part of the logo – the name – is strong
enough, it can remain relatively unadorned as a
wordmark. But in many cases, the name requires
additional embellishment and graphics to become
an ownable logo. Part of the problem is that, with aname, we are limited to an extremely nite numberof words, if not a single one. This brevity seriouslylimits a logo’s expressive capacity.
 Apple’s logo promisesinnovation. Likewise, Volvo’s logopromises safet

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