Let’s set some things straight, a logo is not your brand, nor is it your identity. Logo design, identity design and branding all have different roles, that together, form a perceived image of the business or product.
There have been many discussion about this topic, about your logo not being your brand.
What is a brand? – The perceived emotional corporate image as a whole.
What is identity? – The visual aspects that form part of the overall brand.
What is a logo? – A logo relates and identifies a business in its most basic form with the use of a mark or icon.
To explain this in more detail, let’s begin at the top – the brand.
What is branding?
Branding is certainly not a light topic – there are tons of publications & hundreds of books written on the topic, however, to summarise you could describe a ‘brand’ as an organisation, service or product with a ‘personality’ that is shaped by the perceptions of the audience. On that note, it should also be reiterated that a designer cannot “make” a brand – only the audience can do this. A designer develops the foundation of the brand.
Most people believe a brand only consists of a few elements – colours, fonts, a logo, a slogan and maybe some jingle added in too. The fact is, it is much more complicated than that. You might say that a brand is a ‘corporate image’.
The fundamental idea and core concept behind having a ‘corporate image’ is that everything an organisation does, everything it owns and everything it produces should reflect the values and vision of the business as a whole.
It is the consistency of this core idea that makes up the company, driving it, displaying what it stands for, what it believes in and why it exists. It is not purely colours, typefaces, a logo and a slogan.
As an example, let’s look at the well known IT company, Google. Google as a company, projects a humanistic corporate culture and a strong corporate ethic, one which is characterised by volunteerism, support of good causes & involvement in the community. These values of the business are evident throughout everything they do, from their innovative products and advertising, right through to their customer service. Google is an emotionally humanist brand that really connects with people – when people buy or use their products or services; they feel part of the brand, like a tribe even. It is this emotional connection that creates their brand – not purely their products and a bite-sized logo.
What is identity design?
One major role in the ‘brand’ or ‘corporate image’ of a company is its identity.
In many cases, identity design is based on the visual devices used within a company, usually put together within a set of guidelines. These guidelines that make up an identity usually administer how the identity is applied throughout a variety of mediums, using pre-approved colour palettes, typefaces, layouts, measurements and so forth. These guidelines ensure that the identity of the company is kept coherent, which in turn, enables the brand as a whole, to be relatable.
The identity or ‘image’ of a company is made up of many visual devices:
- A Logo (The symbol of the entire identity & brand)
- Stationery (Letterhead + business card + envelopes, etc.)
- Marketing Collateral (Flyers, brochures, books, websites, etc.)
- Products & Packaging (Products sold and the packaging in which they come in)
- Apparel Design (Tangible clothing items that are worn by employees)
- Signage (Interior & exterior design)
- Messages & Actions (Messages conveyed via indirect or direct modes of communication)
- Other Communication (Audio, smell, touch, etc.)
- Anything visual that represents the business.
All of these things make up an identity and should support the brand as a whole. The logo, however, is the corporate identity and brand all wrapped up into one identifiable mark. This mark is the avatar and symbol of the business as a whole.
What is a logo?
To understand what a logo is, we must first understand what it is for.
A logo is for… identification.
A logo identifies a company or product with the use of a mark, symbol or signature. A logo does not sell the company directly nor rarely does it describe a business. Logo’s derive their meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolises, not the other way around – logos are there to identity, not to explain. To summarise, what a logo means is more important than what it looks like.
To illustrate this concept, think of logos like people. We prefer to be called by our names – James, Dorothy, John – rather than by the confusing and forgettable description of ourselves such as “the guy who always wears pink and has blonde hair”. In this same way, a logo should not literally describe what the business does but rather, identify the business in a way that is recognisable and memorable.
It is also important to note that only after a logo becomes familiar, does it function the way it is intended to do much alike how we much must learn people’s names to identify them.
The logo identifies a business or product in its most basic form.
Brand –The perceived emotional corporate image as a whole.
Identity – The visual aspects that form part of the overall brand.
Logo – Identifies a business in its simplest form via the use of a mark or icon.