What’s in a logo?

“As the saying goes, why fix something that ain’t broken in the first place?”

 “Thank[s] God! The new logo was horrible.”

 “The new logo was AWFUL! We love the classic blue box.”

 These are just three of the 584 comments (and 2,080 ‘likes’) left on the Facebook wall of Gap upon the news the retailer would be returning to its original logo, following a doomed foray into a new look. 

There has been no shortage of coverage on the failure of the logo re-launch.  It got us to stop and think one step further: What’s in a logo?  Or, more precisely: What’s in a good logo?

“Designing an effective logo is not about following general rules,” says Cassie Nalls, Senior Designer at Pepper Group.  “It is more about constantly questioning — asking yourself with every decision if these colors, shapes, proportions and typefaces accomplish the unique and specific goal of the organization. And since the goals of each organization are varied, the approach to logo design must be organic and not rigid.”

Some bloggers and critics did like the new Gap logo, but they represent the minority.  The vocal majority included many if not most of Gap’s fans and purchasers, who don’t possess art or logo design backgrounds.  What made fans so mad, explains Rich Brecker, is that the classic logo meant more than just art or text to them:

When a company has a readily identifiable brand, like GAP, the logo transcends art. It becomes the symbol of the brand relationship.

When that happens (and you want it to happen), you cannot change the logo any more successfully than you can surprise your spouse with a new wedding ring as the symbol of your relationship. This is especially true if you trade it down, swapping out the gold band for a twizzler stick or tie wrap.

Brecker goes on to say there are times when logo design is ripe for a change, such as at the end of an era or if there is an organizational shift in direction.   And there are plenty examples of successful logo evolutions, including Nike (you can also acclaimed transition examples, including UPS, Delta, and Sprint, here, here, and here).

Whether your organization is evolving its logo or creating something brand new,  Jacob Cass of Just Creative Design offers simple advice when trying to translate everything your organization stands for into artful shapes and or text – or more simply, for making a good logo:

  • Keep it simple
  • Make sure it is memorable
  • Create it to stand the test of time
  • Design it to be memorable
  • Assess its appropriateness

Perhaps the “crowd” will keep Nalls or Cass’ advice in mind when submitting logo design to Gap in the coming weeks and months.  Not long after returning to the old logo, the store announced it will move forward with a crowd-sourcing project for its next try, and invites people to share their ideas.  Stay tuned.

Designers, we want to hear from you – what is your logo design advice for Gap or any other organization?

PS – We hope you liked last week’s post on marketing automation.  Unfortunately, the AMA event scheduled for October 26th has been postponed.  Stay tuned for more news in November!

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About chicagoama

American Marketing Association, Chicago
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