Where are the divisions between brand, identity, visual style and overall communication standards? The borders are frequently blurred (even to those who should know better) and confusion is often created when the individual impact of all these elements is misunderstood within a cohesive and complete ‘brand’ style.
The logo is the central mark, devised to visually represent the company, product or service as a concise graphic symbol, representational of the preferred or appropriate look and desired customer perception. As a quick visual tool, the logo aims to link all branded components together, aid easy recognition, and differentiate between competitors. The visual identity system and overall branding approach follows and builds on from this point, by assembling and promoting knowledge via all communication methods, conforming to agreed values, standards and deliverable results.
Creation of a logo requires solid understanding of client, market and technical (print, application, distribution) needs, and is a process demanding elimination of unrequired detail and a sharp focus on efficient construction, usage flexibility, and a matching of substance with style. The function and purpose of a logo generally requires a design with limited complexity – a distillation of many ideals into one, strong identifier. Simplification is not always easy to achiever however, and developing a unique form and style within saturated markets can be a very difficult creative challenge. Also, if the core concept underpinning an identity misses the mark and fails to register a positive reception, then supporting elements will struggle to solve this inherent issue.
Planning and methodology
Successful logo designs will regularly exhibit both creative spark and robust technical foundations, without relying on current visual trends, showy effects or visual leaps of faith. Legibility and recognition at small sizes and/or for usage on surfaces not able to hold detail is also an important factor in the construction of a finished design.
Although not as important today, due to the overwhelming shift towards digital delivery and the availability of full colour, preparing options for single colour and reversed (negative) reproduction is still a requirement I believe is important for any designer involved in identity and branding work, and should be part of the suite of available identity assets for the client to utilise. It is also a helpful process to assist the designer in achieving a streamlined design concept.
Logos created in vector format are generally better prepared to meet all identity needs, as they offer the unlimited scalability required for large format display and signage applications. Appropriate and considered construction choices should always be an essential part of design planning, otherwise usage difficulties and production shortfalls may be undesirably present.
RSSA: case in point
Above is a recent redesign of mine for the Royal Society of South Australia. This concept is based around a simple typographical focus on the RSSA acronym. The Society’s diverse scientific interests helped to form this visual approach, ie deliberately avoiding reference to any particular field with a recognisable visual. The intention was to provide a current day sensibility regarding identity design and construction, in combination with more traditional styling for a long established scientific body. To aid this desire, a modern serif was chosen as the primary font and a secondary sans serif for the tagline versions. These fonts were chosen as a combination for their ability to convey this future/past feel.
The icon structure has the added effect of allowing the reading of ‘RS’ & ‘SA’ in either direction, and utilises the Society’s formation date within the design, as it adds historical weight and relevance, plus is also a small visual indicator regarding who and what the RSSA represents.
Form = function
Devising appealing, flexible and long-lasting logos is a task requiring more than a simple cut and paste methodology – there are no shortcuts to achieving a quality logo or full identity system. Graphic design demands understanding and appreciation of many important considerations, and the formation of a professional concept and finished design will rely on an individual’s recognition and acceptance of these known principles.