I am a designer. This means I notice typefaces on restaurant menus. It means I’m usually asked to take the pictures at family gatherings. It means I sometimes shake my head when I see a poorly-designed “garage sale” or “lost dog” flyer posted in my neighborhood. (Make the picture of the dog BIG, people!) These are only a few of the mostly-harmless idiosyncrasies that we designers carry around with us in our stylish messenger bags with the Apple sticker on it.
So in the same way a few bad apples in the legal community led to an endless supply of lawyer jokes, agencies sometimes get the reputation of wanting to change everything about their clients just to put their own stamp on things, without regard for history or business realities. So that’s why many times a project will begin with a client saying something like this, “I would like to ask for your marketing advice, but don’t change my logo.” Sometimes it’s a bit less up-for-interpretation, “don’t even think about changing my logo.” Hey, I understand. Who can blame them? Even if you invite a decorator into your home for advice, it still stings a little when they move your couch or throw out your curtains. “Hey, wait a minute, I liked that couch there!”
Our clients have invited us into their domain, and they are rightfully proud of it. One of the true pleasures of this job is getting to know the people we are serving and seeing their passion for their work and listening to their dreams for the company’s future. Our skills are to be used in the service of these dreams! If our research tells us that your logo has value in your brand’s perception and awareness, great, that part’s taken care of, let’s make a marketing plan, let’s create a campaign. If we don’t feel that it’s working in your favor, we’ll lose sleep over it. Honestly. Because so much is riding on your appearance and how consumers feel about it, we owe it to you to determine what exactly you mean by “don’t change my logo.” Just in case what you really mean is “don’t change me.”
Now before I come off sounding like a wanna-be psychologist, let me explain!
My job is to tell people about you. My job is to make them understand what’s so great about you and why they should consider getting to know you. And sometimes the process of getting to know you ourselves tells us clearly: the “you” that we’ve been learning about is not what the public is seeing. Is your logo representing the real you? You think “of course it is,” because it’s the logo you’ve always had, but does it capture your brand’s real self? Your best self?
Look, a logo change doesn’t cost a designer anything other than time (and sometimes sleep) but we know to your company it’s a big deal. Signs might have to be changed, new letterhead printed, new marketing materials distributed. We understand that all of the risk is yours to take, so it would be irresponsible for us to advise you to change without making you confident that it’s the right thing to do. If it’s the right thing to do.
I have been lucky enough in my career so far to be involved in all sorts of branding projects, from complete and total brand overhauls with focus groups and acts of Congress, to simple font or color upgrades. Some of the projects I’m most proud of are the ones where we were sticklers about keeping the spirit and the soul of the original logo intact and through careful attention to detail, made it more relevant to today’s consumer expectations. It’s like taking your car through a car wash. It’s the same car you drove up in, but man, look how it shines!
It’s been well-documented that people will perceive a well-designed product as higher-quality and easier to use. And when it comes to your logo, everything matters: the curve of the serif, the hue of the colors, the balance and proportion of the elements. It’s endlessly remarkable to me how re-crafting the individual pieces of a logo can lead to an immediate visual epiphany. You can almost hear the moment when things “snap” into place, and you sit back and think “ah, there it is.” Consumers feel it, too. They feel the harmony or disharmony, and it affects their perception of you, even before you’ve had a chance to offer your hand.
So rest assured, we don’t always want to change your logo. But when we recommend a change, to be performed either with a scalpel or a wrecking ball, our hearts are in the right place. We don’t want to change you, we want the real you to shine.