Let me enlighten you to the rubric of thought that surrounds the world of design and branding. Grace the world with a brand that’s as fresh and lively as your business.
It’s exciting! Branding can be a way to show the better side of yourself. The side that you would like to shine onto the world.
It can represent the wheat in the chaff, the grail that your idea signifies in the waves of competitors that lack the life and zest of your venture.
Or.. of course; it can be the exact same, drab, dull notch on the ancient and scuffed brickwork of the industry wall.
I have many people ask me for advice on branding and logos. I have picked up some themes of recurring thought. An incessant reminder of the questions I was asking when I was also new to design.
Let me start with my number one pain-point as a designer and the most common trap:
You probably don’t need to identify with your industry through branding.
Let’s have an example.
I have a client, they run a Golf Club. What colour should their logo be?
Did you think green?
Here’s the first 9 ‘golf logo’s from ‘le Google’.
I know the club I want to play at.
You might laugh when recognising typical thought patterns, or think that I’m considering this some kind of magic trick. This is not a test of intelligence, I consider it completely normal to think of green. I too think of green when the word golf comes up. If you thought of another colour I’d consider you a bit odd (maybe you have golf related issues that need sorting out).
Let me cut to the point, we’ve thought for 10 seconds about this golf logo. It’s green, fantastic, we just need the shape of the ball to make the actual mark and we’re done.
The thing is, if you’re a designer those 10 seconds aren’t considered ‘thinking’. We perform those 10 seconds just like every other ruffian with a pencil and napkin, but the oh so significant step is the next one. Entering the rubric, starting to actually… design.
What colour should their logo be?
If you’d like a quick quip, you can show off design thinking to your friends (like I do) saying; “For Golf? Anything but green!”
This is usually greeted by the quiet and indignant annoyance of whomever you’re speaking to. I can help you with your brand. However, I have yet to figure out relationships where I’m sure there are parallels to establish.
Colour is an easy example because every-day English already has a small palette of expression for it. You can impress others by using ‘hue’ and ‘shade’ in your vocabulary. We are all aware of the fundamentals of colour for example primary colours and mixing.
Let’s have another example before I change tacts:
First 9 ‘coffee logo’s from ‘le Google’:Lens Captions
I can say with some degree of certainty the pattern is from ‘natural’ human thinking, outside the realm of ‘design’. It’s my hypothesis that these designs end up being used because of a lack of innovation. A focus on competition instead of trying to pave one’s own path.
I want what my competitor has, so all my attention tends towards my competitor.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting what a competitor has. It seems quite reasonable to me if the competitor in question has a successful enterprise. Let’s focus on what a successful competitor is aiming at. The trick is to not duplicate the competitor.
Now that I’ve made some bold assumptions, let me qualify a few things.
I’m not saying that standing out is a critical factor. And I’m not saying that your brand is obliged to avoid any form of industry cliche.
What I’m saying is that the default should not be a brand that ties directly to its industry. Rather use a fresh and unique notion.
By the time I’m looking for a Starbucks or trying to book my golfing holiday in Mauritius, I’ve crossed the ‘basic industry’ line.
You may impress a coffee drinker looking for a Starbucks who stumbles upon your coffee boutique. You might ably win over a corporate golfing client who’s open to suggestions. If that coffee connoisseur is actually on the hunt for the train station. Or that golfing trip is actually a day at the spa… The fact that your logo narrowly identifies itself with coffee, or golf, is going to help the connoisseur or firm avoid your business entirely.
Similarly grouped branding is to be expected, industries have similar requirements for their branding and similar formats. A soft drink logo must fit on a soft drink bottle.
If the logo itself must be a soft drink, in order for advert viewers to know what you’re selling – the advert perhaps needs some revision.
Let’s move on from colour and analyse some ‘real’ designs. One that I’ve picked because it works, and one I’ve picked because it doesn’t.
If you are in fast food; I don’t think using the industry’s yellow and red combination is a bad idea. If you can believe that the two colours are used to increase heart rates – and in fact make you hungry. There are theories about sweet berries in the wilderness being bright red and yellow. I wouldn’t put money on it.
My favourite fast food chain is one that’s taken off in some states of the USA and abroad – Shakeshack.
There’s nothing particularly special about their branding. It’s clean – almost to the point of being boring. And that burger is just as cliched as.. wait, I can’t think of anything! That burger, believe it or not.. is.. new? Could it be?
I have seen that burger, or something similar, hundreds of times before. I expect if you work in the digital creative space you’ll also feel instantly familiar with the icon. The truth is it is nothing new. They have taken the most basic, run of the mill burger icon and plonked it into the fast food industry and it looks glorious!
It’s very difficult for me to seperate my experience at Shakeshack from the brand. They have amazing burgers and milkshakes and all shapes and sizes of cheesy puffy delicious fries. But so what, fast food is America’s niche, they do it well. I can’t point out what makes Shakeshack better than the others.
I’ve been to plenty of novel McDonald’s. I stumbled upon, what I thought to be a second hand store, before realising it was an American style diner, with the unique selling point of having the largest antique collection in Washington DC. – Cover photo on top of Georgia macdonals
They don’t have the same brand engagement, and it crushes the well intended experiences into their respective branded boxes that we expect from a typical fast food joint.
Shakeshack shook what I expected from fast food branding.
Every corner of the brand is fresh and clean, and as an aside, the green doesn’t hurt to pull it out of the hum of ordinary fast food chains. Perhaps they should start a golfing resort 😉
Peacock Coffee & Teas Traders
To use a South African example, this is the brand that sparked this post.
Think of their logo.
Just think of it.
I’m familiar with Peacock Coffee & Teas Traders. Even after seeing their stores perhaps hundreds of times, all over the country, I had no idea what their logo looked like.
“Wait, I don’t think they have a logo.” – Amy has a near eidetic memory and I think found the accusation unsettling. But this definitely wasn’t her fault.
This is a perfect example of first draft thinking. It results in exactly what I would expect, unremarkable and forgettable design.
I would take just about any google search stock logo peacock over theirs. It just needs.. something. It consists entirely of nothing. All the power of the brand is in the name.
The logo blends dismally – not even the routine of it’s industry’s branding. But more so into the monotony of the brickwork that it’s mounted on at the store.
I hope I’ve given you a preview into design muse so you can adjust your brand accordingly, and be more in touch with the efforts of those you choose to design and create for you.
First think about your brand till all the thinking is out the way, and then you can start to think about your brand.
I’ll wrap up before anyone notices we’ve used an aeroplane for branding on a travel blog.
Till next time!