Bold, out there and one-of-a-kind, logos, according to one expert, never come down in a beam of light fully formed. They need to be worked at over time
If you are presented with a design for your company logo that is immediately likeable, resonates with your values and looks purposeful yet fun, you might be wise to take a long hard look at it, bin it and start again.
For Sagi Haviv, partner at New York graphic design firm Chermayeff & Geismer & Haviv, a good business logo seldom arrives fully formed.
“It’s never love at first sight,” Haviv told Happy Ali. “A good logo, a good trademark, gains meaning and power over time.”
His firm has been responsible for some of the most recognisable logos of the past 50 years – from Chase Bank and Mobil Oil to the Library of Congress and Armani Exchange.
But he says some of the firm’s clients had to be dragged kicking and screaming towards accepting what have since become the world’s best-known logos.
“Of course that’s very difficult to explain today where everybody wants to be liked on Facebook and such,” Haviv said.
“We remind our clients – and we open every presentation with a slide that says – it’s never love at first sight.”
A recent presentation by his company for a large corporation was a case in point. The CEO, he says, could live with any of the six designs apart from number two.
“Two hours later at the end of the presentation, he wanted number two and he wouldn’t hear of anything else. This is why the relationship between the client and the designer is extremely important,” he said.
For Haviv there are three essentials to a good business logo: it must be appropriate to the business, it must be memorable and it must be uncomplicated in form.
“And here I’d add a fourth which is the concept must be original,” he said.
Knowing when to change the logo – as well as what to change it to – is a finely calibrated art. Haviv says GAP clothing store was forced to backtrack on its logo redesign after an online outcry.
“It was loved by its audience but it didn’t know it,” he said. “The logo should be the last thing you change because it builds up so much brand equity over time.”
Sometimes, however, it’s time to move on.
London-based publishing company Ink began to think about its logo as it grew.
“The logo was designed approximately seven years ago – it wasn’t the very first logo for the company – it was the third incarnation,” said Ink’s creative solutions director Jonny Clark.
“The reason to create the logo at the time was that the company was expanding. It had had gone from a relatively small business to a small-to-medium sized business and we wanted to embrace the fact that we weren’t just doing print but digital work as well.”
The word ‘publishing’ in the old logo was ditched and the CMYK colours of printing were mixed with RGB colour wheel of digital to suggest the company’s new direction.
He said that being a small company at the time helped it make the right decision.
“We didn’t have a branding department and there weren’t many key decision-makers, we didn’t have a branding department and it done internally by the design team we had working for us.
“It wasn’t a quick decision but it was a fairly straightforward one,” Clark said. “There wasn’t a lot of red tape to go through.
“In total, the process took between two to four months.”
Even though the company was happy with the logo, new directions and new challenges spell change. Clark said that Ink has not ruled out a change to its logo in the near future.
“For younger companies, the logo normally changes much more quickly. The longer a company has been established obviously the logos start to have more longevity.
“Brands like Coca-Cola have only changed three times in their history.”
For Martin Christie of the London-based logo design firm Alchemist, simplicity is key but, while some of the most famous marks such as Nike or Virgin were practically dashed off on the back of an envelope, you get what you pay for.
“Those sort of companies use logo design programs,” he said. “If you’re a plumber they’ll just go to a stock library and grab an image of a tap or something and it all takes about 5 seconds.
“It’s up to the individual, there’s a market for it. You can spend £50 or you can spend millions and millions. BP is a classic case of spending millions.
“But many of our clients are people that have tried the £50 option first. It’s common sense to spend time on your logo – it’s the first thing that people see, it’s the look of your company and it’s going to reflect what you do.”
And then there are some logos that are so strong, they even survive the demise of the company.
Haviv says the Mobil logo – designed in 1964 by his partner Tom Geisner – is among the strongest his company has produced.
“First of all, it looks like it was done yesterday and the other thing is that they were bought by Exxon – they’re no longer Mobil – and yet the brand is so strong that they continue to build new Mobil stations because it’s timeless and it’s recognised.
“It’s built so much equity they can’t fight it, they have to go with it.”
Other logos are so strong, they use up all of the available oxygen surrounding that image. Haviv says the CBS eye is one example.
“You can’t do an eye now,” he said. “If you think about how many eagles are out there and then there’s just one eye. That is so powerful for a brand to own this very basic concept.”