Logo Design

Questions to ask if you want a new or refreshed brand

A couple of weeks ago, a client selected my design firm to help with getting their brand on merchandise to sell at events and in their online store. I asked if they had their brand in various layouts and file formats for digital and print purposes. If the answer was, “Yes,” they were ready to go. 

It turns out that what they really wanted was a new or refreshed brand, as they felt the current one was outdated. 

If you want a new or refreshed brand, find answers to the following eleven questions before you speak with your graphic designer. 

Great Explorations | Original Brand
Great Explorations | Original Brand

Arm yourself with plenty of information before you start the design process. If you don’t know where to start, seek advice from a graphic designer in knowledgeable in design, business and marketing issues and trends. 

1. What are your business goals?

Believe it or not, a brand is more than a logo or graphic design; it is about your organization’s message, and how you communicate that message verbally and visually. So, it follows that business goals are connected to your brand. What is your organization’s “big picture?” Are you expanding into new markets? Are you planning new products, services, locations, or methods of reaching out to current or prospective clients? 

2. What do you want this Brand to accomplish?

Think about how the graphic design of your brand fits into your marketing plans. If you have an established brand, you might want to update it to capture new markets. If you plan to launch a new brand, how will you generate brand awareness in the marketplace?

3. Who is your target audience?

Do/will you use digital marketing–social media, email, blogs to communicate with current and prospective clients– or traditional print, TV, radio and merchandise marketing methods? Where and how will you display your brand?

4. What marketing channels will you use?

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5. How Do you want your brand perceived?

What 3-5 adjectives describe your brand’s personality? For example, “youthful, urban, and edgy,”  “corporate, seasoned, and traditional,” or something else? Do you see your brand as casual or formal; modern or traditional? Where do you see your product or service positioned in the market?

6. What are your brand/company values and mission?

If you closely tie your business model to your values and mission, then your brand design may reflect them. A preschool might want to incorporate a school or students. An environmental organization might want to use a tree, a leaf, something green, or something related to the earth. 

7. Do you want to avoid certain topics, themes, imagery or colors?

Images and colors mean different things in different cultures. You may think that all firms that cater to your target audience have brands with similar elements, and you want your brand to stand out. Or, you simply might not like the color orange or purple. 

8. Who are your key competitors?

What do you like or dislike about your competitors’ brands? Your graphic designer should create a brand that stands out from the competition, at the same time keeping in mind that you are going after the same audience. 

9. Which existing brands do you admire or want to emulate?

If you are a tech startup, do you admire the designs of Apple, Dell, or Microsoft?All of these are quite different, yet recognizable worldwide–and each has gone through a transformation over the decades. What do you specifically like about the brands you admire?

10. What do you like and dislike about your current brand?

Knowing what you like and dislike is valuable information that will help you to launch your new or refreshed brand. You may think the colors or typeface are outdated, or you may think you want to start over with a new design. Either way, this is a great opportunity to enhance your overall brand strategy.  

11. What is your decision making style?

When you embark on a branding initiative,  your graphic designer will ask you to make a series of decisions, from design choices like brand style, images, color and typography (fonts) to technical choices like file formats, resolution, and the size your brand will be displayed. Where you are on the scale from Decisive to Indecisive will impact your ability to meet project objectives, scope, schedule, budget, and timeline. 

Do you make decisions quickly? Do you make decisions based on feelings or facts? Do you get bogged down in “analysis paralysis?” For a description of business decision making types, read more here

When I say, “You,” I really mean “you and your key stakeholders in this branding effort.” I recommend that you seek input from your key stakeholders before reaching key project milestones, but I do not recommend building your brand “by committee.” 

 

The Justice Hub School | Original Brand
The Justice Hub School | Original Brand

Spending time to answer these eleven questions–including input from key stakeholders–can better position you for success in your branding initiative. Credit to 99 Designs for their original post; I added my perspective to their eleven questions.

Is all this effort worth it? Clients who understand the importance of branding say it is. If branding is new to you, So You Think You Need a New Brand might provide some insight. 

As always, if you lack the internal resources to do a branding project, seek outside help. And, if you don’t know where to start, seek advice from a graphic design professional that also understands business and marketing issues. You will be glad you did.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Best Practices, Branding, Color, Consulting, Corporate Identity, Design, Graphics, Logo Design, Marketing, Typography, 0 comments

Eight Million Stories, Inc. selects Jill B Gilbert to create a brand for a new school

The Justice Hub School | Original Brand
The Justice Hub School | Original Brand

Marvin Pierre is Executive Director of Eight Million Stories, Inc., a nonprofit founded in 2017 to support disconnected youth in Houston, Texas. Building upon the success of Eight Million Stories, he is founding a new school in Houston’s Third Ward. Marvin chose Jill B Gilbert to create a brand for The Justice Hub School that is attractive, edgy and has an urban feel. This project also included development of a brand guidelines document that will grow with the organization.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Art, Branding, Color, Corporate Identity, Design, Education, Graphics, Guidelines, Logo Design, Typography, 0 comments

Komolova Log Works Selects Jill B Gilbert to Create a New Brand

Komolova Log Works logo in full color, all black and all white
Komolova Log Works | Logo & Visual Brand Guide

When Eric and Nancy Raup needed a brand for Eric’s craft furniture and decor business, they immediately thought of Jill B Gilbert.

After identifying Komolova Log Works’ needs, Jill created three design concepts. After further discussions and iterations, Komolova revealed that they wanted to include an owl. 

Here is the result—a playful owl standing on a tree branch. The logo, tag line, and color palette work together to communicate the brand, as well as the rustic setting for the business. 

Posted by Jill B Gilbert, 0 comments

San Jacinto College selects Jill B Gilbert’s design for Quality Enhancement Plan

On April 20, San Jacinto College Vice-Chancellor Laurel Williamson, QEP Director Ann Pearson, and the QEP Committee announced that it selected Jill B Gilbert’s design to represent the program for the next five years (see the announcement here). The college’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), Thinking and Beyond, promotes student success through critical thinking.

The winning design for San Jacinto College’s Quality Enhancement Program

Gilbert’s design addresses the “right brain” creative and “left brain” logical aspects of critical thinking, as well as the San Jacinto Monument, topped by a star, and a USB connector to symbolize how students are always plugged in—the connection between critical thinking and technology.

Viewed another way, the symbol depicts a launched rocket, shooting for the stars, with puffs of exhaust parting as the rocket travels upward. This is an homage to Houston, aka the Space City; Jill’s Dad, a rocket scientist, and her little brother who followed in his Dad’s footsteps.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Art, Branding, Design, Education, Graphics, Logo Design, Marketing

Last week, one of my French friends sent me a link to a PowerPoint presentation on the hidden meaning behind several corporate logos. I knew about the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo; the smiley face and lowercase letter “g” in the Goodwill logo; the smile and arrow from A to Z in the Amazon logo; and the hidden number 31 in the Baskin-Robbins logo. I know enough French to translate the captions on the slides.

Toyota Brand Mark

Today, I came across an English version in a blog post by Onextrapixel. It is a pleasant and quick read. The biggest surprise is the meaning of Toyota’s oval icon—it combines strokes for each of the English letters in the company name!

Tour de France brand mark shows a bicycle rider and the sun

Another favorite is Le Tour de France brand. The letter “R” depicts a bicycle rider and the letter “O” and the yellow circle represent two bicycle wheels and the sun; the ride takes place only during daylight hours.

Both of these brands have stood the test of time—they are crisp and memorable. Their hidden meanings make them more interesting.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Branding, Corporate Identity, Design, Illustration, Logo Design

Branding lessons well worth learning

A Fast Company Design article relates how Steve Jobs worked with legendary designer Paul Rand to develop a logo for NeXT Computer.

NeXT logo (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Whether you have millions of dollars or a more modest marketing budget, the takeaways ring true.

  • A logo must be distinctive, memorable, and clear.
  • A logo derives meaning from the quality of the thing (product or service) it represents; brands, by themselves, don’t make companies successful.
  • The designer’s role is to solve a problem, not to suggest options.
  • Logomarks—symbols like the Nike swoosh—could cost $100 million, plus could take years to become well-known.
  • Once a brand is designed, you must communicate standards and guidelines for its usage throughout your company.
Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Branding, Corporate Identity, Design, Logo Design, Marketing, Standards

The stories behind Paul Rand’s logo designs

The Envato blog had an interesting post about the stories behind Paul Rand’s logo designs.

Born in Brooklyn in 1914, Paul Rand is responsible for some of the most iconic brand identities, including IBM, ABC, Westinghouse, UPS and Next Computer. Though he studied art at Pratt Institute, he claimed that he was self-taught. He was inspired by European commercial arts journals and European modern artists and started his career creating magazine spreads. Soon he created magazine covers, notably for Esquire. At 27, he headed an ad agency, incorporating art into what, in the past, was mostly copy.

By the 1950s Rand moved on to logo work. And the rest is history, as they say.

Paul Rand’s IBM Logo Design (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Good design is good business”  —Thomas Watson Jr., IBM

You can see some of the famous work here.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Branding, Corporate Identity, Design, Logo Design

Develop style guides for your design projects

Whether you are developing a 50-page Website, a small mobile phone app, or an annual report for a corporate client, you should get in the habit of developing a style guide.

Branding and style guides are important for projects large and small. They help to provide consistent messages about an organization and provide a degree of professionalism. Creative Bloq has a good post on this topic, with examples of thirteen style guides for famous organizations.

Client project style guide

The client’s goal was to refresh their brand and their Web site to draw more customers to their wellness practice and retail establishment. I prepared a simple style guide, using Adobe Illustrator. The Style Guide displays the brand, color chips for main and accent colors, typography and usage examples:

Style Guide | Nature’s Garden

Here is how the styles look when applied to a “mobile first” Website design. Note how the colors and the leaf motif are repeated throughout the page. The design works well on a smartphone, on a tablet or on a large HD screen.

Mobile View | Nature’s Garden
Responsive Home Page on Retina Display

University style guide

On a whim, I researched my alma mater’s color and brand guidelines. The Miami University is a nationally recognized Public Ivy, and its brand is particularly important. The brand must convey the Public Ivy experience.

The University uses different reds for print, Web and merchandise use. Several formal and informal logos are available for these uses. The use of certain “vintage” logos requires special permission.

The branding guidelines include logos, colors, typography and graphic elements. They encompass Web, print publications, social media, photos, use in athletic programs and more.

How people – alumni, students, future students, faculty and staff, fans, donors, and the public at large – feel about Miami University directly relates to the University’s success. In a sense, the brand speaks on the University’s behalf without saying a word. It represents who we are and what we stand for. It is the visual representation of our reputation.

Miami University Brand Guidelines

Here is the “M” spirit mark often used on sportswear and signs.

The Miami University Spirit Mark

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Best Practices, Branding, Color, Corporate Identity, Graphics, Guidelines, Logo Design, Marketing, Standards, Typography, Web Design