Iconography: How A Good (or Bad) Logo Will Affect Your Brand & PR
By definition, iconography is the “pictorial illustration associated with a person or a subject”- a.k.a., a logo. A logo is a critical component to a company or individual’s overall brand and PR success because while PR tells the story with words, the logo tells the story visually; they work hand-in-hand. If a brand emblem “can help instantly bring to our minds (or more accurately, our sensibilities) the first lines of that compelling brand message in hopes that we’ll take the story from there,” then the packaging is just as important as the message itself. If you have a great story to tell, but it isn’t represented well visually, consumers (and media) won’t pick up your message.
I recently asked Bill Higgins, a longtime friend from college and a seriously talented sr. graphic designer for a small group of Yahoo’s (Yahoo!, Inc) in Atlanta, to talk with us about the importance of iconography. Bill’s job is to build out the “look-and-feel” of a product. You can check out some of his cool work with Burt’s Bees, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Coca-Cola and Games Workshop.
Fresh Impact: What is the significance of a logo?
Bill: Everybody knows that our interactions with brands on a day-to-day basis are momentary (albeit highly frequent). We do more bumping into them than contemplating brand identities. Even if we’re watching a Cascade ad during a commercial break, we’re only semi-conscious of the full brand message being delivered. But, rest assured, the trademark or logo fits sweetly into a very strategic plan on the part of advertisers and designers to leave behind just the right impression in that half-attentive consciousness. The trademark is a part of a story telling process. The story being told is a brand story and it’s being told to help us, the consumer/user/viewer, more immediately intermingle our own lives with the brand. So, the logo could be the cover, opening chapter or big climax of this alluring tale – all depending on the story telling strategy being used. It does it’s part in helping tell a story by using the tools of design (form, scale, contrast, motion – to name a few) to tap into our emotions, memories, and sensibilities (all the parts of our favorite stories) and arouse just enough of our will to recognize something valuable – or at least, the perception of something valuable – and provoke us to aspire, relate, cheer, and embrace the brand message.
Fresh Impact: How important is the logo to the overall brand?
Bill: Well, what happens to the “American brand” if you swap out the bald eagle for a wild turkey? Or how would you feel if Tony the Tiger became Larry the Llama? Would they be telling the same story? See, they’re telling you things without saying anything. They’re actually helping us weave stories that cast ourselves and those we live with as co-actors with their products and services. The brand emblems designers and marketers create, can help instantly bring to our minds (or more accurately, our sensibilities) the first lines of that compelling brand message in hopes that we’ll take the story from there.
Fresh Impact: In your opinion, what makes a good iconography/logo?
Bill: You have to look at an icon or logo as a language in-and-of itself. A good logo has the ability to inaudibly speak to the sensibilities of a particular group of people and deliver the right messages to them – and then turn to another group of people and speak a different message (i.e. Nike’s unisex, multi-cultural, multi-generational appeal). Ultimately, all groups having had valuable deposits left with them that will hopefully compel their decision making.
Fresh Impact: When developing an icon/logo what are some things to take into consideration?
Bill: Ultimately, from a designer’s standpoint, I think it takes a deep connection with your audience and a broad comfort-ability with the tools of the trade combined with some serious commitment to sniffing out every possible creative rabbit trail the logo design might take you down.
Fresh Impact: Any final advice?
Bill: As a brand manager or marketer, I’d think you’d want, among other things, to have a seriously good grasp on the REAL story you want people to tell themselves about your brand. What do you want to leave behind in their sensibilities that will germinate into a decision for your brand? Not just a list of value propositions or marketing objectives – but a story – hopefully a true story that evokes trust, affinity, and even a little admiration for a worthy brand.
And then, for folks that are in the middle of developing a brand identity, I’d say – find a designer or design firm or agency with whom you can truly be a team. If you’re not enjoying the fleshing out of your most foundational brand message I wouldn’t expect your consumers to enjoy interacting with it.
Fresh Impact: Great advice Bill.