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Refreshing the Logo, Part 1

Oct 23, 2008

Part 1: Looking back for lessons

After some time and some very constructive feedback. I have decided, to borrow developer terminology, the current logo and colours are legacy. To clarify and avoid the danger is that as soon as something is complete that it becomes legacy, is not what I mean. I am talking about the usefulness of a logo in relationship to current fashions and colours, bluntly the logo has outlived its usefulness as a marketing tool.

In doing some research, I came across these interesting changes in Apple, Inc. logo. The logo has been refreshed as the company and technology have advanced. For those unaware of the history of logos, please see below as published in the wikipedia Apple article, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Inc.#Logos.

Starting with the logo on the far left, the image of the apple hanging in the tree over Newton’s head, this is a great idea, but the complexity of the image didn’t lend itself to an easily identifiable eye-catching symbol. However hope was not lost and their initial idea did not need to be abandoned, Apple took the idea of Newton’s Apple and simplified it into the current shape.

We need to be careful to disregard our current fashion sense at this stage, because Apple progressed the logo by simplifying its shape and then applying colouring in step with technological dreams and fashion. The logo reflected at the time the current mood and selling points. Part of Apple’s marketing drive was the idea of the company’s products bringing colour and interest to your life. Hence the colourful logo was a key component to their strategy. Later, they moved on to the slick silhouette and polished modern design to represent the technological ambitions and qualities that Apple currently carries with its brand; ease of use, beautiful interfaces and unobtrusive interactions.
The changes to the Apple logo represent some good practices:

  1. The design needs to be accessible to the desired end market.
  2. A logo is a tool for assisting the public in identifying the ideas and culture of a company.
  3. It is acceptable for the logo to not convey the attitudes and skills of the company.
  4. A logo should be simple and eye catching.
  5. It should also scale well and look good in colour or grayscale
  6. Colour is only important, as part of the overall brand identity, but not integral.
  7. A logo should have a life of its own, meaning it should stand on its own without any other representation.
  8. And most importantly, a logo is the key means by which a company is identified at a quick glance.

There are many decisions involved in the creation and implementation of a logo, I will continue to look at good logo design in following posts, as well demonstrating how to refresh a logo.

More reading at:
http://sbinfocanada.about.com/od/marketing/a/brandingks.htm
Apple, Inc Logos and trademarks belong to Apple, Inc.

Posted by Thomas Cowell

Tags: branding, design, logo


Updated Web Design

Oct 25, 2008

Just a quick post to say that we have updated our website to reflect our new logo. Check it out. www.eightsquarestudio.com

Posted by Thomas Cowell

Tags: branding, design, logo


Refreshing the Logo, Part 2

Oct 30, 2008

Part 2: Getting it right

This is the second part look at logo design. Before I proceed, I want to summarise in a few key words the concepts of logo design: Unique, Clear, Eye-Catching, Simple and Bold.

Reflecting upon part 1, Apple started with a logo that was a great idea, but it was not clear and eye-catching. This is an easy mistake to make when starting out, because of the necessity to rush to get to market quickly. Furthermore, a design can become dated over the life of the company and at other times the company may need to refresh their image to improve their marketing position, as demonstrated by Apple in the late 1990’s. These times of logo redesign are an essential part of the re-dressing of the overall company image.

You may be wondering about the band of images to the right. This is an attempt to demonstrate to how an evolution of design occurs within the “dark art” of graphic design. As you can determine from the strip the process is not about abandoning the old design, but building upon the original strengths of good concepts and ideas. The ultimate goal of the refresh, was not to throw out the strong image, but make it more suitable as a logo.

The brief involved a requirement to update the logo to better reflect the background and culture of eight square studio. While also taking into consideration the advancement of technology, skills, current media culture and focus market. This marketing information and background is vital to ensure that the design is appropriate to the direction and desired market of the company.

The design process requires a stripping away of the complexity back to the bare essentials, as shown in the second frame. Leaving with a coloured rectangle containing the eight. Then comes the process of experimentation, sketching, considering the nature of the company, the brief, current trends and fashions. I have left out experiments that did not directly result in the refreshed logo, to show the process of stripping back and redefining is clear.

Key considerations for refreshing your logo:

  1. A refreshed logo should continue to reflect the current and future objectives of a business.
  2. Never loose sight of the fact that the previous logo helped build your brand and the new logo should pay homage or create a continuity with the old logo.
  3. The purpose of a refresh is to help solidify, advance and as necessary re-contextualize the brand. The logo redesign should be a small part of the website, the stationary, any marketing or sales material, etc. design to ensure brand continuity.
  4. Brand is a holistic thing, its not just about a single small logo, although this helps underpin marketing. It should also be reflected in your company’s sales and marketing materials, how it deals with customers, how you make sales, how you provide after sales support, etc.
  5. Simplicity and a striking design are more important than the logo describing what the company is or does.

For further reading I would recommend reviewing:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logo
http://creativebits.org/what_is_a_logo

Posted by Thomas Cowell

Tags: branding, design, logo


How do you look? Building Trust: Part 1

Nov 07, 2008

Fundamentally this is an issue of trust, I want to look at how trust is important to brand. Lets start with an example of how trust can be eroded. Then moving onto how to image is important to trust.

I have had the bad fortune of working with some intentionally dishonest people, they tend to paint everything to benefit them. Only doing that which improves only their position and gets them the greatest gains, power or position. What does that mean for me as a consultant? When I started having problems with receiving paying and was being asked to misrepresent aspects of the company, I faced a dilemma. Do I walk and cut my losses or do I play along and make a fair bit of easy money? I walked, even though it looked good, I couldn’t see it ending well in the long term. Why? Trust. Simply, I could not trust what they said to me because I had watched them misrepresent themselves to others and simply saw these circumstances as a further reason to be extremely cautious. There misrepresentation was not the enthusiastic promises of a marketing or sales person, but blatant misrepresentation of the abilities and skills.

What is so hard about Trust, well not to be obvious it is the certainty with which we are willing to rely on another party to fulfil their promises. It is have I established a level of credibility with another party where they know I will be able to uphold those agreements. Trust also plays out when something doesn’t go according to plan demonstrating itself in the means by which something is worked through without resorting to school yard tactics? Even with extremely trustworthy people things can and will occasionally go wrong due to external circumstances, but when it does the process of resolution is much easier and the investigation of the problem tends to be amicable.

Working in London presents its difficulties and I recognise how hard it can be at times to build trust. The wolves are always biting at your heals, someone is always trying to “have it on” and you are fighting to keep yourself above water. There are no quick-fixes, no easy solutions, just simple perseverance. Trust demonstrates itself in loyalty and this is something that needs to be continuously cultivated. A reputation can be much more easily torn down than built. People want to deal with businesses of a good reputation and trustworthiness, but if you can’t deliver on your promises, the problem lies within the integrity of processes and promises of the business. In the next article I will look at some customer facing tools to help improve your ability to deliver on your promises, in this article I want to look at how to improve the appearance of trust.

Firstly, I want to dispel a myth that trustworthy businesses don’t need to be concerned with their image. This is a great shame, because there some are incredible companies that sell themselves short because they don’t care about their appearance. Many times I have had recommendations about a company, but because their presentation is not clean and well organised it means that I have difficulty believing that they are organised and able to deliver on the promises. This is very subtle and unfortunately means they won’t get the follow through and the opportunity to demonstrate how fantastic they are.

Great companies can be kept from growing or moving into markets, because of presentation. Here are some helpful questions I hope will flush out the issue:

  1. Does all my marketing material, stationary, emails and website look tidy and organised?
  2. Is my presentation suitable for my desired market? (i.e. A game shop will have a different style to maternity shop)
  3. Can I explain what my organisation is about in 30 seconds?
  4. Is my website easy to navigate and is it easy to find the right information? (Also referred to as accessibility or the mom test! Not to be discriminatory, any non-technical person will suffice.)

How do you know whether you meet this criteria, ask people you know who can give you honest feedback! We can also offer you assistance and we will be more than willing to discuss any queries you may have? Please feel free to contact us.

After a company has improved their image and presentation what does their marketing position look like? It should in the long term see an improvement in sales when done in conjunction with a good marketing strategy. As I don’t wish to confuse the two, image or brand is the materials used in presenting the company in an easy to understand manner, whereas marketing is about the process and activities surrounding the buying and selling. The difference between these two can at times be hard to distinguish, but for the sake of this article we are focusing on the presentation.

A clear, clean and concise presentation and image provides your potential customers with the information they need to make decisions about whether they are willing to build trust with you and your company. People want to know what I services or products I am offering. They want it the important information to be accessible. Which is where ultimately the decision to contact you is made? A common mistake is give too much information about how great your company is, but not give information about the products and services you offer in a clear easy to digest 30 second scan of your website. A friend in corporate banking who doesn’t have much time to review information, commented to me, if you grab his attention with a clear simply defined product, he will read further to find out more. It is a matter of “signal vs. noise”, are you making noise or delivering a clear message about yourself and your company?

Again this is not about strategy and how or how not to make a bunch of noise for the sake of getting people interested in your company, but the materials people are met with when they are being introduced to you. This is where the making of noise and getting attention really pays off, this is where you get the good conversion rates from people passing by to people becoming customers and potentially loyal clients.

As touched on in earlier on some of the next articles I am going to look at tools and techniques in the following articles of the same title.

Posted by Thomas Cowell

Tags: branding


How do you look? Building Trust: Part 2

Dec 24, 2008

Continuing from the last post, How do you look? Building Trust: Part 1

I want to continue the discussion from the question. Does an honest company fair better than one out for a few quick quid? Before I jump to a conclusion and say a whole hearted yes, I want to remove any prejudices we might enter into this discussion. I will layout several questions as a means of helping us identify what I mean by trust:

  1. Am I doing what I said I would do?
  2. Or am I able to deliver on my promises?
  3. Am I acting in a way that builds credibility, even if it may incur some cost?
  4. Is there clear communication within my organisation and to my customers?
  5. Is the branding or image I am presenting assisting in building credibility?

It is important to point out this caveat, that trust is not a measure of how you handle difficult clients, but the integrity with which you do interact with all your clients. It is important to be able to manage and deal with troublesome clients, with integrity, as this will generally be demonstrated by greater loyalty and better business relationships with the good clients.

The goal of building trust is a goal of building loyalty. Let me explain. Recently I had problems with my MacBook Pro, and took it in for servicing. I could not have been happier with the results of this exchange. What were my impressions, they are as follows:

  1. Apple takes care of its customers.
  2. I will buy AppleCare again because of the how hassle free the whole process was.
  3. Apple fulfilled its promises to me, of hassle free servicing of a product on AppleCare.

Now, I know there are horror stories about every company and I don’t wish to discredit them or discuss them. The real motive is to show that loyalty is built on experiences and presentation of a company. The experience I had confirmed that Apple is a professional company that is serious about providing excellence to its customers.

How do we translate this to the realm of branding and marketing tools. The key is that Apple had worked to get a good image which helped them build on their credibility, and the consumer experience with their products and services has only served to reinforce the loyalty.

Lets break this down, and look at branding, followed by experience. The brand of a company is important for those who have not yet experienced the company. Most people when they approach a company have little to no idea about whether a company is credible and the quality of service, they will experience. But a good clean branding and good reviews, lower the threshold for trust. You may say anyone can look good, even con artists look good, but will never deliver. Now there is some truth in this, but a con artist is looking for quick cash and someone intent on building a brand will work to build loyalty between themselves and their clients. Someone who works hard to have good clean branding, is more than likely looking to build a long term business.

As a designer when I look at company’s website, marketing materials and overall, how they put forward “the best” of themselves. It clearly shows me what is important to them and their customers. A company that values ‘price’, will have an image to reflect it. A company that values excellence and making the best will have a different image to reflect that, etc.

But trust isn’t just about how good your company looks, it is also about how well you communicate, your goals and vision. Good branding can be thwarted by a break down in communication, either internally or with a client who feels agreements are not being fulfilled? The basis of integrity is, am doing what I said I would. Am I building and maintaining trust through fulfilling what I said I would? Is my business building trust and communicating its values, as part of instilling trust? Since the web is a prolific tool for communicating values, here are some ways to improve communication:

Do you have your contact information clearly displayed? It is surprising the number of people who base trust on contact information or the perceived accessibility.

  1. Does your website clearly reflect your values?
  2. Does your company have a blog, or another means of updating you clients about after-sales care. Not just up-selling, but communicating product changes or improvements.
  3. Do your clients and potential clients have access to the important information for making decisions? This can be as simple as a telephone number or as complex as a site to provide a quote/ e-commerce.
  4. Do you have an after-sales forum you can monitor? Ensuring you are able to deal with queries or difficulties quickly and effectively. As pertinent to the business.
  5. Have you considered how social networking sites are driving the economy? Social networking is complex, but about people sharing their experiences. From a consultant posting client reviews to people sharing experiences about a product.

To summarise, this post I will ask one question. How well are you communicating?

Posted by Thomas Cowell

Tags: branding, tools


Don't Make New Years Resolutions

Jan 03, 2009

Some one recently asked this New Year, what resolutions did you make? I responded that I don’t make New Years Resolutions. There was a stunned silence and after a short period, when the questioner had composed themselves, they naturally questioned why I would do this.

Just to give you the same background I gave them, here is how I came to this conclusion. About 10-15 years ago, I resolved to never make a New Years Resolution ever again. This came about because I noticed that everyone made a resolution to loose weight, love their family more, drink less, be kinder, etc. I being just as guilty as everyone else of resolving to do something and yet failing 5 days later and forgetting it completely a month on, saw a pattern that I would make decisions to change or improve my life only on New Years Day or I was forced to by circumstances. I had pattern of excusing to remain indecisive and content with where I was not going or not doing, when I had I power to change those circumstances.

I can hear some people going that seems a bit much, but this clear realisation left with the insight that I was excusing problems or leaving them until they were really a big problem to resolve. Now you may be asking what does this have to do with my business, my branding or marketing. I will explain, by sharing a little insight I received a while ago, we are our businesses; our attitudes, habits and decision making processes are what drive our businesses, our lives, and interactions with our environment. This is by no means an opening to attack someone for incompetence, or patting someone on the back for being extremely clever, but a truth about the world around us.

Getting back to why I don’t make resolutions, the bit I left out was at the same time I made the resolution to make resolutions to change things when it was clear to me that change was necessary to improve my situation. So how does that look now? Simply, I live my life and I go about my business, assessing whether I am accomplishing my goals and whether I need to add, remove or modify goals, this occurs as part of the natural, disciplined and regular periods of assessment and feedback between my self and those around me. Now someone is probably going to say, I can’t do that. You can and here is how I went about doing it.

  1. Set goals and assessment periods at regular intervals.
  2. Get to know your weaknesses.
  3. Get to know your strengths.
  4. Be willing to critique your self and your decisions. Not to rubbish or worry about the decision, but to assess whether it was a good decision and whether things could have been done better, at important intervals.
  5. Be willing to let trustworthy people point out faults. This is not a carte blanche excuse for someone to ruin your character or your management team take you apart and leave you, but a constructive process. (this and previous item are probably the hardest steps, make sure you find honest, trustworthy people to help here.)
  6. Present the best of yourself and your company, to everyone else.

Why do successful and bright people attract successful and bright people, because they want to build credible, trustworthy and sharp businesses. This is why I keep the door open to make resolutions at anytime because credible businesses are built by people who are able to be decisive and open to the decision making process at appropriate times.
How does this apply to branding? Branding is about bringing out the best of your company to put on display for potential customers/clients. This display of excellence can only be achieved, through regular honest assessments and a decision making process that works towards this goal. The aim is to as much as you are able to present the best of what you are currently doing, not what you could do, but what you are doing.

Posted by Thomas Cowell

Tags: branding