The essence of a logo
Brands evolve over time, in response to changes such as changes in their market, in the scope of their activities, their values etc. The brand that have survived for generations and accumulated brand equity over the decades that managed to evolve whilst retaining their essence. This evolution can be found across a range of brand executions for example in how the brand is represented in advertising, how products that fall within the brand are packaged etc. The most important element of brand identity that is most visible and must retain the soul of a brand as it evolves is the logo.
A logo represents what a brand stands for in one simple, easy to understand visual execution. The logo communicates brand values, brand positioning, when the brand image was formed and much more. As such, a logo from a hundred years ago may not be suitable for the modern world especially for brand that seek to maintain an image of vibrancy and not vintage pedigree. The strongest brands have managed to evolve, changing to suit the styles of various ages whilst still retaining what makes them special.
Perhaps the key to understanding what the essence of a logo is and having that guide our approach to logo design and matching a logo look and feel to a client’s goals, ethos and market positioning is to identify the essential elements of logos that make them what they are. This is the first of a series in which we will look at the evolution of logos over time and deduce what elements are core to the brand identity, how they are preserved and updated over time and even how in the event of serious negative goodwill, brands may ditch the essence of their logo in a rebrand aimed at giving themselves a fresh start.
Case study: Firefox logo
The initial firefox logo created a quick association between the brand name and its visual representation. A flaming fox presents a literal visualization of firefox. The red fox is a fast, wily animal that provides a great visual representation of the brand’s focus on fast internet browsing and the wily smarts of the team at Firefox, taking on much larger established competitor such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Google’s Chrome browser. The fox is wrapped around a globe, a visual motif popular with early web browsers for illustrating the global reach of the internet and harkening to the globe logo of Netscape Navigator, the browser Firefox was based on. As a product only available on computers at the time, Firefox could have an intricate logo which could be faithfully executed as a program icon. With the launch and popularity of the iPhone, the industry moved towards smartphone applications and over time, designs for user interfaces and icons moved toward more elegant, simpler designs that could easily be displayed on mobile screens of varying resolution and be scaled up or down easily.
Over the years, as the logo has been updated, not only has it continued the trajectory of simplifying and modernizing the flaming fox, the earth has been swapped for a nondescript sphere, initially blue and eventually purple. This coincided with Firefox’s move away from merely being a mobile and computer browser brand but also a mobile phone operating system provider, security solution and content aggregator. As the brand’s scope broadened to encompass more than just the web browser tied to the globe motif, the globe became generic whilst the flaming fox remained, giving a consistent sense of brand identity as the guiding principles of the brand remain. The case of Firefox, it is evident the flaming fox concept is the soul of the logo. It can be stylized, it can wrap around the globe or anything else, but it retains its essence and communicates the flaming passion of the development team behind the brand.
As brand matures, they often simplify their logos. This allows for much quicker recognition of their brand by consumers. It also allows for a wide range of products, services and activities to fall under the banner of the brand identity as it is not so intricate as to limit what it can represent. For international players this simplification is especially important as it means branding can be done consistently across countries and cultures with limited risk of visual being considered offensive in some cultures as well as limited risk of quality control issues with printing the simplified logo.
For new brands seeking to give a sense of scale and show their potential to grow to multi-national scale, we recommend simplified logo designs that can easily be reproduced on a variety of platforms. These simpler logos also allow for much quicker taking of mindshare as they are easier to notice and to remember than overly intricate designs. Remember design should always be functional and be beauty that works for your brand and your brand objectives.
Keep following VisiblyHEARD for more discussions on brand identity, public relations and marketing. You can also look forward to a look at the evolutions of the brand identities/logos of BMW, HP, BP and many others.