When was the last time you refreshed your branding?

Whether you are undertaking a merger, acquisition or brand refresh one of the most emotionally challenging and costly decisions you will make is creating your new visual identity.

If you are embarking on a new identity or refresh, it is useful to know the pitfalls and challenges so that that you get a mark you are proud of without taking out a small mortgage!

The first thing to do is to look outside the box and see how the big brands of our world create a mark that is unique, dynamic and fit for purpose but also how they have adapted their logos to reflect who they are.

Logos need to reflect your vision, values and personality.

As part of #TBT, we have been looking at famous brands to understand their original design intent (see our Twitter campaign – ‘big brands first logos and how different they are today’). Many famous brands have gone through drastic changes to reflect who and what they are, and all tell a story.

Take Apple. In 35 years, Apple has had three corporate badges. Its original logo is positively unrecognisable in relation to its current look. The Newton crest was Apple’s first visual identity in 1976. Its aim was to endorse its brand with the man who revolutionised science. It told a story about a journey of discovery – visionary and fitting.

What is your story?

Your company’s visual identity expresses your brand. Your clients need to be able to relate to it and differentiate you from your competitors.

In an online world ‘first impressions’ through design is more important today than it ever was. A successful logo tells the story of the brand without requiring any words. Examples include combined icon and word marks such as Twitter and FunkyPigeon, or emblem marks like Costa Coffee and Starbucks. All are firmly imprinted in our minds, because they tell are story, are unique and memorable.

It’s not easy to create a design that is interesting, attractive and clearly communicates who you are. It takes skill, research, negotiation! and refinement. When creating a new name or mark, my advice is to always look outside the comfort zone to get what you want. Look at different markets, sectors and big brands, and think about what appeals to you. If you don’t like it or get inspired by it, neither will your clients.

In my experience, unlike the consumer market, industry and professional organisations can often take the safe route by following other brands and trends within their own sector, without really thinking about what their brand means to them and their clients. Some never even ask the clients what they think.

Whilst all logos will have a similar set of qualities, in order for them to be effective they need to reflect your story.

For Apple, the drastic change from the Newton Crest to the Rainbow logo one year later gave the brand a more modern, vibrant and exciting look. It was unrecognisable from the former symbol but by 1998 it still didn’t reflect the sleek and visionary values of the brand. Apple’s present logo is a symbol of elegance, quality, and innovation just like its owners and its community of future thinkers.