Often at the apex of a visual identity lies some kind of logo marque. A distillation of the values, outlook and personality of the organisation. The logo is then supported by other graphic interventions and protocols such as colour, typographic arrangements, illustration and motifs. A logo is necessary when there is no other way to make a quick association.
However, on its own a logo marque or a logotype, no matter how beautiful or well crafted, is not the most powerful form of brand identity expression – though in certain situations, there’s no alternative. Logos are a quick reminder of that organisation and make a simple connection. That’s the best we can expect from this kind of brand exposure in this context.
Getting a warm, fuzzy feeling, a real sense of trust, professionalism and understanding and making a truly meaningful association with a company or organisation is a lot to ask of a logo. Certainly some marques manage it better than others though clearly this must be predicated by significant prior experience and exposure to the brand.
A strong brand identity is a tapestry of contributing components coming together to build a compelling and authentic narrative. A team of contributing players utilised to achieve brand goals. The brand identity toolkit may consist of many designed items like a logo, colour palette, guide to the use of language and style, typeface(s) and materials, illustrative and photographic style etc etc. These elements and others should emerge from the core idea that espouses the values and virtues of the brand.
A logo is useful shorthand. A simple and quick expression of the brand. However, a logo should not be used instead of, or as well as, more compelling ways of experiencing the brand. For example, it is rare to see the National Trust oak leaf past the pay threshold on entrance to a Trust place or space. For good reason. You’re there, you know where you are and who’s involved. Much better signifiers for a brand are; friendly gardeners, decent quality materials, considered estate colours, sympathetic and clear interpretation and spectacular buildings, gardens and spaces.
Logos often are much better at ‘who we are’ and far less good at ‘what we are’. Before adding a logo, it’s always worth considering whether it’s already obvious to the audience the ‘who we are’ bit. If that’s plain, are there better ways to articulate the ‘what we stand for’ part. In some cases, though it’s the worst form of brand identity expression, it’s still the best.