A large responsibility of being a graphic designer is being able to establish a strong identity on behalf of a brand, which represents its core values effectively and concisely. A common misconception within the graphic design industry is that this can be established solely through the implementation of an effective logo, which looks “pretty” and keeps in line with contemporary design trends. Since stepping into higher education, it has been repeated to me over and over – this is not the case.

A key component of a successful brand is having an intriguing personality ­– this can be established through thoughtful PR, exhibition of genuine values and beliefs, and a well-considered, flexible identity that can be used across multiple media formats and still retain consistency. Consequently, once these have been established, the decision to change any element of the brand (even slightly) becomes one that carries significant weight – and should be treated as such.

Having said all this, speaking purely from the perspective of the consumer, the initial focal point (following any changes) will likely be the logo. These revised logos are often subject to a great amount of criticism and scrutiny from the public (especially the thought-process behind them), which makes it imperative to ensure backing-concepts are substantial enough to withstand the backlash that could potentially follow. Concepts need to be simple enough to evoke a positive response in a split-second, while being thorough enough to leave the consumer with a lasting impression of the brand, which generates profit and an increased amount of sales.

An example of this sort of scrutiny that is currently trending across various social media platforms is the highly controversial update of Leeds United’s crest design – now sporting an illustration of the well-known “Leeds Salute” in favour of the Yorkshire Rose that was used previously.

Despite a thought-process being evident in the developmental stages (and Leeds United going so far as to consult 10,000 people affiliated with the club), the new crest faced an immediate backlash – fuelled by a petition set up by a fan to revoke the new design, forcing the club to go back to the drawing board.

This leads me to question what can be done to maximise the likelihood of a positive response from an updated brand identity – including the dreaded logo design…

  • Simplicity of design: Keep it simple, stupid! An identity should not be complicated, and should incorporate the brand values in some way – whilst in turn being unique and authentic (nobody said this was going to be easy!).
  • Create a design that will last: An identity should be timeless, and age gracefully. If not done correctly, a brand may need a complete overhaul in the years to come – costing more, and losing a level of consistency that is crucial when attempting to maintain trust within the marketplace.
  • Versatility of materials: Each component of the brand identity should be compatible across multiple forms of media – does the logo work in black and white? Are the brand fonts legible at a small-scale? Do colours in the brand palette compliment one another? All of the above (and more) must be considered to ensure success.
  • Ensure all designs are fit for purpose: By taking the time to ensure all designs are appropriate for the selected audience, a brand is reducing the chance of a negative response upon releasing new designs into the public domain. For example, if designing for a children’s brand, any typography used should be bright and colourful and appear friendly; on the contrary, if designing for a large corporate brand, this approach would be inappropriate – as it could appear unprofessional to the brand’s clientele and cause a decrease in business. Find a balance!
  • Leave a lasting impression: By taking the time to tailor one’s brand to the brief, you are creating something unique that does not ‘follow the crowd’. This is more likely to trigger a memorable response on the part of the consumer, which could lead to further engagement with the brand in the near future.

Unfortunately in some cases, despite following each of these guides, a consumer response can still be negative – in the case of Leeds United, gaining a negative response from over 50,000 fans. Consequently, I have one final note to add on the matter – plan, plan plan (does that count as three?)! By planning for a negative response in advance, a brand can act quickly to regain trust from their client-base – controlling the amount of damage caused.

Branding is a risky business, and as much as one can obsess over creating a ‘decent’ logo, creating a successful brand identity that lasts is so much more than that – which makes it so much more satisfying when it is done right.

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