Logos have always sat at the tip of the proverbial brand iceberg. In the best cases, they are a simple, visual representation of a brand and all that it promises. Be it a wordmark, symbol, pictogram or signature – logos have the power to crystallize an abstract idea, product experience, or ad campaign into a single, distinctive, iconic statement. And although they may occasionally need to be nurtured or tweaked to keep them relevant and engaging, they can potentially endure the test of time.
Despite their significance, logos have been taking a back seat in recent years. Although brand new logos and updated logos still generate some buzz, online technology has expanded the ‘brand experience’ thus diminishing the role of the logo. On the Internet, brands have much more real estate, plus the power of interactive technology to communicate their brand personality – through editorial, secondary graphics, imagery, multimedia, animation, blogs and reviews – not to mention the actual user experience. The brand impression is composed of multiple elements working together, reducing the onus on the logo to communicate the whole story.
But, alas technology continues to evolve and people no longer have the patience to sit and absorb content-heavy websites. Nor do they have to. With the rise of smart phones, brands are now expected to deliver their content in sound byte form. In much less space, and in fewer seconds (patience runs even thinner when it comes to mobile experiences) brands are taxed to connect at the pace of life today. We’re all reading less, and scanning more. We look without really seeing, as we try to digest the thousands of images, ads and messages that assault us everyday. Suddenly, the logo is back on top as the single element with the most potential to cut through the clutter filling our brains.
Evolving with the times, however, even the logo is getting ‘abbreviated’. As the real estate for branding shrinks, logos are again forced to work harder. Compressed into sixteen pixels for a favicon, forced into a tile to compete in a sea of apps or serving as a live link button at the bottom of a page, the logo is being pushed to the limits, trying to deliver more meaning in a smaller footprint. Ironically the cry by most Brand Managers has always been “make the logo bigger” – now it’s all about making it more compact.
And it’s not just web and mobile technology that is driving these changes. Our consumption of television has changed – time-shifting and the ability to evade commercials altogether has become a reality with DVR, Video On Demand, streaming content on hulu.com, and downloadable content on itunes.com. With commercials losing their foothold, advertisers are working harder to embed their logos into programming, movies and games, aiming for a more integrated, less avoidable impression.
And another stress test? As the world becomes more connected and consumers interact with more and more international brands, the demand and reward for a logo that can be instantly recognized and understood becomes even greater. They say a picture paints a thousand words, and when that picture can overcome language, linguistic and cultural barriers to tell a rich story, its value becomes immeasurable.
Perhaps one of the best examples appreciating the impact of the logo and celebrating its visibility is the recent short film Logorama. Made by H5, and winning a freshly minted Oscar for the best short animated movie, Logorama weaves a story through a world of logos, mascots and international icons. The film is available for purchase through iTunes at $1.99.
So while many bemoan the infiltration of branding and advertising into every aspect of our lives, it’s simply unavoidable. Logos are an indelible part of our culture. They are shorthand for our preferences and symbols that often define who we are. They are woven into the visual fabric that surrounds us and connects us. So as any designer will corroborate, we celebrate the return of the logo – at any size!