Showing posts with label design. Show all posts
Showing posts with label design. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 12

Retracting Gap: What's In A Logo?

"Ok. We’ve heard loud and clear that you don’t like the new logo." — GAP Facebook

But it's hard to turn off online opinions. And GAP can expect to hear some more after its two-day escapade to introduce a logo that felt like it was served up straight out of an old clip art book.

Helvetica (because that is what everybody uses). And a tiny box behind the GAP (because someone wanted GAP to be, you know, outside the box).

“We’ve learned a lot in this process. And we are clear that we did not go about this in the right way," said Marka Hansen, president of Gap Brand North America. "We recognize that we missed the opportunity to engage with the online community. This wasn’t the right project at the right time for crowd sourcing."

But did they really? Hansen's statement alludes to the idea that they might try again. Just not today. And after the recent GAP debacle, probably not in the foreseeable future. Almost certainly not why Hansen holds the same position.

What Is It About Logos Anyway?

When a company has a readily identifiable brand, like GAP, the logo transcends art. It becomes the symbol of the brand relationship.

When that happens (and you want it to happen), you cannot change the logo any more successfully than you can surprise your spouse with a new wedding ring as the symbol of your relationship. This is especially true true if you trade it down, swapping out the gold band for a twizzler stick or tie wrap.

"Um honey, what's that wrapped around your finger?"

"Oh this? It's a garbage bag tie wrap."

"A what? ... Why?"

"I decided to evolve the symbol of our relationship to be more in line with our everyday down-to-earth domestic bliss."

See? If you think such a stunt would be well received, go ahead and try it.

Of course, that is not to say refreshing a symbol is a bad idea. There are opportunities to evolve it, from time to time, with the mutual consent of both parties. Or, in the case of a company logo, many stakeholders. In some cases, it might not be all that different from deciding when to change a tagline.

When To Change A Logo.

At the end of the relationship. Mergers, acquisitions, and buyouts are all suitable times to change the logo because they represent a change in the relationship. However, marketers must always remember that a new symbol is indicative of change. New relationships have to be proven.

At the end of an era. Some logos, much like architecture, pay too much attention to trends and not the timelessness of their own design. In the 1980s, for example, many companies infused pastels into their designs. The evolution of Nike might be an appropriate example, especially because the changes were mostly subtle.

With a shift in direction. While the Syfy name change is still a mess, the timing was somewhat right. The network wanted to change direction. Whether it really did or not is debatable. (There were some other legal reasons involved too).

Because it sucks. Some companies have logos that suck. There are thousands and thousands. What else can be said about them? Marketers need to be careful though. Mercedes is sometimes called a bad logo design. Maybe so, but the iconic symbol has transcended what doesn't work.

New Products. New companies, new products, and new services can sometimes spark the imagination. Apple used this approach when it dropped the color bars. While the change wasn't as dramatic as the launch of Infiniti by Nissan, it's still a useful illustration.

Never. When a logo works, it works. And it doesn't have to be great to work. That is the lesson GAP ought to have learned. While the company might think the mark has become tied to the past, its customers are happy enough with it. And maybe that is the most important lesson of all. When it comes to logos, once established, it's no longer about you.

Related Stories By Others.

What Did It Take To Get The Gap To Reverse Its Logo Redesign?

Dear Gap, I Have Your New Logo.

Calm Down, The New Gap Logo is a PR Stunt.

Thursday, August 2

Designing Sky:

Maybe it is because I'm working on a Web site for a company that is introducing a best available technology for concrete slurry recovery (mixer washout), but a few environmental campaigns have recently stood out to me. One of them, Adopt the Sky, which was launched by, adds a new twist on petition signing.

The Adopt the Sky campaign asks people to sign a petition that calls for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen ozone standards beyond the new levels introduced on June 21.

From a communication perceptive, what struck me about the petition is that it is set against the backdrop of a blue sky with bright green washers floating at various fields of depth. When your cursor rolls over one of them, it turns orange and a speech balloon pops up with one of the petition signer's personal messages.

For example, one might say "Heather B adopted sky over DC on 08.02.07: It's the least we can do." Currently, there are more than 16,000 disks and messages featured on a free-flowing petition.

It works because the design complements the message as an extension of the overall strategy. The best messages usually do. Currently, advertising is trending toward increasingly outrageous messages in every medium with businesses (or their agencies) sometimes forgetting that runaway creative ideas sometimes get carried away to the point where they drown out the real message.

If you have ever seen an advertisement that was funny enough to tell a friend, but you could not remember whose advertisement it was, then you know what I'm talking about. In contrast, the Adopt the Sky campaign keeps it simple with an interesting, free-flowing design element that complements its message. I've seen the technique used on the Web before, but this one works especially well.

Yesterday, I also received another indication that knows a little something about communication ...

"We are so sorry! We just sent an email to you thanking you for signing our petition on the site.

But we messed up ... we mis-matched your email address with
someone else's name! We are correcting the information right
now. And don't worry - your personal information is protected.

Thanks for your patience. By the way, you can still tell your friends to 'Adopt the Sky' (link inserted)."

Sometimes, demonstrating you can make a mistake without taking it too seriously can have a greater impact than the original message. While a follow-up e-mail like this won't work for everyone, it does work for them.

In closing, allow me to add that this post is much more about communication than environmental policy. If you are interested in environmental policy and this petition, I fully encourage you to explore the various arguments before signing it (like any petition).

If there is one critique about this campaign: much of it reads as if the campaign is supporting the EPA. It is not. This petition supports the organization's position that the EPA fell short on June 21.

While it seems clear to me that most people understand it is in our best interest to protect the environment, most of the debates generally polarized over the pace in which we protect it. And that is something to always keep in mind.


Thursday, March 22

Receiving Recognition: Kamikaze

The reason we're sometimes referred to as hired guns in communication-related fields (advertising, marketing, public relations, political campaigning, publishing, social media) is because we're very adept at meeting specific needs (filling niches no one else will) under the umbrella of strategic communication.

Some advertising agencies hire us for copywriting, creative direction, and public relations support; some public relations firms hire us for advertising support and overflow work; some companies hire us direct to fill mini-niches for departments or to provide overall communication consultation and implementation, helping top executives align their communication.

It seems like a mixed bag to be sure, but I like to keep things interesting. I also fully admit it sometimes mangles our message (are you a public relations firm ... um, no, but we can support your public relations efforts), but we've grown comfortable with front-end confusion in favor of serving select clients. (Don't get me wrong. We have a message and you can find it at Copywrite, Ink.) The result is always interesting and the diversity of work keeps things engaging.

Kamikaze provides an excellent example because, for the most part, they feel very comfortable in managing most of their communication (eg. they designed their Web site). However, they wanted some very specific help in developing a new logo and stationary package.

When judged by major market advertising agencies, they said my work with Seattle-based designer Curtis Sharp was spot on, earning a Bronze Addy Award last Saturday at the Las Vegas Advertising Federation Addy Awards. We're honored, mostly to maintain our presence in the market and to provide our client additional exposure.

To appreciate the logo, it might help to know that Kamikaze is the divine wind of worldwide entertainment, aerial acrobatics, camera mounts, and rigging. The mark is the culmination of "flying people, the rising sun, and the first letter of the name." The mark can also stand alone, works in one color, and easily imprints itself as a recognizable icon.

More importantly, Trent Sherrell and Virginia Reddin are great people. In fact, they were one of the first to fly in on our online merchandise concept Back Lot Projects, allowing us to add their logo to giftware. The store is still in development, but we already have signed a sponsor agreement with a very visible in-market non-profit organization.

We're about a month out from adding five designs to help them raise funds; tomorrow I'm meeting with another not-for-profit prospect. As the product lines grow so will the potential for all our participants.

All in all, regardless of the strategies and tactics we're asked to assist with, there are common denominators that stand out. We apply strategic communication to everything we do (whether or not we tell the client that is what we are doing). That means everything from designing a logo with an assist from an out-of-market designer to developing what we call a core message system that would make tactical decisions (like how to employ social media) super easy.

In closing, I would like to again thank Kamikaze for being a great forward-thinking client and receptive to a brand-driven mark that drifted away from some early ideas. Also, a big kudos to Sharp for not exhibiting any designer ego in jointly developing this logo that will help take Kamikaze internationally. Great ideas. Great results. That's what it's supposed to be about. Thanks and congratulations!


Monday, January 29

Selling Sausage: Marc Gobe

Marc Gobe likes to be called a “conceptual provocateur,” which he defines as "a mind that never rests, that never stops seeking ways to look at things from a new and totally different point of view." He has a lot of interesting ideas that come from his stream-of-consciousness approach, but the one I read in Communication Arts, yesterday, is baloney.

That is what happens sometimes: instead of finding stream-of-consciousness inspiration, we end up selling baloney.

Gobe writes that the designer is the mirror image of the consumer, calling it a revolutionary idea, but mostly, it seems, it's revolutionary because he claims it is his idea. He says that designers are the consumers, understand visual communication better than anyone, and basically, if the researchers would step out of the way, then designers could reach down deep and pull out innovation to jazz up those brands. (Not surprisingly, his design firm, he says, fully endorses this approach. Eh hem, it would be a shocker if it did not.)

Sure, everybody in the industry "feels" this way from time to time: free the creatives from the shackles of research, give them unlimited access to the consumer, and add more weight their opinion, because, after all, they are consumers too. But just because we "feel" this way, doesn't make it so.

Case in point. How many professional organization meetings have we attended when one person floats an event idea, a bad one, but inevitability, someone else on the board says "Ooooo, that's a good idea ... I would go to that" despite the fact that it flies in the face of everything the organization knows to be true from its own member research. The logic: board members are members too. When the event flops, everybody stands around scratching their heads wondering what happened.

What happened? Simple. They fell into the trap that board members are the mirror image of members, despite the fact that there are fundamental differences between them. Board members and members are different audiences because one is engaged while the other is optionally engaged. In business, we often remind clients that no one is more interested in their product than they are. In other words, once you're engaged, you're automatically different than the target audience.

The same holds true for designers and other commercial creatives. Sure, some will find brilliance by becoming emotionally engaged by their own perspective and ego similar to artists like Paul Guanguin. But like all great philosophical approaches to art, design, and even business, there is another direction that's given less attention but has a superior effect. Staying with artists as the analogy, it would be the path taken by Michelango.

Michelango understood that if you destroy the ego and view the world as a third-party observer, looking not for that not-so-elusive emotional jazz, but for the truth, inspiration will flow through unencumbered and touch a greater audience. Right. Take yourself out of the equation and you'll end up with better design. Likewise, you'll end up with better communication that achieves the only real result: changing behavior.

Besides, when designers are given the shot to be the consumer, something else happens. Not all, but most fail. For evidence, look at the abundance of overproduced Flash-heavy agency and design Websites out there and you'll see what I mean. Their self-promotional work has more consumer appeal to their competitors than it does to the businesses they hope to win over.

Denis Du Bois with P5 Group Inc. in Seattle made the case nicely. He didn't have an article in Communication Arts like Gobe did, but he did send in a letter critiquing that designers are becoming too addicted to Flash. While I'm not a fan of the P5 Group Inc. Web site (that's okay, I'm not a fan of mine yet either), I am a fan of this thinking: "When our only tool is a hammer (Flash), every problem looks like a nail." Now only if he would concede that budget has nothing to do with whether or not you can make great communication, we might be friends.

Anyway, here, I'll give Du Bois what he asked for that Communication Arts didn't deliver and also illustrate my argument against Gobe's notion that all designers should be counted as the ultimate consumers (nor do all of them have intuitive superiority). ScuderiaO2 produces an simple, probably cost-effective design Web site that seems to appeal much better to its business target audience than most agnecies without any Flash whatsoever. Smart.

In conclusion, let me clarify a few things so there is no confusion: Flash is cool and works for a lot of products and companies (just not all products and all companies); Gobe has floated some great ideas before (but he's not as innovative as he thinks by feeding designer egos this time around); and Du Bois seems like a nice guy with some smart ideas (though I hope he abandons the "it's all about the budget" excuse). And ScuderiaO2, well, I'm still learning about them ... there seems to be a lot to be liked ... they seem like the kind of folks we would like to work with. But then again, we like everybody. Grin.

Monday, January 22

Counting Web Pages: Tootsie Rolls

We were (are) playing with the idea of robust site for Copywrite, Ink., but then we started asking ourselves a few crazy questions like “how many clicks does it take to get to the center of a ...?"

Fortunately for me, Tootsie Roll Industries has a story board featuring the classic Tootsie Fable "How Many Licks" commercial. And that's where I found the answer.

Of course, for everyone else — how many pages does it take to make a Website — it depends on the company. But for us, for now at least, we defer to Mr. Owl.

Tuesday, December 12

Using Web Tools

In case you have not noticed, there is a communication revolution occurring on the Internet that will eventually threaten anyone in advertising who forgets that it is a strategic and creative idea (and the ability to communicate that idea) — not technology —  that makes all the difference. An arsenal of design programs and commercial printer discounts are no longer enough to keep accounts happy.

Our last minute holiday greeting cards provide the perfect example. Five years ago, we made a substantial investment to produce Addy award-winning cards, using the traditional process. Provide creative direction and copy to a selected local designer, print them at one of our local printers, and assemble the rest in the office (the cards included a silver dollar and hand-stamped wax seals). The cost was around $10 per card. The turnaround time was nearly three months. The quantity was 500, about 380 more than we needed at the time.

Don't get me wrong; they were worth it. We still have several clients refer to them, and they were part of a bigger strategic plan for our company. I would do it all over again given the same circumstances.

Last year, those circumstances did not exist. We were too busy in October or November to get the ball rolling. After all, the standard rule of thumb is 2-3 weeks for the designer (even more on elaborate jobs) and 10 business days for printing.

Sure, we could have done what we sometimes do for clients who want design along with great copy: tap an out-of-market designer from our international talent pool, which reduces the cost by 50 percent and the turnaround to a few days. But even then, we didn't have 10 days for the printer.

So last year, we settled for 250 Hallmark cards with our name inscribed inside for around $3.50 per piece. It's the thought that counts, right? So this year, on Dec. 1, we started thinking differently.

Despite the same time constraints, we were able to produce and print a custom card, at about $2 apiece with no minimum, in three days. And, we also posted a public version that could (and can) be purchased by anyone before our order was filled. If you want to see the public version (without our logo inside), visit Think! Copywrite, Ink. store.

Sure, this year's card will not be featured in Communication Arts, but next year's might be. You see, the main point of this post is that our industry might consider thinking differently because the definition of 'value' is shifting.

Program reliant production artists, template web designers, low-grade video producers, mid-grade photographers, and 10-day print jobs with minimum quantity orders are all endangered species. Technology is no longer enough to sustain them as commercial communication is finally getting back to where it is most effective: communication ideas over tech suaveness.

Tuesday, November 14

Bungling Business Cards

Valleywag, self-described as a tech gossip rag, recently wrote a post about ''how to make business cards that people keep''. It had some interesting ideas. Among them:

• Rely on your Google rank (to minimize information)
• Hire a real designer (to make it ''slick'')
• Say something clever (to be more creative)
• Round the corners (to make it feel nice)
• Leave some white space (design 101)

Will following any of these tips ensure you have a business card that people want to keep? While there are some good ideas here, the answer is nope (with the exception of white space).

Sure, some of these tips certainly work for the examples they highlighted. Bradley Spitzer has a great card (you can catch a link to it on the Valleywag post). But that doesn't mean applying any of these tactical tips will better communicate your company's message.

Designing a business card is much like any communication device. It requires strategic communication on the front end to ensure you're not making decisions based on trends, slickness, or any other measure. The real question is: how do we best communicate our company on this medium, which happens to be a business card?

For example, Spitzer, who is a creative photographer, has a line on his card that says "If you let me take your photo, thanks! If not, here you go anyway." That works.

Contrary, if my doctor handed me a card that said "If you let me treat your illness, thanks! If not, here you go anyway." I'm not so sure that would work.

I do agree that hiring a designer is a good idea (assuming you're not hiring a consultant like us or an agency like most of our clients), but not just to make it slick. Slick is relative to the type of company you have and the brand you are trying to establish.

Some brands deserve to be hip and cool. Others deserve to be straightforward and conservative. There is no formula, but there is a process or two that can help you create a strategy that works for you.

Sure, some people might wonder why on earth they want to invest so much time, energy, etc. into a business card. Easy. Research shows that for the average service-providing company, the business card is the most common, widely distributed first impression medium they use to communicate.

Until recently, no other communication medium has even come close to unseating the business card as a prominent communication tool. And that medium is a Website (or blog in lieu of a Website).

Friday, October 13

Communicating Effectively With Less

Every now and again, in between all the clutter, someone publishes something that very clearly, concisely, and effectively communicates a point. This week, that distinct credit easily goes to the Times Online (UK) for publishing a stunning timeline that effectively illustrates the impact of human existence on our planet.

In what could be called a post human extinction timeline, you can quickly scan what would happen if humans ceased to exist on Earth. Whether or not you agree with the message, the communication of it brilliantly conveys its point without relying on statistics or polarized quotes, stopping you to think about environmental responsibility. For a few seconds, at the very least. Bravo.

Wednesday, September 13

Getting Web Design Right

"In the future, smart studios, advertisers and marketers will set up a team that's about the concept first. They'll nail a concept and they'll understand how technology has really changed fundamentally the way people are interacting with television, with film, with music, with social interaction. It's a very exciting time for designers, because it's a whole new set of areas to communicate and to think about the two-way dialogue." - Susan Easton, founder, New York City-based Easton Design, offering her take on the future of Web design to Communication Arts.

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