Is blue the right colour for your logo?
When I sit down to think about a project and how I’m going to start designing a logo for a particular company, the first question isn’t what you or your partner likes or whether blue, pink or Orange is the right colour.
I won’t be asking you what you like! Instead, the most critical question is what is suitable for your market, product and customers. Designers with years of experience and a well-honed instinct will know what will and won’t work in a particular marketplace.
I think Sagi Havi, one of the best identity designers around, sums it up beautifully “Identity design is not about what one likes or dislikes. It’s about what works.”
What the logo is and what it should do
The logo is also known as the brand identity. Finally, the signature is the framework where the essential elements of a logo sit. These elements include the logotype, the typographic part of a logo: the brandmark, the visual aspect, and the tagline. Some logos have all three of these parts or may only be typographic.
Equally important is the company’s naming, which should be meaningful, distinctive and positive. Avoid acronyms as they are difficult to remember and convey no meaning to your audience. Even well-known companies like IBM established themselves with the complete spelling of their name before moving to an acronym.
The combination of type, symbol, and colour can evoke different feelings about the company, whether reserved, extravagant, reliable, or artistic. So it’s important to know what emotions to convey before the design process starts. I thought this quote from an American designer, Joel Katz, distilled this; “The designer is the medium between the client and the audience. A mark should embody and imply the client’s business goals and positioning, and address the end user’s needs and wants”.
The logo has to be distinctive and represent the company’s values, products and continual striving for excellence. The process that produces a timeless logo and stands out in the marketplace takes dedication, passion, skill and time. It also involves an open dialogue between the designer and the client.
The designer’s job is to distil a complicated and multi-layered business in a memorable and elegant mark, whether by using a distinctive and unique typeface, a pictorial element, or a combination of both. These elements have to work across an increasingly varied set of touchpoints. From a favicon, the tiny brandmark that sits in your browser’s address bar a few pixels wide to a shopfront or the side of a lorry that is many metres long. A large poster, letterhead, a small advert that appears in black and white. And increasingly, the logo will be animated for the web and needs to work effectively in that environment.
Where the logo sits in the brand hierarchy
It is not the role of a logo to change opinions about your company. The customer has to have a positive experience with the company, and it’s those feelings that people will then associate with your logo.
The foundation of your company is the brand (that’s so much more than your logo). The brand forms the values, vision, the excellence of your service, and how you deal with customers and employees. The brand is also what your customers say about you; please see my previous blog; “Who owns your brand?”
Above the brand sits the brand identity, which sets the look and feel, verbal tone, colour scheme, image style, typography, animation, website, stationery, printed material and exhibition stands.
The logo is just the tip of the iceberg but an essential focal point of a brand and branding system. So, for example, the swoosh of Nike instantly tells people that here I’m going to find beautifully designed sportswear in a beautifully designed shop, and the brand will make forget about the fact that they make their shoes in Vietnamese sweatshops. And, the fabulous shop assistants will remind you of all the famous sportspeople that Nike has been keen to associate themselves with over the years. Although sometimes this can go wrong when their clean living brand ambassador goes off the rails as Tiger Woods did.
So should the logo be blue?
And to go back to the original question, “Is blue the right colour for your logo” The answer should be more apparent after going through the process of understanding what exactly your company does and, more importantly, the customers you serve and want to attract.
Blue is the colour of trust and is one of the most popular colours used in brand identity. So, for example, if you offer financial services and want to express a feeling of trust to your customers, then maybe blue is the right colour for your logo and brand identity. Or perhaps not. Instead, do you want to stand out in your marketplace? And shake things up a bit. In the ’90s, the Hong kong-based telecom company Hutchinson Telecom wanted to break into the European market. They appointed Wolf Ollins, a top branding agency, to do this. The result was the creation of Orange, a brand utterly different from anything else in the telecom market; the company sold for £26 billion ten years after its launch.
As part of the logo design process, colour is essential to express emotion and feel about a company and what they do. So crucial that research has shown that colour choice decides 60% of buying decisions. Another factor to consider is that colours have different meanings for different cultures. Therefore, research should be an essential part of the process before deciding on a colour for your brand identity.
You have a couple of choices
Firstly, you can ask for it to be in blue because it’s your mother’s favourite colour and ask the typeface to be in Arial as that is your favourite typeface.
Or, you can ask me to do what I do best: distil out the essence of your business, look at your competitors and your marketplace, come up with some ideas. Then do some simple research to ensure I’m on the right track and that your potential customers gravitate towards the brand identity I’ve created and then hone the chosen design to perfection.
One more thing: you need to protect the IP (an acronym for Intellectual property) of your new logo, but that’s a whole new blog!
You can leave the rest to me to produce a timeless brand identity that aligns perfectly with your business. Still, more importantly, it aligns with your customer’s perception of your company. The logo may be blue or maybe not. That decision will be made through a process not based on personal likes and dislikes.