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Is this a Logo or a Brand?

Is this a Logo or a Brand?

Mike Lenhart

Those of us in the graphic design profession often get a call to design a logo. Sometimes it’s a first-time logo for an organization that’s never had one before. Sometimes it’s a redesign for an old logo that’s been around for a long time. Many clients, and sometimes we designers, don’t really know the difference between a logo and a brand. Are they the same thing? Do we design a logo and a brand? What is the process for this? Here are some of my thoughts based on my experiences.

The Wiki Definitions

According to Wikipedia, a logo is defined as “a graphical element (ideogram, symbol, emblem, icon, sign) that, together with its logotype (a uniquely set and arranged typeface) form a trademark or commercial brand. Typically, a logo’s design is for immediate recognition.” A brand, on the other hand, is “a collection of images and ideas representing an economic producer; more specifically, it refers to the descriptive verbal attributes and concrete symbols such as a name, logo, slogan, and design scheme that convey the essence of a company, product or service.” So, what does this mean? To me, while a logo is the element, or mark, to identify a particular organization, a brand is the extension of this mark that is used in all applications of the organization. While a logo is a quick identifier of the entity, the brand is the further application of the identifier in instances such as business card, letterhead, or Website. Hopefully, this makes sense.

The Process According to Mike

In my view, the first thing to do is to design the logo. We need to research the client’s business or mission, their philosophy, and competition. A lot of this can be done on the Web, thank goodness. If we take the time to do the research in a thorough and effective way, the logo design part should be a lot easier. I have been told many times to think of things in the “wrong” way. That means trying to identify the business or organization in a manner that is not obvious or a given. This depends on the client’s mission or market, of course, but if you think of things in the “wrong”, or opposite, way, you may just come up with a logo that really hits the identity right-on in a creative way.

After the initial logo is designed, and accepted, by the client, it’s time to take it to the next level, if this is in the scope of the contract and asked for by the client. As an aside, it’s usually good to design the logo in black and white, or grayscale, before adding the color elements. The logo you designed needs to be further applied, or extended, to brand the identity of the organization. Of course this extension depends on whether the logo is a brand new one or a redo. If it’s a new one, we must be careful to keep the consistency of the element and logotype in the further applications of it. If it’s a redo, we have more of an opportunity to possibly show the element in an isolated way, without the logotype, or vice versa. It usually takes up to three years for a brand to get recognition with the general public, if new, and about a year if a redo. Of course, this timeline is flexible and always depends on many things.

A Final Word

Whether a logo or a brand, it’s always necessary to get the needed information from the client, as well as to educate them on the differences and subtlties of the concepts. It’ll only save you time and frustration in the long run a well as your sanity. A successful logo can really make a difference for the targeted organization, make you look like a star, and look good in your portfolio. We always like that.


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