Category Archives: Creativity

Branding Basics – Step 12

Well, here we at the final step in this series: Step 12. We’re sliding home. Now’s the time to check alignment.
I’m assuming you haven’t “launched” as yet, but that you’re on the verge. So if need be, it’s not too late for an early-course correction.
Now you need to step back several paces and see just what you’ve done. In the heat of hands-on sculpting of the various brand elements, and overcoming particular obstacles and impediments you’ve encountered, you might have compromised a bit and strayed off course.
So begin by reviewing your original branding documents. See if on the whole, and individually, the elements convey the tenor and content you had intended for the brand. Look for disconnects and contradictions.
Review the elements as presented in the graphics standards for consistency.
Once you’re satisfied your brand is integrated, coherent and powerful, launch with confidence and enthusiasm.
One more point: I assume during this process you’ve asked associates and mentors to review and comment upon you brand.
Well, don’t listen to them.
OK, go ahead and listen.

Then remember that almost all advice you’ll receive from non-experts will tend toward the conventional and conservative. Their opinions reflect middle-of-the-road thinking.
Your brand should not be conservative. It must demand attention, at least from those you most want to influence by the brand. It must be out-of-the-box even in a very conservative product category. (Everything being relative, an out-of-the-box brand for a bank may be stodgy in the Hip-Hop music category.)
If you’ve hired bright, professional branders to help you with the brand, and the brand fulfills your brand strategy, and you feel comfortable with the brand representing you and the way you do business, go with it. This is no time for buyers remorse or second guessing. Do not hesitate.


Martin Jelsema

Branding Basic – Step 11

Now you have your name and logo, and possibly a tagline.
Now the challenge is to use these elements in a consistent and professional manner whenever you have the opportunity to display and promote your brand.
This can become difficult. Particularly when you’re under the gun.
The media salesperson, bless her/his heart, volunteers to “recreate” your logo for their ad so you won’t be late for the meeting. You give this Samaritan your business card as an example and thank him/ her with great sincerity. Until you see how they butchered the logo in the final ad.
Over time it gets worse. You mislay the repro sheets, or your assistant accidentally deletes the logo file for 2-color reproduction. You forget the PMS color for your logo. The recommended proportion for logo to tagline disappears. With more employees needing to imprint the logo and the brand “look” to more and more materials, one or two will take matters into their own hands and “redesign” on the spot with the resources they have handy. Your new graphics designer decides you should be using the type face Americana because it’s now all the rage.
All these “little” course adjustments add up and you find, like so many small businesses do, that they are sailing “off the edge”. Their brand has no consistent personality. Their brand has become unfocused and diluted.

I’ve taken four fairly long paragraphs delineating the problem because it’s so insidious and niggling.

The answer is relatively simple if you’ve taken my advice about hiring an experienced logo designer. A veteran designer will want to develop graphic standards for your brand.

A graphic standards document, usually in the form of a .pdf file, will display and describe accepted use and variations of the logo itself, identify colors for the logo for use in printing (PMS) and electronic applications (RBG), provide specifications for stationery, recommend compatible type faces, possibly recommend a color palette for promotional materials, describe the placement and proportion of the logo with a tagline and/or a descriptor, and finally, set down rules (policy) for all to follow – employees and suppliers alike.
Accompanying this document will be the files of the various accepted logo variations and formats, with recommendations for acquiring the preferred accompanying fonts. Make two copies, one on a CD, and another for day-to-day use. Also make copies of the standards and distribute them to all graphic arts vendors and tell them to use it. Make copies for your employees, too.

This would be a minimum, though probably all that’s required for a start-up company, to assure consistent and professional logo usage.

Martin Jelsema

Beware of Complicated Logo Designs

I recently offended the proud owner of a brand new logo. She had just paid a lot of money to a well-respected design center for a logo in full-color with gradients, fine line work and copy-over-icon.
Even though it passed all the designer-important standards (good use of contrasting colors, relevant imagery, proper proportions, a distinctive typeface), it was too limiting for real-world applications.
There was no way you could have used the logo in a black & white ad. If it were reproduced smaller than an inch wide, it was illegible. There were no allowances for reproduction as jewelry or ad specialty applications. It had been designed to look good on fine paper and on the website, and without regard for any other application.

When I pointed that out, the owner accused me of being jealous and walked out. Sorry, she wouldn’t leave me a copy to show you.
Here’s another example of pushing an original logo design past its limits. Just south of Denver is a relatively new community, Highlands Ranch. It’s a planned community developed by big money. They went all out in designing streets, neighborhoods and, yes, their brand..

But their logo stinks.

They’ve taken a dramatic piece of art depicting an eagle (I think) taking off into the wind. Its feathers are in disarray just as they would be in nature. Quite dramatic. But then for almost every sign in the community – from major “entering” monolithic displays to street signs, they display the logo in silhouette as shown here.

Highlands Ranch logo - b&w

Without the explanation, I’ll bet you too would be hard-pressed to identify this icon, this symbol of a city.

A note: look at the small logo from Todd’s And Top 150 below my signature. In larger sizes, it’s a colorful, unusual and relevant logo. But look what’s happened to it when shrunk to a smaller size. You can’t read it or identify the Lego blocks as Lego blocks. Oh, well.

The moral is to ask your designer to design a logo that can be used in a variety of applications, from one-column “help-wanted” newspaper ads to four-color 24-sheet posters. Also ask them to sacrifice their “artistic” mind-set for something both relevant to the project and intelligible to viewers.

There are certain criteria I apply to logo design, but that’s the subject of a future blog.
Martin Jelsema

Power 150: ranked 118