I’ve worked in professional communications for years. Nearly 25 in fact. For my first proper job out of university I was a graphic designer. As I wasn’t trained as a designer (I studied broadcast journalism), I really wasn’t that good. Why am I telling you this? Because that first job taught me the utmost respect for designers and their craft.
I think their biggest skill is making the complex, simple. So simple sometimes people can confuse it with plain and boring. Not me. I love simple. Classic design. Like the Helvetica font. If you haven’t seen the movie of the same name, you’re missing out. And yes, it is a film about a typeface.
This blog post is about the development of two logo identities.
Mine, and a business I am currently working with, a membership organisation of GP practices in Newcastle called NGPS.
The first thing to note is I have called them logo identities, not brands. Brands are more than just your logo; it’s your values, what you stand for, how you treat your clients/customers. David Ogilvy, the “Father of Advertising,” defined brand as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes” and there are plenty of essays, books and blogs written on this subject (I quite like this article on defining brand). So a blog post on brand is likely to be more extensive and much longer; this post is simply two short case studies, and a few tips on developing a logo.
Birdsong Consultancy - Meine Logo-Identität
My logo is based on my company name, Birdsong Consultancy. And the reason my business is called that is because my surname - Vogelsang - is German for Birdsong.
I worked with an excellent designer - Kat Flint - who I’d worked with before, who I knew would design me something classic and beautiful. Following a quick chat, I gave Kat a rundown of my work, who my clients were (and my competitors!), and a bit of background about where I wanted to take the business. As she already knew me, she had a fairly good idea of my values and how I worked.
She also asked me to set up a Pinterest board, with some logos that I liked on it, to give her an idea of style and some visual references.
After this, she sent me over a mood board, and some concepts and thoughts to consider in sketch form.
These were then developed up into six idea strands, and she was pretty close to spot on, in fact the biggest issue was choosing between two that I really liked.
This was then worked up into the final logo, with versions for digital, social media, general print and business cards.
Point number 1 to note:
Put lots of time and effort into speaking to your designer before they do any work. Do your research and thinking up front. Make sure you provide your designer with as much information as possible, and that can include background documents, website links, existing materials, business plans. They’ll ignore anything not relevant. You may be surprised at what they pick up on.
Point number 2:
Your logo needs to work on lots of collateral. So don’t make it overly complicated, and make sure it’s flexible. How will it look on a mobile screen on Twitter? But also blown up on vehicle livery, or stitched into someone’s uniform, or on a 6 sheet advertising board in a Metro station. I wanted my logo to be standalone as an icon, like a full stop. Or a button. I think it does that job perfectly.
Newcastle GP Services (NGPS) - logo development by Anna Brand
For the NGPS logo development, it was a bit more complicated. The services that NGPS provide aren’t easy to sum up. They’re a member organisation - or a federation - of GP practices. NGPS support them in doing their job, so provide financial and HR advice, help them work at scale by bidding for and managing contracts - like sexual health services - across multiple practices, and work with them on changes in national policy, like the recent implementation of primary care networks. Being a GP at the moment is tough. As are most jobs in health and social care. NGPS work to support them.
Getting all this - and more - across to Anna, the designer, took some time. We had a good 2 hour conversation over Skype to explain the complexities of the business, and plenty of chat over email, as I sent her more and more background information.
One thing was clear, NGPS were currently using 5 different versions of a logo, and presenting a more consistent and professional image was critical. Understanding and knowledge of NGPS wasn’t high though, not just among stakeholders (like Newcastle hospitals, the ambulance service and the local voluntary services) but also members. This leads me on to my next point.
Point number 3 - do your research and understand your audience
Before this logo development took place, NGPS did a survey with their members and stakeholders on reputation and communication. Unlike the NHS logo - which has 98% recognition - the NGPS logo (any of them) wasn’t widely known. The information from this survey gave a really good steer as to what the logo needed to do. Make the complex, simple.
Taking all this on board, the results from the designer were just what was needed, and one stood out. A simple concept, clearly conveyed; NGPS are ‘getting behind GPs’, which hit the nail on the head.
Points 4 and 5 - consider the roll-out plan and if you want people to apply the logo properly, develop some templates
And finally, if you’re developing a logo, you’re going to care about how it is used. Not everyone will. So you need to make it as easy as possible for people to apply it consistently. A brand guide is obvious, but you’ll find that not everyone is as interested in reading it as you. Make it easy for people, and develop some templates, for example for Word documents (if you don’t have time to do whole documents, do simple covers that are easy to apply), PowerPoint, digital marketing materials (for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posts) and email signatures. Make sure yours - and your designer’s - hard work doesn't go to waste.