Logo Redesigns in 2020: An Interview with Creative Director Mark Shorter
As we pass the midway mark for 2020, it’s the perfect time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished in the first six months of the year and look ahead to what we can still accomplish in the final six. From Animal Planet to MailChimp and from Diet Coke to Rotten Tomatoes, we’ve seen some major brands redesign their logos in the last couple of years. Why not take this next six months to focus on a rebrand to unveil to your clients at the start of 2021?
For today’s Out of the Blue article, we’ve decided to do something different by having our Social Media Strategist, Alexia Koerkenmeier, interview our very own Creative Director, Mark Shorter.
Mark, a branding, graphic design, user experience, and interactive design expert, has crafted a variety of works for national brands like J.P. Morgan, Estée Lauder, The Kroger Company, Highlights for Children, DSW Shoe Warehouse, OCLC, and most recently for OCN Connected Care, Hofbräuhaus, G&J Pepsi, and Westside Barbell.
Alexia is a professional who truly understands the value of what a solid media strategy can bring to a brand, both organically and paid.
Alexia Koerkenmeier: Before we get started, tell us about your background and how you got started in branding and logo design.
Mark Shorter: After I finished Art School at Ohio State, a friend approached me and asked if I’d like to design a logo for one of his clients, a local church organization. I was fresh out of school and didn’t have any experience, but the job paid $50 plus a six pack of Bud Light, so I thought, “Sure, why not?!” After getting a brief understanding of what they were looking for, I started that project the way I learned in school: by doing some research and creating a lot of rough sketches, then narrowing the field by selecting the best of the bunch. What I quickly learned, though, is that I had a lot more research to do. What are the qualities that actually make a logo great?
Through that research, I discovered a love for what really good branding, coupled with great overall design, can mean to a company’s bottom line.
From that point forward, I really invested a lot of time and effort researching and working to hone those skills by consuming as many books as possible on branding, logo design, and graphic design. I also sought guidance and mentorship from experienced individuals, which taught me a lot and helped me see a much bigger picture.
AK: Who were some of your influences in the field of branding and logo design?
MS: I started by identifying the designers of some of the most influential brands and designs at that time. Designers like Paul Rand (ABC, IBM, Westinghouse), Milton Glaser (I Heart New York, Bob Dylan), Paula Scher (Rolling Stones/Tattoo You), Dieter Rams (Braun), and, of course, Massimo Vignelli (Knoll, American Airlines, Bloomingdale’s). It was through looking at Vignelli’s body of work that I realized I don’t have to be locked into one field; I could break out into several areas of design that I really enjoy and continue to be just as successful, if not more.
AK: Speaking of branding and logo design, something Blue Laser sees quite often are logo design and redesign projects. What does that look like?
MS: Really, both share a lot of similar qualities, and obviously depends on the client’s specific situation. The logo, first and foremost, is an outworking of the brand and is used as an instant identifier that builds cognitive engagement with its audience. Its importance can’t be overstated; it’s used to identify, highlight, and reinforce the primary quality of the brand itself.
It’s the difference between Apple and Dell, Honda and Ford, Coca Cola and Pepsi, FedEx and UPS.
The FedEx logo is a perfect example. Once you see the arrow embedded in the “E” and “x,” you can instantly presume they are all about moving things. UPS, on the other hand, says something very different , which is about protection and trust.
When starting fresh with a new company, there’s a lot that goes into making the process great, both for the client experience and for the final outcome. We interview you, the client, and talk with you so that we can understand your brand, business, and then seek to identify key market differentiators. This is where the fun starts.
AK: So, what goes into rebranding a logo design/redesign project?
MS: Well, we take our interview notes, our market research, and competitive analysis into consideration and start to sketch out some designs. At this point, it’s really just rough concepts done in pencil and paper. We separate out the good ideas and decide which concepts are worthy to move forward. From there, we turn those rough concepts into black and white vector designs. After we’ve spent the necessary time refining and working out the kinks, we reveal the design to you for a design review. This gives us a chance to thoroughly explain our thought process behind each design and offer guidance on which one we think will provide you with the greatest competitive advantage.
Here, we’ll also present color studies, which can be pretty tricky. We have to select colors that reinforce your brand, make logical sense for the products or services you offer, and meaningfully engage your audience. Color choices are always intentional, not some random, careless decision.
After all of that, we’ll regroup with you to review and discuss the final versions of the logo designs so you can select the best overall design you know works for your business. Finally, we go back into the studio to finish the logo and create all of the file types you’ll use; everything from email footers, to your website, and even print.
AK: You said that logo design and logo redesign projects are extremely similar, but can you explain how they’re different?
MS: Logo redesign projects, or logo refreshes as they’re sometimes called, are different in that they already have an existing brand and an existing logo.
There are a couple of reasons a company wants to redesign their logo:
- Because the brand is changing focus in product or service offerings,
- it no longer reflects what the brand intends it to represent and needs to feel up to date,
- competitors are refreshing their brand image and you need to keep pace, and finally
- how the logo is used across various touchpoints, like social media.
A logo refresh could simply be a further refinement of what’s already established, e.g., changing color, refining the symbol, etc., whereas a logo redesign might require more dramatic measures, like throwing everything out and starting from scratch.
AK: Earlier, you talked about qualities that actually make a logo great. Can you elaborate on that?
MS: While in art school, I learned that the aesthetic and intrinsic value placed on a piece (of artwork) is oftentimes directly proportional to the attention to detail and craftsmanship used to create it – the forethought involved. Having specific reasons and answers as to why things were created in specific ways like a story, if you will. To a brand, having that occur with the logo can have tremendous impact in determining both the potential value and future opportunities to grow the business. That is something that can be felt from how everyone, from employees to new users, responds to the logo and engages with the brand.
Everything my team and I design is intentionally crafted to both instill meaning and reinforce specific qualities of the brand. It’s not random; it’s backed by our careful research and analysis. We implement strategic thinking and insight to help every brand stand out. It’s about innovation and usefulness, great aesthetics and paying close attention to the details. I also work to make logos, in particular, timeless and long-lasting.
All of that combined into a singular brand symbol is what makes a logo truly great.
AK: Is there anything else you’d like to add before we close our conversation?
MS: You know, there are all sorts of ways for companies to get a logo: maybe cheaply with a contest, when a bunch of designers hope to score the promised loot with a “winning design.” I’ve seen companies get terribly burned by silly stuff like that. There’s no loyalty with this sort of relationship. With prices under $100 and promises of unlimited revisions, it’s alluring, I get it. But if it doesn’t accurately represent the brand (and it won’t), you’ll end up doing massive damage to whatever good there was before.
Our design strives to create a strategic partnership with our clients. Really, that’s true for all aspects of our agency.
The logo is only one element that makes up a well-designed brand identity. All of the thinking and planning that goes into designing the logo should, ideally, be present in other brand touchpoints too, like websites, print materials, social media, etc. I think the logo is simply the starting point in getting audiences involved and interacting with the brand. It requires strategy and creativity that helps make every touchpoint engaging, and needs fortitude as the fuel to keep things on track.
AK: What questions should a client ask their design agency, or vice versa, before a logo redesign happens?
MS: Redesigning a logo is a serious branding decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s a really big deal, primarily because there is potential impact to your audience.
From your side – the client side – of the situation, there are a few kinds of questions you should ask, the first centering on business operations:
- Do I have the time necessary to dedicate and see this through to the end? Logo design requires a real focus to get the details right. If you expect this to be a quick process, or just another item to check off the list, it’s not the right time for your business to undergo a lengthy logo redesign.
- What individuals will be involved with and committed to the logo design/redesign project?
- What are some metrics that I can focus on that will indicate how successful this project will be?
- How will I reveal this new brand to my company and my audience?
The second set of questions addresses market conditions and your audience:
- What value will I place on creating a new logo to represent my business, products, and services? This is a budgetary issue and it differs for each company. Logo design projects really have a lot in common with buying a car. I’ll be succinct here: You get what you pay for.
- Who are my competitors and how do they represent their own businesses? Could a new logo create a competitive advantage?
- What should my new logo communicate that the current one doesn’t? You know, part of the issue could be a bad color, the wrong typography, or even a symbol that needs refined.
- How am I intending to use the logo? Really, this is about brand touchpoints and has to do with how and where the logo is going to be used. Several instances are obvious, like websites and business cards. But what about packaging? Signage? Digital products?
As a brand and logo designer, I am constantly concerned with two overarching questions regardless of budget:
- What does it communicate, and
- How can I refine it further to make it better?
Of course, in practice, the basic process looks something like making pencil sketches first, creating a sampling of the best designs into black and white vector designs, adding color, and testing out the designs for flexibility and endurance. But still, every step along the way, I continue to think about those two really important questions. I really like to start things off with a conversation with you, the client, so that I can understand firsthand what your goals are, what problems you’re trying to overcome, and who exactly you are. Just like a copywriter writing your mission statement, I want to really get to know you and your business so I can best design your logo and make sure it accurately defines your brand.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention anything about budget. It’s just a simple truth: The healthier the budget, the more time my team and I get to think about how to better design your logo. This isn’t about gouging or ripping you off; it’s about dedicating the greatest amount of time and effort into your project in order to achieve the best results.
Designing Your Logo
Whether you’ve tried to design a logo yourself or you have a strong sense of what your next logo ought to become, Blue Laser Digital’s logo design experts are available to make that happen. Give us a call today. We can get you moving in the right direction toward a clear and perfectly formulated logo design and brand identity.