Before we dive into this episode, I have a public service announcement! If you’re a regular listener, you probably know that I’ve been doing weekly episodes up until now – this is going to change. As fun and rewarding as this podcasting journey is, I have realised that putting out an episode a week isn’t sustainable for where I am at with my business right now – there’s only one of me, and I need to make sure I can serve my clients well, have time for self care and family and also have enough time to put out some good quality episodes for you! So there won’t be an episode next week, and from now on I’ll be releasing a new episode every other week. I don’t know yet if this is going to be a permanent thing, but I hope to be able to resume back to weekly episodes at some point! I just don’t know when.
Right, now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about logos – and why having just the one logo simply isn’t enough. OK, so if that makes you think “Whaaaaaat? Are you trying to tell me that one logo isn’t good enough? Why the heck would I need more? And what about consistency and being recognisable all the time? This simply doesn’t make sense…”
Well, actually it does. Make sense, that is. If you can spare a few minutes of your time, I’ll try to explain!
So many times I have had new clients coming to me for a rebrand, frustrated with their current visual branding because it’s not flexible enough to meet the needs of a modern brand. So they might have had a standalone logo designed a while back, and then when they try to apply it to anything other than their letterhead, it’s just not working. A prime example is a vertical logo, that just does not fit into the header of a mobile website at all – at least not without taking up most of the screen real estate. Or a really wide, horizontal logo with a tagline, that is totally impossible to read when used as a profile image in social media.
So yes, back in the day, when you literally just needed a sign for your brick and mortar store and “the one” logo really was considered to be the only essential visual brand asset, you’d get away with it. In 2021… not so much. Because now there are so many different touchpoints where your brand will be applied, that you need… “an outfit for every occasion” so to speak.
I can’t stress enough: If you’re gonna apply the visual elements of your brand identity in that all-important coherent manner, they have to be flexible enough to be used in a whole bunch of different settings.
Right, so let’s take a look at the types of logo variations you’d typically want to have in your brand toolkit and some common uses for each of them. And this is really important to note: that each logo variation has its own use. Exactly how they are used depends on your brand’s actual needs, and how and where you plan to use your logo. There are some brands that use their primary logo everywhere, but they’re kinda few and far between these days.
Your primary logo is just that: your main logo. This is often designed first, and it’s the one you’ll probably use the most. Consider this the mother of all logos, because all the rest of your brand logos will originate from this primary logo design. Your primary logo is typically used in places where it has plenty of breathing space and isn’t restricted or cramped with other visual elements. So think on your letterhead maybe, or on the front of a company brochure, on signage, the first page of a company presentation or on the desktop version of your website.
A secondary logo is a variation of your main logo, and how it looks will likely vary according to your brand’s specific needs. A secondary logo may include the same elements as the primary logo, but often with a different layout or a different way of combining the logo’s elements. Or, it might use just one or two of the elements from your primary logo. If your primary logo consists of an icon, together with a logotype and a tagline, these elements may also be used separately – depending on the specific circumstances.
The most obvious secondary logo version would be a vertical logo variation if your primary logo is horizontal – or vice versa. Or if your primary logo includes a tagline, this might be removed for your secondary logo variation.
There are many reasons why you might need one, or often several, secondary logos. Sometimes you may have limited space available; so for instance, if there’s a tagline beneath your logo, you may struggle with legibility if it’s to be printed at small sizes, so you’d probably want to use a variation without the tagline. You’re also likely to need different colour variations, such as a one-colour, a black and a white version – this can reduce production costs and give you more flexibility. Having your logo printed in one colour on a mug or a t-shirt for instance, can quite often mean lower production costs than if you were to have the full-colour logo applied. And sometimes – I often see this when one of my clients’ logos is to be used in a lineup of sponsor logos for an event poster – there’s only the option of using a flat black or white logo. If I had €10 for each time I’ve been unable to place someone’s logo in a lineup like that… and someone (often me) has scrambled to try and get hold of a simple flat logo. Oh my. I’ll just leave it at that!
Typically you’d expect to see the secondary logo where there isn’t enough space for the primary logo to really shine: in the header of your mobile website, on subsequent pages in a company presentation, or in situations where a full-colour logo cannot be used.
This is a pared down version of your logo – a simpler, but still identifiable brand asset. The goal of a submark is to fit in tight spaces where the other logo variations won’t work. It can be a challenge to size down a large primary logo into a tiny submark, but the result is an extremely versatile and creative logo variation that should still be instantly recognisable as your brand.
Submarks are frequently used as social media profile images, in your website footer or on smaller print pieces. My clients often use their submarks to have customs stamps or stickers made for instance. Or buttons. Or how about some custom embossing pliers – you really can have so much fun with a submark! It’s like sprinkles for your brand, and hello. Who doesn’t like sprinkles?
This is a veeeery simplified version of your primary logo, and often consists of just a symbol or the brand’s initials. You want to peel away as much detail as possible, whilst still retaining brand recognition. This variation is commonly used as a favicon (the tiiiny logo on the tab of your browser) or as a profile pic for a brand’s social media accounts, but can also be used as a decorative element, as a stamp, a sticker, in your email signature, or as a watermark on your images… A simplified icon can be used to infuse your brand onto surfaces and applications where using more complex logos just does not work. One of my clients, a micro-brewery, uses their icon on top of their bottle caps for instance.
Bonus: Other brand elements
So whilst not logo variations per se, supporting brand elements are there to complete your brand identity, so I thought I should include them too! This could be illustrations, patterns, textures… even brand photography! Brand elements don’t tend to feature your brand name (though they can!), but tend to reflect the style of your primary logo. For instance, you can use the icon from your primary logo, or a lettermark, brand initials or a monogram to create a brand pattern.You can reflect your primary logo in custom branded illustrations. Brand elements are typically used to create interest and extend the brand identity to create a unified look across all touchpoints – so you’d often see them used as backgrounds – on websites or printed onto custom tissue paper for instance. Making sure your brand elements have a visual link back to the primary logo is a really good way to create a unified look and feel for your brand identity. And when I say visual link, this could mean anything from repeating a certain aesthetic style or maybe some angles from the logotype… all the way to actually taking the logo icon and padding it out to become full-blown standalone illustrations or patterns.
And one other thing: file formats!
You need to make sure you have all of your different logo files available in a range of different file formats too. So if your designer only gives you a JPEG or a PNG file, you need to kick up a fuss. You need need need a vector version of all your logo files.
PNG and JPEG files are what’s called raster files. Raster files consist of tiny squares called pixels. When you zoom in on a raster image the pixels become more apparent while the details of the image become blurry. Your raster based logo files are best suited for digital applications.
PNG files can be used for pretty much any digital purpose. They’re also useful if you need digital images with transparency, say if you want to place your logo on colored backgrounds or on top of other images. This file type is not really recommended for print.
JPEG files are the most common files for use online as they are optimised for compression. This means that they download quickly because the file size is smaller. Unlike PNG files, JPEG files do not support transparency, and if you try to place it on a coloured background or an image, you will get a rather ugly looking white square around it.
Vector files, on the other hand, are made up of paths and curves dictated by mathematical formulas. They are infinitely scalable and remain smooth and crisp even when scaled up to huge dimensions. Your vector based logo files are best suited for print.
An AI file, or the Adobe Illustrator file, is the original, editable working file of the designer. Because they’re vector based, they will always be crisp and maintain quality – and you should use them whenever they’re accepted, especially when sending a logo to print. You won’t be able to open these files without vector software, but still hang on to them as they are considered your “master files” and you may need to supply them to a third party supplier at some point.
EPS files are used much in the same way as AI files, and they’re considered the industry standard vector file format, as it can be used by the widest range of software.
So to recap: You need the right logo, in the right file format, used in the right way, in the right situation. Always. What that actually means is that no; just one logo isn’t enough. Sometimes you need to use your primary logo to introduce your brand and build brand recognition – and sometimes you just need to establish a connection to the primary logo; like placing a watermark on your images.
Always think of your brand as a whole. To appear consistently and build recognition over time, that overall look and feel is crucial. With several logo variations up your sleeve, you have the flexibility to always be “on brand”. It’s like having several garments in your wardrobe, so you can choose which is the best for each occasion – a woolly sweater for skiing, a mohair jumper for that fancy party, or just a regular ol’ cotton tee for everyday use – while always allowing your unique personality to shine through regardless.
And even if you think you only need that one simple logo right now; what about future use? When you first create a brand it’s hard to say just how it’s going to pan out over time, and how the logo will need to adapt to keep up with changing circumstances. It’s much better to be prepared, and to have an adaptable brand identity from day one!
This is also the main reason I will never design “just a logo” for my clients. If you order a brand identity design from me, you will always receive both a primary logo, secondary logo(s), submark(s) and icon(s) – all of them in colour + black and white versions, and in all the file formats you could possibly need. You will also always receive a brand board (as a minimum) or detailed brand identity guidelines tailored to your needs, so you can always make sure your brand identity is applied in a cohesive and recognisable way.
So, in the name of keeping things nice and actionable: what can you do if you feel like your one logo is restricting you and stopping you from showing up with your brand? Is it too late to add logo variations once you already have your logo? No, most likely not.
First of all, I’d like to challenge you to sit down and have a think of all the places your visual branding could possibly appear; now and in the future. And I mean everywhere. From digital touchpoints like your website and social media, to physical goods like packaging, business cards, branded merchandise, signage and more. Online you could be looking at adding brand elements to your social media post templates, your email signature, your newsletter templates, your profile images… In the physical world you could incorporate your branded elements in your packaging, or even in the products you sell. Mauve you could spruce up your off-the-shelf cardboard boxes with custom tissue paper + tags or stickers? Or custom printed packaging tape? Or maybe you should brand your car? The possibilities here are endless, so jot it all down – even if you might not need them all right now.
And the reason I am telling you to do this exercise is so you have a full overview of all the possible current and future brand touchpoints, so that you can start to identify the type of logo variations and brand elements you might need.
Once you have that in place, you can then hire someone – either the designer who did your original logo or someone else – to create that extended brand kit for you. And because you’ve spent some time considering possible brand applications, you can tell them where you are likely to use your logo variations and brand elements – so they can make sure they keep it flexible enough for your logo and visual identity to grow with you as your brand evolves.
And speaking of evolving brands…
Are you struggling to stay consistent with your branding? Everyone keeps saying “be authentic, show up as you“ – but that’s easier said than done if you’re not quite sure who you actually are, right? You have this nagging feeling that something is just a little bit off with your brand, but you can’t quite put your finger on it… or you keep tweaking your brand fonts and colours every few weeks but it never feels just right… You lack clarity and confidence in your brand, and it’s driving you batshit crazy.
You’re a purpose driven business owner who wants to just get things done, so you can get on with building that badass business of yours, but who can never quite seem to find the time or the focus to work on your own brand. If you (like me) keep getting side tracked by all. the. things. and you’re about ready to tear your hair out: I’ve got something special just for you: Brand it! VIP Intensives.
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Until next time,
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