More and more companies today are concerned with branding, and more and more design firms are offering it as a service. But branding—the process of identifying your business with your marketing materials—is actually too big a subject for a design guide. So we’ll limit the discussion to a more specific subject: creating a visual identity.
Even after limiting the subject, there is some confusion over terms, so the best place to start to it to explain what your designer actually means when he uses terms like identity and logo.
What is an identity?
If a brand is how your market feels when they see your company, an identity is what they see. That means your identity includes your logo, but isn’t limited to it. It also includes the colors you typically use—for everything from your logo to the exterior of your building and the company t-shirts your employees wear. It includes your choice of fonts for everything from signage to business cards, and the way letter styles are used. Any visual presentation that can be imagined is part of your company’s identity, and it should all be planned together so that it works together.
What is a logo?
Your logo is something much more specific. Most people think of a logo as any kind of consistent, visual representation of a company’s identity, even when it includes letters or words, and even when it consists entirely of letters or words. But technically, a logo is a symbol that stands in place of a name. An excellent example is the Nike “swoosh,” which identifies a product as Nike’s without that company needing to place its actual name anywhere on the product.
There are three basic types of logos. The first is a symbol, which can be a stylized representation of the company’s name, product, or service, or can be completely abstract, like Nike’s swoosh. The second is a wordmark: a combination of letters or words that is given a unique treatment in terms of font, color, arrangement, or any combination of these. A good example of a wordmark is the FedEx logo. The third is a combination of the first two: words or letters used in conjunction with a symbol, as with Levi’s and its stylized pocket flap design. Any of these variations, if well-designed and well-branded, is a valid approach.