Before the rise of digital, visual identities and logos were designed with control in mind: easy to replicate and apply consistently across channels. It made sense to apply, protect and enforce key standards in a world where printed materials would be in market for 12 to 18 months.
Digital and social media transformed the relationship between brands and customers, challenging the traditional concept of branding. Brands now interact in real time with customers across a ton of different channels including websites, messaging apps, video platforms, digital publications, as well as offline. Each of these touch-points has its own unique standards making it challenging to replicate a static logo and broader brand identity system across each one.
Brands, visual identities, and even logos can benefit from being more nimble, open and flexible -- referred to as dynamic branding. One of the earliest examples of dynamic branding was in the early 1980s when MTV defied the idea that a corporate logo had to be consistent and static. The logo regularly appeared animated, decorated and in various colors to reflect the ever-changing tides of the music industry. However, the dynamic logo isn't just relevant for brands wanting to buck norms. For example the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games logo uses a dynamic system, along with many other brands, including Adobe.
A few years ago, we realized our visual brand system didn't demonstrate how deeply committed we are to our community nor did it reflect the transformation we'd made around digital. So we created a dynamic brand system and began commissioning a broad range of artists, photographers, graphic designers and developers to reinterpret our logo. Essentially, we asked them to put their mark on ours through a project called the Adobe Remix. These logo interpretations represent who Adobe is as a brand -- a dynamic, modern, open brand that lets its community be the guide. We feature the community work across our social media channels, physical installations in our offices, in our corporate presentations, at corporate events, on our business cards, and beyond.
While the right approach to designing a visual identity and logo will vary by brand, here are seven tips for creating a logo optimized for the digital era:
1. Clarify What Your Brand Stands For
Start with a clear understanding of the business and product challenges and opportunities; the competitive landscape; and the key functional, emotional, and purpose-based brand differentiators. I've always found inspiration in notable art director and logo designer Paul Rand's quote: "A logo is less important than the product it signifies; what it means is more important than what it looks like." The starting point must be about business and product outcomes not aesthetics, as these will serve as the criteria to evaluate the success of the design.
2. Design for Flexibility
Don't just focus on a single static execution of an icon or logo, consider the branding system at large. It's critical to evaluate a logo in terms of how extensible it is across the ever-increasing range of digital touch-points and channels available. Some examples of system extensions include logo animations, favicons, and ways for customers to personalize logos for their own use and promotion. It's OK to take risks as long as those risks are authentic and in the spirit of the brand.
3. Optimize for Mobile
In a world where the app is the ad, your mobile brand strategy needs to be defined from the beginning. While most brands understand the value of investing in mobile, they don't consider mobile's impact on logo design. Many designers still treat mobile as a mere delivery mechanism, rather than the primary customer experience it is today. Brands need to consider user experience across various screen sizes, how they'll appear in the app store, what they can do to increase discoverability, and how the experience lends itself to social sharing at the very beginning of the product and brand definition.
4. Go Beyond the Surface-Level
5. Function Well at Large and Small Scale
Great logos should be distinctive, clear and compelling when displayed on the side of a building, on the home screen of a phone, or now even on a watch. Focus on developing a logo that conveys the most important messages for the brand. Overcomplicated designs send mixed messages and are not as easily translated across platforms.
6. Take Into Account Geopolitical and Cultural Sensitivities Around Symbolism
This is becoming increasingly important as brands are accessible on a global scale. While your brand might not be in a specific market today, it could be there tomorrow.
7. Empower Rather Than Police
Rather than imposing strict guidelines and rules for when and how a logo may be used, brands should develop key principles or tenets so they can be more relevant across the wide range of additional touch-points that pop up every day. Arm brand builders with a firm understanding of key principles and examples of successful executions. This enables them to make more timely decisions with greater creative freedom while still tying it back to what the brand is about.