Making Responsive Logos

The Team creative branding agency. Making logos responsive

As the digital landscape becomes more complicated over time, logos will continue to become simpler. Sometimes less is more, and an extremely simplified mark often lasts longer. Dave Recchia, Creative Director at The Team, looks at the business case for responsive logos.

They say the only constant today is change. And for brands to remain relevant, they also need to embrace change or alternatively serve as the catalyst for it. This is what the Apples, Amazons and Googles of the world do.

Technology continues to accelerate change by constantly evolving and by creating new platforms for brands to connect with audiences. From tablets and desktops to smartphones and wearables, the performance of the brand identity is constantly challenged, and individual assets are inevitably questioned. To ensure that the clarity, recognition and immediacy of a brand identity remain intact, brands need to regularly enhance their core identity assets. This often starts with the crown jewel of any identity system: the logo.

Why is a responsive logo so important to branding?

The simple function of a logo is identification. The legions of Nike and Adidas fans always assess the authenticity of a pair of trainers when they have come across a bargain which seems too good to be true. The logo will often be the clue because the quality and accuracy of the embroidered mark can reveal a pair of fakes. Often, the devil is in the detail, and hence the logo is a mark of quality.

Every organisation’s logo is valuable and needs to be protected. Be it a mark, emblem, signature, symbol, sign, identifier, wordmark, shorthand or stamp, the logo remains the most immediate visual representation for an organisation. A clear symbol captures everything that the brand stands for. The role of the logo has largely remained unchanged since its early beginnings. That said, over time, as the landscape within which a logo appears has expanded, logos have had to work harder to ensure recognition and stand out on behalf of the organisations they represent. A great example of this is the airline sector, where the logo must work successfully when it is splashed across the tail fin of a 747, embossed upon the handle of a silver spoon and embroidered into cabin crews’ uniforms. And today, it also needs to work on smart devices with varying screen sizes and resolutions and across responsive websites. Design is the process through which a logo is made optimally suitable for all the different ways in which it will appear. Simplicity and flexibility are the two core qualities required for a successful logo today.

What goes into creating responsive logos?

A logo which resonates is built around a simple idea. Designers seek to convey the essence of an idea through a symbol, a wordmark or a combination of the two. The process of arriving at the distillation of an idea involves constant questioning of all the details, to the point where the purest attributes are retained to protect and enhance the core idea. If a logo begins with elements that hinder communication without adding anything useful, these elements will be smoothed off over time, moving the logo towards a flat design. This enables the logo to work successfully at a very limited scale and in low resolutions, primarily across digital platforms.

NATS Logo Evolution from The Team on Vimeo.

The simplification of a logo is not a new concept. The likes of energy multinational Shell have been refining their universally recognisable symbol for decades. The Shell logo we see today is possibly the firm’s purest expression of the seashell. It has not necessarily been informed by screen-based technologies as much as it has by the extensive environment within which the logo needs to work for the purposes of enabling faster and clearer visual communication. The symbol has become so synonymous with the organisation that the name mark is used sparingly with the symbol. Yet it is not just the ubiquitous appearance of a logo which makes it memorable; there is also something to be said for its form or shape. A logo aids memorability not just through simplifying a shape but also through enhancing the distinctive qualities of the form. In the cases of Shell’s seashell, Apple’s apple, Nike’s Swoosh and Twitter’s bird, we can immediately recall the distinct form of their symbols and easily visualise them in our mind’s eye. In fact, the brain processes images sixty thousand times faster than it does words.

What are the main elements of a responsive logo?

Logos come in all shapes and sizes, and they often involve a symbol and a wordmark. The pairing of these two important brand-identity elements is crucial in ensuring consistent and trusted recognition of the organisation that they are designed to represent. When the proportions of the symbol and wordmark are conducive to good design, the process of arranging the elements in comfortable pairings which are pleasing to the eye sometimes takes care of itself. However, when the name of an organisation is slightly unforgiving in its length, it becomes a little bit more challenging to arrange pairings in which the elements comfortably sit together. In such scenarios, the scaling of elements becomes a critical component in identifying arrangements which work effectively together. The role of stacking elements, be it horizontally or vertically, requires a clear hierarchical system that must be followed to ensure consistency of appearance.

The removal of colour is always a true test of whether the clarity, distinctiveness, and memorability of a logo to be revealed in its raw state. Prior to the advent of digital channels, a logo would exist most commonly in two forms, colour and mono. The latter designed for use in scenarios where print is limited to a single colour, most commonly black, or where the logo is to be impressed upon a surface, either etched, foiled, laser-cut or embossed. Reducing the number of colours within a logo to enhance its responsive qualities will certainly help in maintaining its flexibility and adaptability across multiple channels. But, whilst colour can become synonymous with any brand – as they are for Coca-Cola, EasyJet and BP – colour alone is not solely responsible for the recognition of a logo; the form, symbol, typeface and wordmark are significant contributors. It is the combination of all these elements which creates something truly distinctive and memorable.

How much work goes into developing a logo? Avanade brand logo from The Team on Vimeo.

Design is both a process and the result of the process. In the case of logo design, the process is and should be an ongoing one. The world will continue to change and so should an organisation’s identity. Every logo needs to be adjusted over time to meet changing conditions. And as the digital landscape becomes more complicated, logos will continue to become simpler. Sometimes less is more, and an extremely simplified mark often lasts longer.