Designing a logo is only the beginning...
A few weeks ago, I drove into work, listening to podcasts along the way in. Specifically, I was listening to Roman Mars interview one of my favorite designers, Michael Beirut, about logos. And specifically, the “bloodsport” that is public criticism of logos.
And then, shortly after arriving at the office, the Columbia Visitors Bureau unveiled their new logo and tagline for Columbia, SC. And my little geographic corner of social media exploded. I received text messages and direct messages asking what I thought. It was a hot topic of discussion around the office.
As a rule, I don’t normally critique work by other firms. I don’t know what they discovered in their research. And I didn’t work with their clients and deal with their constraints. I will say that like most designs, there are things I like and things I don’t like. But this blog post isn’t about the new Columbia logo.
Instead, it’s about how we rollout new identities.
It occurs to me that more than ever, the rollout of a logo is a critical part of it’s reception. New designs spread quickly across social media. Opinions form. Criticism starts immediately. And people start asking questions.
I first saw the logo on the article from the Free Times. And the main image was an ad, that used the new Brick C* as an element in the word “crafted.” Of course, it read “rafted.” Much of the early criticism I saw was centered around this ad… not the logo. There was confusion about how much was spent on the logo and research. Questions about why the work wasn’t done in Columbia. Every question about inspiration, cost, how the vendor was chosen could have been easily predicted and shared proactively on a web site at launch.
Would it have eliminated criticism? Absolutely not. There are people in any community who are going to hate anything you do and complain about any money you spend on design.** But being more strategic about the rollout might have helped rally some support, especially from designers and communications professionals.***
In today’s world, design firms need to start building extensive rollout planning into their budgets and plans. It’s not good enough to do the work for the client anymore — you have to help sell the final solution to stakeholders.
And clients need to accept that their audiences may be resistant to new identities and be prepared for strong — and likely critical — opinions. An extensive rollout plan is going to add to the time and cost, but is a critical part of your overall investment.
I don’t know when I’ll rollout a brand new identity again. But when I do, I will spend as much time planning the rollout as I do the fine tuning the design.
* USC’s athletic logo is the real block C. So I’m calling the new Columbia logo the brick C, since bricks are the inspiration for the mark. A local firm would have known that a prominent mark in town was already referred to as the block C.
** I saw some comments on social media asking why we couldn’t have a design contest like we did for the new flag. Sigh… it’s a slippery slope, y’all.
*** This week, the IABC chapter in town had a presentation on the new identity. I didn’t get to go, but from the reaction on Twitter, it seemed filled with insights and explanations for the approach. Imagine if the IABC presentation had been given the same day as the rollout. Or even the day before as a sneak preview…
Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. In his spare time, he attempts to be diplomatic. Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.