Lessons In Design From a Modern Logo
Thoughtful Design Complements Brand Value
There is a lot of fun to be had when designing a new logo or brand identity plan. However, it is a process we don’t recommend going through alone. There are design philosophies to explore, trends to analyze, and, of course, your audience to consider. It’s an activity that requires more than creativity. Logo design is founded on research and born out of the collaboration between the brand’s leader and the designer who gives the brand its visual identity. Done well, the stylistic elements of a logo combine to tell a rich foundational story, while also pointing to the future.
Brands today are required to be interactive. Consumers want to engage with your brand, to communicate with it, feel a connection to it, and even make it their own. In today’s market, your logo is not only your brand ambassador but a tool for engagement.
Modern logos are free to evolve. You are free to present your logo in one iteration on your storefront, and in a slightly different iteration on your product packaging. However, a strong logo is designed with a framework that gives it a clear identity, no matter how, or where, it is used. It can be fun to change out elements of your logo, or even allow your audience to make those changes - just as long as the structure of your logo - its core visual identity - remains yours to define.
This is why we love Cornell Tech’s new logo.
It’s bendy. It’s yellow (you know how we feel about yellow), and it’s full of meaningful lessons to take away from its design. (Kudos to Sullivan!)
“...the logo was drawn at a 29 degree angle as an homage to New York City’s wonky grid. ‘Is that a little insider baseball? Absolutely,’ says Paolini. ‘But is it a nice little cultural nugget we get to talk about? Yes.’" - Wired Magazine
For an entity like Cornell Tech, paying homage to its home city makes perfect sense. Its identity is physically, emotionally and intellectually enmeshed with New York City.
Lesson: For a small business, embedding nods to your hometown is a double entendre. We find that many small business owners instinctively lean toward including the name of their locality in their business’ name, or as a design element in their logo. While that can serve to reinforce the business’ tie to its community - and shape the culture around the brand - it can dilute brand identity as the geographic scope of the business grows.
Making a name, and a logo, that transcends geographic location creates an image that communicates that you are able to operate anywhere. That is important because small businesses grow. What started as a major local operator may become a major regional operator, and then a major national operator.
Our Advice: Consider how important your locality is to your business. Are the services you provide only relevant to your community? Are the goods you produce and sell only capable of being made in your area? Is a component of either/or only sourced where you are? If the answer to these questions is no, we won’t entirely dissuade from you from including a sentimental element in your brand identity plan (in fact, we love the gentle nudge toward NYC in Cornell Tech’s logo design), but we will talk you out of letting your locality define you (it).
“The idea is that Cornell Tech can fill the T with whatever they see fit. It can be a vessel for images, it can blend into the urban landscape. . .” - Wired Magazine
Now, this we love.
Lesson: We appreciate a logo with some fluidity - and Cornell Tech’s new logo definitely has it! Your customers want to see your logo evolve, just as your brand identity grows and evolves over time. What Cornell Tech’s logo does is allow students, and others, to literally interact with the logo as they interact with the brand.
We believe this is perfect for a higher education institute that, by nature, is a transient place. Students from various parts of the world come to the institute, learn and grow, and then go onto a new place. In making the logo their own, they are leaving a mark on the institute as much as it leaves a mark on them. By allowing them to have creatively adapt the logo, they’re also leaving behind digital, visual artifacts that makes the exchange of knowledge and experience that transpired while they were at Cornell Tech.
To us, the intentional creation of a user-adaptable logo, is a great example of human-centered design.
Our Advice: Small-to-mid-size businesses can take a lesson here. You are as much in business to sell goods and/or services as much as you are to create an experience. Why not make a logo that your audience can interact with? In doing so, your logo becomes more than a visual signifier, it becomes an interactive marketing tool - and another reason for your audience to engage with you (and share your content!).
“In that way, the T has the en vogue flexibility you see in so many logos today without sacrificing a strong framework.” - Wired Magazine
This makes it all the better.
Cornell Tech’s logo is fluid, interactive and engaging. Students can manipulate the logo to their liking, but at the end of the day, the logo is still Cornell Tech’s.
It reinforces our earlier thought: A strong framework serves to give the logo a clear identity no matter how users engage with it. This is a powerful, intentional move that anyone can take a lesson from. It can be fun to change out elements of your logo, or even allow users to make those changes, but the at the end of the day, the structure (and the message) of the logo is yours.
In addition, it gives the logo - and the brand - continuity, which ultimately lends to its strength.
What the design of Cornell Tech’s new logo ultimately reinforces is that logo design is no longer about creating a 2D badge for an organization. A logo can be many things, including interactive. Be it a springboard for communication; a vessel to carry messages back and forth from creator-to-user; and/or a symbol to signify a life experience, or status. They are powerful things that should be designed wisely.
When you’re ready to make (or remake) yours, let us know. We are ready when you are. Contact us.