Commentary / Jon Edwards

Living With Your Logo Re-Design

Logo re-design is one of the most difficult challenges in graphic design. It’s not easy for the designer, by any means, but it’s often just as herculean a task for the client.

Having a designer, a stranger, attempt to define your business for you can be a jarring prospect. You’re asked to allow an outsider to tell you what’s best for you. To take your medicine and allow them to work their magic by creating something that is meant to encapsulate everything about your company or organization. That’s a concept that’s not all that easy to digest. You know your company, but this person, who you’ve likely just met for the first time just a few short hours or days ago, can’t possibly know what you know.

I do get that. It makes sense to feel that. But all I ever ask of any client during the logo re-design process is one simple thing. Two, actually, with the first being “trust me.” I’ll do my homework and learn about what you do. That part is easy. The second thing, which isn’t quite so easy to accept is “live with it.”

Here’s the problem: Logo re-design, as it relates to a brand, is all about nostalgia. It’s the nostalgia of something you know and love because you’ve experienced it for a long enough time that you have an emotional connection with it.

Nostalgia doesn’t happen instantaneously. It doesn’t come in a vacuum-sealed package straight out of the factory. The nostalgia you ultimately feel for a brand doesn’t attach itself to the logo until some time has passed. It needs time to mature, to sink in and become one and the same with the logo. Without nostalgia, Nike is just a clever swoosh loosely related to ancient Greek mythology. Without nostalgia, seeing that logo in a print or television ad doesn’t spur memories of sweating during a long run, picking up a game of basketball on the neighborhood court or any other association you might have when you see it. Without nostalgia, that particular logo is just a meaningless, though nicely designed, swoosh.

The problem is compounded when it’s your logo that’s being re-designed. There will almost assuredly be a sense of disconnect between what you know your brand to be and the completely foreign symbol that you’re seeing for the very first time. You know your company from the inside out. You gave birth to it. You know what it feels like to feed it every day of your life, to stay awake late into the night to keep it growing and to make tough decisions along the way. Of course a new symbol that just landed in your lap isn’t going to seem correct at first glance. It’s alien. It’s an other. An outsider. It has zero connection to what you’ve created because it doesn’t contain any of your experiences or feelings. Not yet.

That’s why you’ve got to live with it. Nothing, no matter how great the design, is going to come pre-loaded with nostalgia. You have to give it a chance, even if just for a few days, to see if the design is strong enough to absorb the brand like a sponge. And you should expect your staff, and your clients, to have the same misgivings you might have had. All of us are resistant to change. When something feels comfortable, even when it’s imperfect, we tend to stick with what we know out of convenience and complacency. Any adjustment, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can feel blatantly wrong based on the mere fact that something changed, even when that change is an improvement. But that’s not a good reason to not do it.

Can you imagine if Amazon had decided that a redesign would have been too difficult? How would you perceive that company today if they chose to keep things the way they were because the process became unpleasant or because the customers didn’t like it?

How about Apple? It’s hard to imagine Apple with any other logo (never mind the Rainbow Bright edition), but when the company was first formed, they used a complex illustration of Isaac Newton sitting beneath the infamous apple tree about to get bonked on the head. They very easily could have listened to any naysayers who felt ill at ease with the idea of change by deciding to keep things as they were. What would the company look like today if they never changed out of fear, mistrust, worry or reservation?

That resistance that you, your staff and your clients might feel is not a valid reason to keep with the same old way of doing things. If there’s room for improvement, you need to take the initiative and improve already, and trust the people you’ve put in charge of the process. The nostalgia will come with time.