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Logos have evolved. It’s no longer one symbol to rule the brand. Sure there might be one main logo, but with today’s dynamic visual landscape, and high competition to reach your audience, having a logo system is more important than ever. Some brands need a huge system, some only need a small one. But how on earth do you know what kind of logo system your brand needs? 

I thought about how to represent this visually and I’m gonna give it a go, so stay with me. There’s this graphic that popped into my head, you may have seen it. It’s an iceberg with a little tip showing above the water. The top above the surface is labeled, ‘Your Logo’ and the part under the water is labeled, ‘your brand’. For decades, this is how we explained that there is much more to your brand than your logo. While this graphic has gotten comically updated with modifications, I thought maybe I can redraw this old thing to illustrate visual strategy and where the logo system fits into it.

 

The New and Improved!

I know everyone wants the magical answer for their brand and I wish it were easy to just present one graphic that would apply to everyone, but visual strategy is a lot more nuanced than that. After working on hundreds of visual identities over the years, this is what visual strategy really looks like, or at least one example. Every single thing on this chart is a variable. The shape, water level, number of peaks, they will be different for every business.

New Features

Variation in Shape: The Iceberg is your business and everyone’s iceberg is different. Different angles, sizes, buoyancies, audiences, services, products…you get it. Some have been around for decades, some are new. What is your culture like? What do you sell? Why did you build this iceberg? Do you plan to connect other icebergs? Etc.

Water Level Variable: The waterline varies, too. The waterline represents how visual you need to be. How often should you engage with your audience? Where should you spend your energy? What pieces do you need in your system to create a dynamic experience? Who are you talking to? How much does it cost to get their attention? What are your products? Do your products have a brand? Or are they all under your umbrella? Is your logo ever secondary? Or always primary? And so on.

Peak Variation: The water level could reveal one peak, or five. Does that mean you need 5 logos? Well, yeah. It’s becoming more and more rare nowadays that a company only has ONE version of their logo.

When logos are systematic, the end user is having a better experience because of it.

These variables present a strategic approach for defining your logo system. Each variable lends itself to many questions, and not-so coincidentally, these are the kinds of questions asked in a discovery phase for rethinking your visual strategy. So what does this look like in practice?

Logo Systems In Action

Let’s take a look at two retail clients: The Good Rug and Alchemy. Both small business retailers independently owned. Both needed very different logo systems.

The Good Rug Logo System

The Good Rug travels the world and sells rugs that were handmade all over the world. The rugs, the traveling adventures are enough to generate a following. The Good Rug needed a simple brand, that is almost secondary to the product.

Alchemy Logo System

Now, let’s take a look at another retailer who needed a bigger system. Alchemy creates botanical perfumes, lotions and other self-care items that are all about living a more relaxed, slow lifestyle. The products range in size and are generally very small. It needed a system so we could have the product lines (current and future) have room to have their own identity but still feel like part of the brand, thus a very robust system was created.

Summary

If this article has you thinking that logo design is much more strategic and interesting than you thought, that leaves a smile on my face. Sure, you can create a random shape and get by for a while, but when you’re ready to dominate your industry, you need a visual strategy aligned with your business goals and aspirations. There is nothing that will give you more confidence in your brand, than knowing you have a well-thought, well-designed logo system.