Logos are dead (Part 1)
Logo Design Love: Logos are dead
To put a semantic perspective on the issue, the signifier is dead but the signified isn't.
The term 'logo' has run its course, it cannot adequately describe the role of the primary mark of a brand. The primary mark of a brand cannot 'carry' the entire brand experience but can serve to 'cue' the entire experience.
A declaration of the death of the logo should be viewed against this idea and not against headline grabbing trickery. Logos are not dead. Instead, how we handle the underlying material of the 'logo' and what we expect of that material has changed, and this needs to be better reflected in the terms used to describe the value of this material. Logos are not so easily dismissed.
Every single mark of an identity is a symbol that assists in describing the experience of that identity. What varies between these symbols is the role they play and the extent to which they contribute to the overall experience. There will always be instances where there is limited space, where only a single representative of an experience can be accommodate. If the key idea of the experience is not sufficiently cued the opportunity is wasted and greater efforts are required elsewhere.
To have a discrete visual symbol in a primary brand mark makes sense if the ideas behind the brand warrant such a symbol. It is quite clear that Apple, Nike and Audi cue powerful experiences with their visual symbols. Other examples are not hard to find. A blanket statement stating that a symbol is a waste of time is itself a waste of time and undeserving of further contemplation.
The linguistic and conceptual contortions embedded in the thinking of brands in terms of logos demonstrates the limit of a type of language used to grasp brands. I believe the world is ripe for a new type of language that determines and coordinates identity experiences using 'brand marks'.
Symbols evoke experiences beyond what can be classified or thought. A symbol is evocative when it enables people to intervene in the world more effectively. It evokes this 'effectiveness'.
The world is made up of the things of life and so the symbols of these things have emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual and physical aspects to them. In this sense they can be seen to be 'living'. What varies between symbols is the depth and richness of the experiences they evoke.
A 'living logo' doesn't necessarily mean a literally animated logo, one that literally moves but one that moves 'the world' or 'a world' in other ways. A 'living logo' is a representative of a purposeful and animated brand, a brand that 'lives' and 'animates' through it's various marks. All of these types of marks can be identified as symbols with various purposes, moving the world in different ways and to varying degrees.
To the extent that the brand is 'animated' the logo can be seen to be 'full of life'. However, as I've been at pains to point out, the term 'logo' is not effective in evoking an entire experience of the sort expected of contemporary brands. Marks that describe an animated experience will themselves be animated, not literally but symbolically. In this sense the primary mark should be the most 'animated' symbol of the brand, it should be the most effective at cuing an experience.
A successful brandmark is a brandmark that 'activates' or 'cues' an experience in the hearts and minds of people without necessarily having immediate access to that experience. The term 'brandmark', on the other hand, provides a more effective way to cue how the primary brand mark relates to all the other marks of a brand experience. This 'brand mark'-based language also 'animates' its own type of brand experience, one that is more likely to deliver on the expectations of contemporary consumers.
Logos are still not dead, they just aren't enough anymore.
Ben Wolstenholme's position may be slightly different to Simon Manchipp but he also doesn't propose a compelling argument to validate the statement that 'logos are dead'. By 'dead' Simon means logos are over and gone are the days when they were so important in understanding brands. Ben appears to be saying that logos cannot bear sufficient change to be relevant to a brand's identity.
I agree with Ben that a brand is an evolving story. Brand stories evolve in the sense that all the marks of a brand experience are directed in such a way as to be relevant to people's lives. However, this goes without saying. And, more importantly, in response, this does not mean the visual component of an identity has to move or change in a literal sense to indicate an evolving brand.
A brand can be seen to be living in the sense that it is responsive to the quality of the experience of the brand so that the brand remains relevant to the lives of people. There are always responsive elements of a brand that invite and process feedback to rework the overall brand experience and which affects the perceived reality of a brand identity. This is a basic mechanism by which all brands are validated, reinforced and shared.
However brands work to remain relevant and whether their visual identities are dynamic or static, all their various marks are directed to secure distinct identities in the minds (and hearts) of people. Brand marks work to hold stable single ideas or nested sets of ideas in a fluxing world of competing ideas. The more distinctive the brand idea the more discrete (ie. separate) and secure (or fixed) the perception of the identity.
A 'living identity' is an artificial proposition open to interpretation and, in my opinion, not as compelling as Ben would have us believe. A 'living identity' suggests that to a logical conclusion a brand can be sentient. A brand could be seen to be sentient in the sense that it is for and determined by sentient humans and so to some degree behaves as humans do. Until artificial intelligence surpasses the level of consciousness of humans brands are unlikely ever to 'live' to the extent that they can be said to be alive and 'living'. Such an argument becomes esoteric and is of little commercial value. Unless, of course, the brand is literally a person.
To say logos are dead is to also misrepresent the limitations of thinking of brands in terms of logos, as per Simon's argument. At the very least a logo's function is to carry a brand name (literally, or as a symbol and/or rebus) regardless of whether the design is static or changing. A brand name exists in an abstract space relatively free of context (other than linguistic). How the rest of the brand marks relate to this primary mark (aka logo) determines what the brand name or symbol means in the world. How the brand lives via all its marks gives meaning as well as a sense of purpose to its identity.
Ben appears to mean that a logo is dead because it does not literally move and/or its content is not conveyed via some sort of form change in real-time. He also suggests that whatever the brand idea in the logo, the mere fact that the idea is expressed as a logo means it cannot be alive. On this basis I believe his argument is invalid and grossly misleading to the uninitiated. An idea can live or be animated in a conceptual or symbolic sense without having to move or change in a literal sense. Brands need to evolve/change/upgrade but it is unlikely that the core components of an identity will ever need to change in real-time. Real-time movement or change causes a brand to repeat basic movements or, at the extreme, become too varied and indistinct.
Digital technology offers unprecedented opportunities to orchestrate various types of related marks to create distinctive brand experiences. It is in this type of brand experience that the creation of the marks of a brand should be determined, brand marks of which one will always be required to lead – one that will also always require a single static form for non-digital applications. To achieve this and at the same time meet the demands of contemporary consumers a new type of brand-handling language is required, one that doesn't refer to primary brand marks as logos.
As I written before, logos aren't dead but it has become necessary to understand that logos alone aren't enough to capture the meaning and purpose of brands.
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