Does a brand need a logo?
Punch and Kiss: Does a brand need a logo?
The primary mark of a brand is usually the name. For that name to be owned in a particular way it is useful to give it a particular visual form. This is what most people hold as the 'logo'. However, the primary mark of a brand is only useful if it is tied into all the other various types of marks that constitute a rich and immersive experience that provide people with the opportunity to form emotional experiences.
A logo on its own isn't worth much. The problem with a 'logo' is that it tends to be a end in itself, by virtue of the term and the manner in which people tend to handle 'logos'. It's only the term 'logo' that has run its course, not to what it normally refers.
Brands will probably always require a proprietary material form for the primary mark, or, depending on the medium in which the experience takes place, a limited set of key marks that have related forms. A mark (or a limited set of key marks) that leads and provides a shorthand cue to an entire experience. Such a primary brand-mark is most usefully understood as one of many brand-marks that work in concert with other brand-marks to not only reflect an experience but to enhance as well as determine an experience. A logo cannot do this for a brand but a brandmark can. The point being that if you talk in terms of logos you will get logo-based experiences that aren't worth nearly as much as brand-mark-based experiences. Talk to your clients and creative brand people in terms of the marks of brands; not logos, and you are likely to get so much more bang for your buck.
The time has come for the means with which we handle brand experiences to change. This change begins with a new type of language that works to mediate the most powerful of shared human experiences, the experiences we now hold as brands.
The measure of the value of any aspect of a brand is the degree to which it enables intervention. Logos only enable a particular range of interventions.
The use of the hyphen in my post above is key in grasping to what it is that I'm referring. I'm not simply substituting the term 'logo' with the term 'brandmark'. Instead, I'm proposing that we use a language based on marks to not only handle brands but also to handle everything in the world. As the marks of reality mediate and determine our experience of reality so do the marks that make up brands mediate and determine brand experiences. I go so far as to argue that brands are the most powerful mediators of not only shared local realities but also what we understand to constitute reality in the broadest sense. We cannot think, make our way in, or make sense of the world without brands.
The point of my post is that the marks of reality that are 'branded' or brought into persistent and sustainable relationships with each other become the recognisable identities that we call brands. The word 'brandmark' written as one word denotes its status as the primary 'brand-mark', written with a hyphen or as two words capitalised, 'Brand Marks'. The brandmark is one of many brand-marks and it does not necessarily have to be a visual mark. However, chances are that it will probably require a visual form stable enough to recognise as part of a distinct identity.
Because a brandmark is expressed using a generic typeface does not mean it is not a logo. And, to my points, it would be better to handle American Apparel's primary visual mark as a 'brandmark'. Handling American Apparel in terms of all of it's brand-marks takes the emphasis off a single visual mark that would normally be handled as a 'logo'. And, wherein embedded are the problems of handling brands as 'logos'.
American Apparel's brandmark resists being handled as a logo but for all intents and purposes it is still a logo, it's just not a rich and distinctive logo, that is all. It does not make a case for logo-less brands. The primary purpose of American Apparel's brandmark is the inescapable fact that for most brands some designed form is required to carry the brand name.
The strength of a brand-mark-based method to handle brands is that any type of mark qualifies as a brand-mark: linguistic, material and gestural. Each mark either tags the known or cues other possibilities in the presented context. Language-based brand-marks such as brandlines generally cue a broader and more open conceptual space but in the context of the brand make the words particularly meaningful and should be realisable in each instance wherein the brand plays a role. That or the brandline is not working and should probably be abandoned as a brand-mark.
If you follow the argument above and consider the implications indepth (and not only for brands but for reality in general) then you should recognised that I'm pointing towards a revolution in how to handle brands.
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