[Podcast] Logos VS Brands – What’s the difference? Bill Gardner Answers

[Podcast] Logos VS Brands – What’s the difference? Bill Gardner Answers

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Bill Gardner joins Jacob Cass and Matt Davies to discuss the differences between logos and brands, Jennifer Aawker’s brand personality framework, the discovery process with clients, objectivity VS subjectivity, establishing design briefs, how to sell the value of branding, logo design trends and magic. Yes, magic!

Bill Gardner is the owner and president of Gardner Design, where he and his team have produced effective and award-winning results for such industry leaders as NFL, Pepsi, Pizza Hut, Kroger, Hallmark, SeaWorld, and others. He understands the nuances of brand practicalities better than anyone in the business and leads his team to always first consider the business that the design is supporting.

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As the founder of LogoLounge.com – the international, searchable compendium of logos – Bill authored the affiliated bestselling LogoLounge book series, volumes 1-12, and is the author of the annual LogoLounge Logo Trend Report. 2013 marked the release of the highly anticipated Logo Creed, a foundation textbook for students, educators and professionals alike. Bill is also the author and presenter of LinkedIn Learning’s series of online courses concentrating on branding and identity design.

In 2014, Bill became an AIGA Fellow Award recipient for his contributions to the local, national and international creative community. Bill also judges design competitions and speaks nationally and internationally on identity trends and logo development. In his spare time, he serves on several community boards and has completed a six-year term as the Territorial Vice President of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

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Transcript (Auto Generated)

Hello, and welcome to JUST Branding, the only podcast dedicated to helping designers and entrepreneurs grow brands. Here are your hosts, Jacob Cass and Matt Davies.

Hello, and welcome to JUST Branding. Please excuse my husky voice today. I woke up with a froggy in my throat.

This is Jacob, if you didn’t realize. But today we have Bill Gardner with us. Bill is the founder of Gardner Design, which is a brand design firm based in Kansas, United States.

Not only is he an agency founder, he’s also the author of over a dozen logo design books, a logo trend forecaster, a design educator and a magician. I actually first came across Bill through his incredible logo design gallery called LogoLounge back in the early 2000s, and I’ve been following him since. For those of you who do not know, LogoLounge is the world’s largest logo design gallery and series of logo design books.

I’m humbled to say that my work’s been featured in these books for a decade consecutively, thanks to a few under the table payments.

I was waiting for that one to come out, Jacob. I was waiting for that.

Hey, we’re done with this show, right?

Yeah, we’re done.

Are you going to list them all, Jacob?

Thanks to a few under the table payments to Bill. I’ve actually interviewed Bill a few times over the years. It’s always been good fun.

So we’re incredibly excited to have him on the show today on JUST Branding. We’re going to be talking about logos, magic, branding, trends, strategy, and so much more. So Bill, I’m sure our listeners is perked up when they heard magic.

So can you let us know what that’s all about? Is that why you’ve been so successful?

Yeah, watch the little egg vanish, and just like that, it’s gone. Isn’t that amazing? Just like your father ripping behind your ears and pulling all that stuff out and stuff.

So yeah, we did discover that at the last one, and I’ve got to say your father’s name.

Bill, trust me, Cass.

Okay, and you’ve got to look him up. He is hysterical. I’m positive, knowing what the children of magicians are like, that Jacob doesn’t have that same feeling.

But he really is an amazing magician, and we discovered this because I actually put my way through school doing magic and on a little bit later, and literally traveling around the world to different magic, excuse me, my voice is a little bit husky.

You’re just trying to imitate me.

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I woke up with a frog in my bed, and it was, oh, my throat, one or the other, one or the other.

Oh man, so people listening, what you didn’t see was Bill do a magic trick on the camera here, and if you didn’t catch it, so my dad is a magician as well. So it does explain a lot as Matt said earlier. Yeah, so he’s been a magician since he was 21, and I grew up with that in my family.

So that’s what we found out in our last conversation with Bill. But let’s dive into the main topic of this podcast. So in terms of, we want to explore a little bit of logos, a little bit of brand, a bit of strategy and all of that.

So I know you talk about logos a lot because you’ve been doing logos for many, many years. But I’d love to hear your, I guess, definition of a logo, definition of a brand, and perhaps we can lead into what makes a good logo and what makes a good brand. So there’s a lot of questions here.

I’ll just leave it open for you.

So let me do lay a little bit more groundwork there just real quick. So Gardner Design is our firm and we do nothing but branding. It’s about somewhere between 10 and 12 people, depending on how many people COVID lets into my office on a proper day.

But it is a firm that I started in 1983 when nobody would hire me. And it just kind of developed from there. So know that much of what I share is self-learned through the School of Hard Knocks through a lot of experience.

But more importantly, it’s learned from having hired some just phenomenal designers over the years who have taught me what they know. And it is incredibly a sharing experience. And LogoLounge didn’t come about until 2001.

So logos versus brands. I always have to do a little bit of apologizing about the profession that all of us are in, which is that we have a hard time telling people at a party what it is we do. Because I know that brand designers know that it’s much more than just a logo.

When we find ourselves cornered, we’ve got to give that answer to that person that really wants to know what it is we do. We usually end up working it down to the point of we’re a logo designer or we draw pictures and people pay us money for it. We have to simplify things.

Or you do websites.

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Yeah, I do websites, period. That’s it. People want those simple answers.

But when you throw something at them like, well, I do corporate identity, they just get this face overlook on their face. So corporate identity, that’s interesting. Tell me about corporate identity.

When we talk about rebranding, branding is one of those great words because people started to kind of grasp onto that and understand it. Keep in mind that 15 years ago was when the word brand really started to gain some traction. People started really talking about brand and logo designers clenched onto it because they figured out that they could charge twice as much if they told a client that they were designing a brand than if they were designing their logo.

I’m afraid that some people were just delivering a logo. But a brand is so much deeper than that. I mean, Matt’s expertise is in strategy and development.

And he could probably wax on for years about why he shifted from logo design towards more of talking to people about their brand strategies. And I know that you do the same thing, Jacob, with the call.

So we’re doing a bit of a hybrid at the moment. Matt’s all in with strategy, and I still love the design side of things, but it’s irrelevant, really.

So what is the difference in there? And let’s go ahead and kind of put logos entirely away for just a minute and talk about brand as being that essence by which people know you. You know, I love Jeff Bezos’ comment about brand is what people say about you when you’re not there.

And it really is this idea of all of those elements that are the essence of you or it or an entity. So when I think about you, I’m going, okay, I think about what Jacob looks like. And he’s youthful and he’s exuberant and he’s well spoken and all of these things.

And I’m being a little bit…

I’m being great this year, you know. He’s got a beautiful family, beautiful wife. So if you think about that, that’s part of your brand.

You know, the background that you’ve selected behind you, that’s part of your brand. Your logos are up in the corner, just branding podcasts. That’s part of your brand.

But it’s all of these entities and it’s your voice. And it’s the way that you speak to people. It’s the type of language that you select to different audiences so they understand you well.

And all of that ends up translating back into a brand. You know, one of the ways that I kind of describe this to clients oftentimes, and I know that, keep in mind, I’m in the US and these brands will vary depending on where you are in the world. But if I were to walk across the street to one of our supermarkets to pick up some marijuana, just sparkling water, maybe a hint of lime just to give it a little bit of flavor to it or something like that, there’s probably, I don’t know, a dozen different brands that I could buy over there.

And frankly, if I were to pour them into glasses here and have you taste them, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between them. They’re sparkling water and they’ve got a little bit of lime to them. But if we were to actually take the cans or the husk, you know, or the bottles that they came in, and line them up on a table, let’s say for the purpose of this conversation, I’m going to name some brands that we have here.

Maybe there’s a Perrier and a Pellegrino and a Canada Dry and an Izzy and a Dasani. And you can kind of visualize these sitting on the table. And I’m willing to bet you that if your friends were to be gathered in a room, that you could tell me which ones they would pick up.

The older people in the room may end up going towards the Pellegrino or the Canada Dry, or a younger individual might pick up an Izzy and try that. But all of us have that kind of predictability about us that we can gauge what they’re going to do from a brand perspective. And when you think about it, if we had just poured the beverages out into some glasses in front of them and said here, they wouldn’t know.

They would pick and they couldn’t tell the difference between them. So that really kind of conveys the idea that from a visual perspective, what the importance of branding is, because we’ve got identical products in all of these, yet we have a good sense of who’s going to pick out which ones and why they’re going to pick it out.

So how do we actually shape a brand to target an audience? What’s your process for creating a brand? Let’s go down that route.

I’m trying to recall and I don’t want to be repetitive here, but Jacob, we’ve tried to recall in prior conversations, we’ve talked about brand personality and Jennifer Aawker.

I don’t believe so.

Okay, so I’m going to go ahead and throw this out. I think this is well worth the study. It’s just one of the ways that we shift our thinking as designers from being subjective to objective.

Let me hit that real quick. Subjectivity and objectivity, and this is one of the biggest challenges that designers have, is we are not designing for designers.

We are designing for businesses, typically. Quick lesson in objectivity versus subjectivity, just basics. Objectivity, if you bring in 12 accountants into a room and give them a column of numbers, you would expect them all to come up with the same solution.

That’s because that is an objective question. These numbers add up to 12. If you bring in a group of 12 designers and give them the same problem and say, design a solution for me, I guarantee that all 12 of them will come up with different solutions.

They all may be amazing solutions, incredible solutions, but they will be different. That’s a subjective decision versus an objective decision. Because we are in a subjective craft, but we create…

If I were to walk into a room full of the stakeholders in a company that I’m going to be working for and signing an identity form, and I often make this comment to them, I said, I want you to picture in your mind exactly what you imagine I’m going to be coming back with. And then I want you to know that I absolutely guarantee you that I will not be coming back with that. Plus, I guarantee you that none of you have the same idea, that every one of you has a different idea here.

So how do we get from subjectivity to objectivity? And keep in mind that the majority of your clients are very objective minded. There’s a reason they’re a CEO or a CEO or CTO or CFO.

And it’s because they have this very objective mindset. So if we’re able to create design, that we can come back to them and say, let me show you how I came to this through an objective process. Suddenly they can clinch on to that and they can go, okay, I get this.

Okay, if you want me to move forward, I’m going to jump into personality here for just a minute. Jennifer Aawker, and I’m going to spell that so you can find her. Jennifer, as you would expect, Aawker, A-A-K-E-R, is a professor at Stanford University in California.

Jennifer, back in 1997, developed a thesis that was really wonderful and it was this, that she understood, kind of going back to that mineral water conversation, that people obviously have personalities and there are any number of tests that you can go through that help determine an individual personality. Oftentimes, it breaks it down into 9 or 12 different dimensions. She ended up doing an extensive study, which is very credible and holds water today, which basically says, within brands, there are basically 5 different personalities.

And those are 5 different personality dimensions. And if I were to list those categories up top, the categories are sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness. Okay, that’s kind of an odd mix.

You’re kind of going, wow, is that the only 5? But keep in mind, those are dimensions. So think of those as 5 buckets up top.

And within each bucket, there are trait words that are associated with each of those dimensions. So sincerity, for example. If I were to look in that bucket of trait words, I would find words like authentic, original, family.

These are words that have to do with somebody giving their word a warm feeling of family within sincerity. You can kind of see that kind of filling out, and there’s probably a dozen different word, trait words associated with that. And there’s about a dozen associated with each of those.

And what we do is we literally go in to a group of stakeholders in a company, whether it is those in charge of the company or whether it’s their clients or whether it is potential clients or board members or employees. And we have a survey that we go through that asks a lot of questions. But amongst those, it says, which of these words do you associate with your company?

And by circling those trait words, we can identify brand-wise which of those five buckets you most land in. And I will tell you that very few companies are just one of any one of those dimensions. And oftentimes, you’ll find that they fall into one or two or sometimes three.

You don’t really want to press it beyond that because it starts to become a camel. It’s not well-designed and everybody’s trying to get in there. And you’re also going to find that in each of those buckets, you have a percentile.

So you may end up coming back and saying, gosh, man, this company is 70% sincere and 20% competent and 10% excitement. So you can start to use that, and I’ll explain how you move that information, which is the first time you’re grabbing objective information that’s going to be used in a subjective fashion. So let me talk about those buckets for just a second.

Sincerity. I’m going to name some companies that fall very squarely inside of sincerity. They are companies like, and this is your testing, Disney, Coca-Cola, at least over your Hallmark, I don’t know if you’ve got Hallmark or not, Jules Berry, Campbell’s.

So these are all companies that rank very highly with those trait words associated with sincerity. I want you to picture for just a second the logo for Disney. Remember that.

Or for Coca-Cola? What do they all have in common?

The signatures, more or less.

There are these autographs. It’s your imprimatur saying, I authorize this. I stand behind this.

My value is your value. And I’m not saying that every logo that falls within sincerity needs to have script or an autograph. But what you’re doing is you’re quickly starting to pick up on, okay, gosh, from a visual perspective, there are things about that signature that associate with sincerity.

Excitement, you can think about, here’s one for you. Pepsi falls squarely, and they will tell you within the excitement category, Coca-Cola falls squarely in sincerity. Again, the glass test, you know, not a lot of difference, but one brand, fully excitement, one brand, fully sincerity.

Confidence, you know, you get down to, and by the way, excitement is one of those things that depends on your audience, because what’s exciting to me isn’t exciting to you, potentially. It’s the thing that gets you on edge, it’s the thing that you feel just a bit uncomfortable with. And that depends on who you’re talking to.

Confidence, it’s that idea that I press the button and it’s going to start regardless. For us, it’s UPS, it’s FedEx, it’s Lexus, it’s KitchenAid, it’s, you know, I’m naming brands that may or may not translate to every place in the world. They aren’t always the most stellar, exciting brand.

If you frankly look at their logos, a lot of them are work marks, but a lot of times they’ll also have kind of a nugget mark. That is nondescript, it’s more conceptual. The work marks are generally kind of modest weight.

They’re not uber heavy, they’re not uber light. They’re just solid in there. If I jump over sophistication, you’re talking about fashion brands, liquors, jewelry, cars.

Sophistication is interesting because it can be people that aspire to be sophisticated, and it can also be people that aren’t sophisticated. So it’s aspirational as well as achievement oriented. So if you start to think about those brands, I want you to think visually for a second.

What happens when you start to letter space your type? You know, air it out a little bit. Okay, I’m a little bit more sophisticated.

I’m a little bit more elegant, you know. And you can start to imagine in your mind, and we as designers, I think intuitively, whether it’s through osmosis or whatever, know when something looks sophisticated versus when it looks exciting versus when it looks sincere. I mean, we get that.

Ruggedness, final one. As you start to think about ruggedness, it could be, and even though that sounds like a pretty male-oriented aspect, Levi’s, you know, falls male, female, it could go either way. Timbrel and Caterpillar are rain trucks.

I’m, again, speaking American brands here just offhand. But when we start to think about those, oftentimes a much heavier weightier kind of solution. If it’s a wordmark, you’re going to have some heft to that wordmark in there.

Nothing thrilling, nothing light about it. So this is the way that you are able to start talking to that CEO or the CFO or whoever is going to be in the stakeholder’s position and make that call on us. I’m saying, you know what?

The reason that we have come up with this solution isn’t because we think it’s nifty. The reason we came up with it isn’t because we think it’s pretty. The reason we came up with it is because authoritatively, through the testing that we’ve done, we understand where people’s mindset is in regards to this brand.

Or if your brand isn’t where it needs to be, if we need to adjust it to one of those dimensions or another, we can start to shift the graphic aesthetic in there so that it better meets those demands. I’ll quit talking for a second because that’s a lot to choke down.

Hi, everyone. It’s Matt here. Just segue in.

I was just going to say, Bill, that you’ve touched on elements, I would say, of brand strategy there, in essence. And I love that analogy between the subjective and the objective.

You mentioned, I could probably talk for hours about my shift from design into strategy. And I think it was driven by exactly what you’ve just said, which is, I got sick of people going, nah, I don’t like it. And you’ve just spent all the last week and your whole blood, sweat and tears and your soul on this thing.

And they’re just like, nah, I don’t like it. And so, I think there is a drive for designers to find some way to ground our work in stuff that makes sense to clients and that they can kind of grapple with and they can align around. And I’m hearing a lot of stuff from what you’ve just said about the five personalities and it rings true.

A lot of that rings true for me. And I think you can leave it there or you can go deeper into the depths of strategy. But I think it’s awesome that you even do that because obviously I think when you first start out as a designer, you don’t really do that stuff.

And then you kind of get like me, which was a bit like, well, why doesn’t anybody like my stuff anymore? You know, and you start to get second.

Yeah, let’s do this. I’m not meaning to alienate anybody in this audience, but I’m gonna gloss over this very quickly, but I’m gonna make a point of differentiation, which is that there are any number of designers out there that are working for Fiverr or as part of a group solution site, crafting logos for 50 bucks a piece or 100 bucks a piece or fill in the blank. And we as serious designers, okay, we’re setting ourselves aside, we’ve got this class that we’re developing here.

I know for a fact that I have designed in my life, and I still do for people occasionally, a free logo. I have designed logos for way less than what they are worth for people in my life. And I think that everybody does that to some degree as a push to start to build that portfolio, to start to establish their career.

I get that. I completely get that. But I also know that the value of our time is just incredible.

And I’m gonna come back to that with you in just a second about the value of our individual time. That when you think about going into a client, and clients aren’t stupid. I mean, they’re hiring you for a reason.

You hope they’re smart.

When they say, I get this, but we can go to XYZ site and get 20 different solutions and it’s only gonna cost me a thousand bucks. Why would I want to spend the kind of money you’re asking for, for this brand identity? I hope you have an answer.

And you need to think through that answer. Otherwise, they’re gonna hire the group source that’s gonna throw them a logo for a thousand bucks and they’re gonna be perfectly happy with that for a period of time. So how as a designer do you explain that difference, that value in there?

And I found that this particular argument when you’re talking to an objective client rings true with them. The number of studies that have been done that are brand value studies that basically indicate when you take a pool of companies and put them up against the most ironclad stocks within your industry, that over a 10 year period of time, they will double, sometimes triple in value over those ironclad stocks. And I can direct you to those studies.

They’re all over the place out there. The Design Council in London did one about 10 years ago. The Design Management Institute did one that concluded in about 2016.

And you can show these facts and figures to your client. They start to get this. Let me go back to a thought here.

It’s not uncommon for me in a presentation to show a grouping audience four logos. Four, one more finger. I’ll show them the Oakley logo.

I’ll show them the Nike Swish. I’ll show them the Rolex logo.

And I ask people if they can’t identify those particular logos. Just the mark. And they’re usually pretty good at that.

And then I put up products on the screen and say you probably are more accustomed to seeing a Nike shoe and there’s a Nike Swish or another Rolex watch or so on and so forth. But the thing that you don’t grasp in here is that all these products that I’m showing you are counterfeit. And the World Trade Organization estimates that on an annual basis and check me on these figures because I’ve got to get back to them.

But it seems like it’s somewhere in the zone of $20 billion annually is spent on counterfeit goods. And I want you to think about why that person that bought that counterfeit pair of Nike’s bought them. If you pull that logo off of that pair of shoes, they wouldn’t have bought it.

If you pull the Rolex crown off of that watch, nobody would buy it. Oakley O off the glasses. If you ever question the value of what you’re designing and what the public’s perception is of a logo or a mark, look at those figures.

And those are just, you know, Burberry’s in there because Burberry, as of two years ago, was one of the most knocked off brands in the world. You know, it’s pretty much their tartan that they’ve got that is being knocked off. But, you know, I mean, here as designers, when we start to question and we say, you know, I’m willing to knock off a logo for 500 bucks for somebody.

Maybe that’s all you can really get for it, but I want you to think about the value of that to that entity that you’re designing it for. Because they’re going to be, I guarantee, if you do it well, that is going to be the representational mark, the representational touchstone for that corporation for decades.

So true. I was just in awe, just communicating the value of brands versus logos. I think you’ve put it very nicely in terms of trying to, I guess, craft this conversation around logos versus brand, and you’ve done that so well in terms of showing the difference, like taking the logo off.

But I’m curious, how do you actually sell this through to the client? You mentioned it in the presentation where you showed these products, but how do you actually sell through the design or the value of your work? What’s the next step?

Matt, I loved your comment about showing a logo to a company other than them saying, I don’t like it. To not be crass, my answer is usually good because you’re not the client. And it’s so true.

And that’s especially true for the client that comes back and tells you their spouse doesn’t like it. Great, because they’re not my client either. And I’m going to go back and make a comment about pro bono logos, which is going to roll forward into your question there, Jacob.

Which is, I have generally found, one of the reasons that I quasi detest doing pro bono logos is not because I feel like those entities that I like to do them for are unworthy. They’re often good social causes or somebody that really could use one. But I also find that those are the clients that usually have the least amount of respect for that mark, or that are the pushiest with, well, I’m not really sure about how, I’m not really liking it.

Can we use something that, you know, and part of the reason that when you charge $20,000, $10,000, tell me your price, but if it’s enough to make that entity hurt just a little bit, there’s some hurt associated with gain, isn’t there? And, you know, when you’re paying that kind of money for a brand, for you, you know, this aspect of your brand, then you’re going to be a little bit more willing to play along and to buy into it. The people that complain, I don’t like it, are the ones that aren’t paying up.

Just a general observation. Now, as a designer, you’ve got to come through. That doesn’t just mean that you get somebody on the hook because you’re willing to charge more and that they’re willing to buy into it.

We’ve got to, you know, really go through this process. And, you know, we talked about discovery. The discovery takes as long for us on the development of, you know, an identity as does the actual development of the art.

Because we want to make sure that we’re coming back to that client with a solution that is going to work and that they understand why it’s going to work and they agree with. So how do you do that? Our discovery process closes out with the development of the design brief.

And that design brief is our roadmap. It’s what tells us and what tells the client what our objectives are. It explains, here’s how we interpret what you’ve told us.

And keep in mind that about two-thirds of the work that we do is rebrand. And we can talk about rebrand versus branding, but those are usually clients that have a little bit more money to spend on it because they’ve had a level of success, but they’ve also figured out that they’re off course and that they need to rectify it. So in that design brief, we indicate those things that we have found and it includes a little bit of the SWOT, it includes a little bit of the personality testing in there, it includes observations, and then it includes what our objectives are for addressing those needs.

And it’s a two-party document. It’s us and the client. So we send them and say, what do you think?

Did we miss anything? Anything we need to put an explanation mark behind? Is there anything that we need to add to this?

Anything we need to extract from this? And the reason for this is because it’s hard to tell when you’re there if you don’t know where you’re going. And that brief tells you where you’re going.

So that when you sit down with the client and he says, man, I don’t like that, or she says, you know, it just isn’t my shade of purple. That’s your opportunity to come back and say, I understand that. You’re not the client.

Let’s go back to the objectives and make sure that it addresses all those points on the objective. And then we’ll know whether or not this is going to be successful enough. And it’s also the opportunity sometimes for the client to go, you know, and you have these, where the client goes, I just thought of this, did you think about so-and-so?

Which is again your objectives, which is your opportunity to say, no, I didn’t, but we certainly can. Now, we’ll need to go into an additional round, and there will be additional costs associated with that, obviously, but delighted to investigate that for you. So, I mean, you always need to have that level of agreement with anybody that you’re planning on asking for money from so that they have an expectation, rightfully so, of what they’re going to get out of it, and you have an expectation of what they’re asking to be delivered, and that brief is that document that gives you that.

Can I throw a question at you, Bill? A little side swiping question. So, you know, the things I often say this, and listeners to the show will know and probably a bit yawn as I say this, but, you know, I often think that we get paid for adding value, right?

That’s why people put their hand into their pocket and give us some money. So, my question is this, is what kind of problem do you think the logo designer solves for the client? In your words, like, you know, you’re doing this, you’ve been doing this for many, many years.

What’s that key problem that you overcome for the client?

And Matt, it’s probably fair at this point that we both point out even though we have been talking about logos here, that often this process is much broader than this. If we’re doing a rebrand with a company, we’re investigating a lot of territory. It goes way beyond just…

The logo is just like the pinnacle, isn’t it? The flag at the top of the mountain that you’re going to kind of create for the client to create that visual language. I’m glad you’ve touched on that, because that was my next question as well.

So yeah, we’ve answered that one anyway.

And to that point, the brand design brief, the personality testing, all of that is geared towards gathering that information. You need to be able to address all of these needs that they have. And to your point, when do we pay attention to a rebrand?

I’m going to talk about just rebrands here for just a second. Because branding, it’s kind of like, hey, my door’s open. You put an open sign there and we’re here.

With a rebrand, it can be much more subtle. There are rebrands. I think the average belief is Coca-Cola every seven years on the book pulls out the Coca-Cola script and revisits it.

They test their, is the italic right? Is the white right here? Can we sling this down?

It’s under continual scrutiny. The original Coca-Cola that got written on the first bottle on that prescription isn’t what they have today. It’s been through.

A good company has good stewardship of their mark, good stewardship of their brand, and on this continual evolution of that brand evolving forward. We don’t evolve backwards. And that’s a de-evolution.

And when we go into a rebrand, it really is something where occasionally it will be very subtle. And the visual essence may not shift a lot, but maybe their oral message changes. The tenets behind the message that they’re sending to their audience may shift.

Maybe it is a shift in some of the visual vocabulary that helps support that mark, that identifies that there’s been something afoot. And when you really start to think about what that rebrand does for you, why are you going through a rebrand? Well, it’s because over a period of time, have you ever read the book Who Moved My Cheese?

Which is basically a wonderful book on over a period of time, your North Star shifts a little bit. And we started out making heels for shoes years ago, and we’re still making the same heels today that we did 50 years ago, but people aren’t wearing the same kind of shoes now. So something has changed and you need to redress.

It’s not that people don’t have heels, it’s just you need to reboot your heel, if you will. So it’s in trying to think in terms of a rebrand, sometimes there are rebrands where you are looking for a degree of drama that really indicates that, hey, we had it wrong, now we’re going to make it right. All the way to, hey, we’re still the same solid company you’ve always known.

I just decided to change my underwear. It’s one of those things where there’s every variable in between when it comes to rebrand and how much drama you want to put in there. I will make this comment that with our clients, it is pretty common for us when we’re doing a rebrand.

To keep in mind that consumers are not fond of rebrands, just generally. And I’m not necessarily talking about the fact that we all have an opinion anymore and have the vehicles to express those opinions as much as I am. Really what we’re talking about is that people fill in voids with negative information.

Some years ago, we rebranded a whole series of convenience stores across the United States for Kroger, which is a major grocer here in the US. And at the time that we did that, we knew that it was a dramatic visual rebrand and that people would see that, they’d be going, oh, s***, I don’t know, they probably aren’t going to have the same service they used to or they’re probably going to quit carrying that brand of tea that I like to drink or they’re probably going to quit giving you the ability to air up your tires for free or whatever you want to fill in. And we will, as human beings, go to the negative first.

It is human nature. We try to find that negative aspect of something before we look for the positive. So when you go through that rebrand, you need to have those questions people are going to ask already answered and introduce it with the answer.

Such as, we’re rebranding and Turkey Hill Tea is still going to be our anchor tea. We’re changing with our same family that you’ve come to know. It’s all of these elements that you need to address at the time of that rebrand so that people know what’s going on.

I like it.

There’s a lot more happening than just the signpost, as it were. You’re really exploring a lot of depth. And I often, I mean, how do you call, what do you call that?

I mean, I call it the visual language of the brand, when I’m doing my work. It’s the kind of the whole expression of it, of the thinking and the strategy, I would say, of the business and where it needs to go and what messaging and how it needs to position itself. It’s the expression of that, isn’t it?

Would you call it the visual language? Have you got any other words that you’d…

The language, the vocabulary. I think a lot of people, and frankly, it’s outside of being overused brand DNA is really, if you understand it from this perspective, is probably the easiest for people to start to remember if you explain it in this way. When we talk about the visual language or the supporting elements, I usually say, as we’re looking at this logo, I’m showing it to you on a white background, and chances are you will never see this logo on a white background again.

It is always going to be supported in conjunction with typography, color, texture, and pattern, and materials, and the illustration, and photography, and all of these other elements, this panoply of elements that come together to establish that visual language or the brand DNA. And when you’re talking about that, and I mentioned to you that we do a lot of work with larger corporations, it’s not uncommon for the clients that we’re working for to go into rebrand to have their own marketing, or even sometimes design staff internally, that this isn’t their expertise, so they’re not doing it, but they are the ones that are going to be the stewards and being the ones that will carry it forward from that point. And the development of this family, and it even comes down to the language you use, the words and the tone that you’re expressing things in, all of that, again, is part of the brand DNA.

And if you think of it from this perspective, you know that family, it might be Jacob’s family, that when you look at them, all the kids look alike, doesn’t matter if they’re boys or girls, and you know who their parents are, you know? It’s a bunch of Cass’s. But if all of a sudden, a redheaded child shows up in that bunch, you’ve got a suspicion that maybe some DNA got worked into there that probably wasn’t part of the Cass lineage.

So when you’re designing, all of those elements in that visual vocabulary are your brand DNA. It’s those elements that you draw from as you’re creating that new website, as you’re creating the trade show display, as you’re creating that signage on the outside of your vehicles or the outside of your building or fill in the blank. As long as I continue to draw from just that DNA, then I can be pretty sure that I’m going to be knocking off a Cass and not something else.

I’m going to be staying with the truth of that brand language. But as soon as you have somebody in the marketing pool that says, gosh, I’ve got that font on my computer curls and I’ve never really used it before, but I’d sure like to use that or Comic Sans or Sanskrit or whatever they decide that they’re going to use and they knock out a fire with it. You might as well just be punching that brand.

It’s the insertion of DNA that doesn’t belong in that family. So, I mean, if you understand when you say brand DNA that that’s what you’re trying to explain to people, it really helps them understand, I’m going to create this brand DNA. I’m going to create this visual vocabulary, this visual language that is going to be served up to you and that will apply it to as much as you want us to that ultimately, in one of these days, we’re not going to be there, but it’s critical that you appreciate and respect your brand to the level that you stay with this language because it is going to build ultimately the equity that you need in this brand.

Was that what you’re kind of looking for?

Yeah, that was brilliant. And I was going to touch on to your book, LogoLounge, and that series, because you’ve been running that for 20 odd years or so. And that vocabulary has stayed the same for that long.

So and even your website and everything. So it’s incredible.

I was going to say, I have a vague notion that I was in like book two.

Here we go. Now it’s Matt’s turn.

And I’ve got, yeah.

Yeah. We’ll have to check that out after we finish the podcast and bore everybody silly. But yeah, I’ve just got a funny feeling.

But the latest book is JUST OUT, isn’t it Bill? Do you want to tell us a bit about that one?

Yeah, it’s so big now that I can’t even fit it inside the screen. It’s just, yeah. So it is a LogoLounge 12.

It literally just, I mean, this is my advance copy of it right here. It’s available online, I think in two days or something like that. Certainly come to LogoLounge and you’re going to find book 12, which we popped it up to 3,000 logos in this and 10 jurors just to do it.

We have literally 42,000 plus logos submitted for this book that the jurors had to go through. And Jacob, what that’s like going through them.

Yeah, it’s amazing. Yeah, it is an amazing book series. And it is, in my opinion, the best book out there in terms of logo design and the gallery, just because you have curated the best logos and put it into something so concise.

So, thank you for all your hard work.

It is so good that if you zoom in on that little logo right there for San Francisco, I think that’s yours, isn’t it?

That’s mine. It’s San Francisco.

Well done, Jacob. Jacob’s got like 20 in there.

Yeah. He’s got 50 in here. I know.

Actually, he’s got five, which is quite an accomplishment to have that.

Bill, do you ever put your own ones in there? Like, and this is the best one this year. Oh, it’s got me.

That’s the thing I love about having this be juried by, such name brand designers and incredible folks around the world, is that I don’t have to worry about what goes in here. They are the ones that numerically, and again, Jake’s been a judge, you know, that numerically score these logos so that they make it in here because other people say that it belongs inside the book.

And we’re excited about that.

Well, I think to round this out, I think that, Mike, you’ve been looking at logos for a long time, and that gives you some foresight into the future of logo design and branding. So before we close out the show, could you give us a glimpse into the future based on your findings?

You know, we’re living in a very healthy time when it comes to branding. But notice I just said branding, I didn’t say a healthy time regarding logo design. As you’ll find in matter of fact, you can go to logo, first of all, go to LogoLounge and buy a membership.

It’s a hundred bucks. It’s the best hundred bucks you’ve ever spent because you’re going to just use the crap out of the search tools and the devices. There’s more than 300, I think close to 350,000 logos on there that are highly searchable, indexed by keywords or industries or designers or locations or when they were done with the quality of the logo that really help you see what’s being done and as well as helps give you inspiration to kind of move forward.

And Jacob, your question, when we’re talking about trends and where things are going, all the trend reports, gosh, going back to 2003, are on there so that you can see those things that we’ve identified as emerging within logo design. We never put them in there because we say, you need to do them. Matter of fact, we say, don’t do these.

We want you to look at these and use these as the shoulders you stand on to move an idea forward. And again, back to that idea of evolution.

There’s a phrase you use about trendy versus trend that was always stuck in my mind.

Yeah, I kid because whenever the report comes out, I always get an email from somebody saying, thank God my logo didn’t make it. I’d hate to be thought of as trendy. And there is a dramatic difference between trendy and trends.

Trendy is something very ephemeral. It is short lived. It is going to pass in a very short period of time.

Trends, we all live by. What we read, what we eat, what we wear, where we go. These are all trends.

Now, we all bring things to them and we all evolve them. And trends are really more about trajectory, where something is going. And if you don’t stay here, but you get ahead of it, then you’re starting to establish trends yourself.

But it’s all about the evolution of design.

We talk a lot about pendulums in trends, because what’s popular now, and may be popular for about a five year period of time, starts to lose momentum as it reaches the apex of its swing, and it starts going back the other way. And you find this much of the time within design. After doing these reports this long, you know, okay, we’re back to capital letters again.

Okay, we’re going back to lowercase letters. Okay, we’re into script. Okay, we’re going out of script.

We’re gonna do highly photorealistic. Now we’re gonna do flat. And there’s always this counter that is in continual motion in there.

And we’ll say that we’ve been through this incredible phase of design becoming much more spartan, of a lot of people going to just purely work marks with relatively nondescript sans serif fonts that represent the company and with the entity and looking at all that other brand language that we were just talking about, really being the supportive element doing the heavy lift on the brand identity. Continuing to see that now. Does that mean marks are going to wait?

I don’t think so. Does it mean that maybe they’re not as popular right now as they were before? My suspicion is they’re going to be around for a while.

But one of the things that I encourage your people to do is to think about, you know, my wife at an early point in our marriage challenged me and she knew I loved the logos. This was before LogoLounge had been developed and she said, what’s the next thing? I want you to think beyond what’s going on now.

I want you to think about the next thing. And I always have, you know, it’s always a matter of, okay, we know what’s going on now and we know what we can do that matches what’s going on now. But ultimately we’re going to be somewhere else.

And today we are somewhere else, when my wife made that comment to me. And as you start to think about this, I want you to think about this. Let me just throw this out there.

Haptic technology, which is H-A-P-T-I-C, look it up, basically is technology that’s being developed right now that will ultimately allow a person to touch a screen and be able to have the sensation of what they’re touching, such as you may have a screen that has a picture of a piece of leather and you touch that piece of leather and you can feel the leather or it has liquid on it. And it feels like you’ve just touched liquid on there. And it’s basically achieved with static, if you will, that can occur on the screen.

And we’re probably within less than a decade of finding haptic technology becoming a regular part, potentially, of our interactive digital kind of conversation that we have. And how are you going to deal with haptic technology when it comes to a brand? What happens if you touch a brand?

What happens if you touch a logo? What does it feel like? Does it touch back?

Is it rubbery? Does it have give? Is it hard?

Is it unforgiving? Does it giggle? Does it wiggle?

Does it, you know, and I sort of think about something like that, I think, okay, so if haptic technology is here, and you’ve designed a brand or a logo, and that logo is on the page, what happens when somebody touches that? Is it just, flat? You know, is that it?

Does it respond to consumer in such a way? Does it exude the personality? Does it convey the essence that that company wants it to convey?

We’ve all seen logos that have been put into animation and the likes, but what happens What happens when you shift into augmented reality? Is this just a platter laying up there in the sky that we’re looking at that’s two-dimensional? Start to take on some degree of life.

What happens when you start to walk around that logo? Does a circular logo become a sphere? Does a circular logo become a button?

Does a circular logo become some other shape once you start to go in there? Is it extruded? So start to think about identity in different media and in a different environment than we do.

We’re so two-dimensionally oriented. Architects are always telling designers, you think two-dimensionally, you should think three-dimensionally. But think about tomorrow’s space that you’re going to be having brands live in and do they make a noise?

Would they bounce if you dropped them on the floor? Think about all of that brand DNA that suddenly we’ve been gearing towards surface. What happens when you move beyond surface?

Well, God forbid we start talking about what’s the olfactory sense that comes into play? What do you smell? What do you hear?

What do you… There are already sonic logos, but they’re usually a clip of two or three notes put together. Maybe we move beyond the idea that big notes, maybe it’s a hum, maybe it’s that electric whirr, maybe it’s, you know, there’s something about it, that aura that you kind of hear, that you sense in the background.

You know, it’s the feeling…

There’s what you could think about.

You had a husky Australian voice.

What does a frog taste like? Ah, you know, and it’s just…

I get teary-eyed sometimes, guys, so forgive me. I’ll pull back out of this and get off my soapbox.

Oh, I loved it. Haptic technology. You know, throwing a brand identity, a logo on the floor, does it bounce?

You heard it here first, folks. Bill, thanks so much for all of your insights, your works over the years. Jacob and I are massive fans.

It’s been brilliant. Listen, if anyone wants to get in touch with you, Bill, how do we find you? Where do you live on the internet?

It’s either bill at gardnerdesign.com or bill at localounge.com.


Pretty easy.

Yeah. Just want to say, like Matt said, thank you so much. Yes, logo lounge.com.

The best logo design gallery and book series, honestly. Definitely get a membership there. Check out the latest book, Logo Lounge 12.

It’ll be out now by the time you’re listening to this. And as always, it’s so fun talking to you, Bill. I love hearing how you speak about brand and logo.

So thank you for being on the show. Thank you for your time.

It’s my honor to be asked and you are the best host. Thank you very much.

Oh, hang on. Wait, he’s the best host?

You noticed I didn’t really… I’m looking at both of your pictures right now, Matt.

I’m glad we’ve clarified that. That’s wonderful, right? We can let you go now.

Thanks a lot, Bill.

Matt, you’re my best hostess, okay? I’m going to give you that.

I’ll tell you that. Wonderful. That was great fun.

Thank you so much, Bill.

Next time, guys, and we’ll talk to you later.

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