Brand Managers: Loosen Up on Your Logo

16 May 2013.

D-10-capesigners who have interacted with corporations have undoubtedly also interacted with, or otherwise had their potential creativity stifled by branding guidelines. These ‘necessary evil’ documents range anywhere from 5-to-infinity pages and lay out the rules and regulations in dealing with a given company’s trademark (or logo) and name.


Here’s the problem: If you haven’t updated your branding guidelines in the last 2-3 years your brand is in all likelihood severely outdated and suffering in today’s marketplace as a result.

Furthermore, the fact that you’re bustin’ my chops about my having placed another design element less than the mandated 3/4″ clear of your logo is a draaag, bro. Loosen up.

Brand Managers need to think about and convince their c-levels that adapting a more flexible branding system is the future. What I mean is, find a way to write into your guidelines that they aren’t 100% rigid.

For internal purposes, you’ll still want to be pretty clear on the colors, styles and types of textures/photography that will be associated with your logo or wordmark. You’ll explain in plain language the thinking that led to the decisions, and how your system will leave itself open-ended in a way, to allow for evolution as the years and trends come and go.

For external usage, you’ll want to plan for even more freedom in dealing with your logo. Why? Because if you refuse, for instance, to allow the Fiesta Bowl to contextually apply your Tostitos logo, you end up with the GoDaddy Bowl logo (boooooo!). Having a flexible brand system is key to executing partnership and cause co-marketing campaigns correctly.


Obviously GoDaddy didn’t partner with an existing bowl game, but opted instead to create it’s own tradition. Fair enough, but the logo is an obnoxious and gratuitous GoDaddy brand stamp with no attempt at creating a nice looking or appropriate-for-the-occassion mark. An intern who studied at a bad design program may have created this. That, or Pentagram may have done it. I don’t know. I just know that I hate it. I apologize for that last comment, unknown designer, not in my nature to be a jerk most of the time.

To clarify, I don’t particularly love the Fiesta Bowl logo, over the years I have preferred the FedEx/Discover Orange Bowl or Discover National Championships logos; still, Tostitos made a good move to allow its logo to be wrapped with non-brand elements. It results in a cohesive, albeit sorta cheesy end product. Mmm.. Tostitos and queso.

Another thing to consider with the explosion of online video in the last decade, is that a talented motion designer may find the motivation to bring your logo to life for a video piece. Perhaps you work for a company with the coin for national television spots. In that case, it’s even more likely that a motion designer may cross paths with your logo. Allow her the license to 3-D and motion design the shit out of it. Maybe you have to rein it in a tad, but don’t let your rigid, outdated and probably boring guidelines ruin the fun.

In an ongoing effort to be more concise in my communications, both written and verbal, I will close with a really nice and well done visual example of a well thought out, future-minded branding system.

gatoradeThis system was developed by Tether Agency of Washington state and it correlated with a re-framing of Gatorade as a product. As you’ve likely noticed Gatorade has segmented it’s base product, Gatorade, into the G-Series. The G-Series is comprised of separate drinks meant to be consumed before, during and after physical activity. Clever. Now, I clearly need to buy three cases of Gatorade at each purchase instead of one. Wouldn’t want to fall short of maximum performance via improper fueling!

The new brand system encourages flexibility in logo application, color and context. It has instant recognition without requiring such stringent accordance to a set of rules. They have carried over the iconic lighting bolt of the original Gatorade logo, but have simplified the logo down to a G. They have determined that the variable part of the system is the messaging. A really cool way to apply to endless amounts of environments, events and situations.

Watch the video below for a super cool mini-doc about the design process that Tether went through to arrive at their new solution.