Let’s Talk Logos

Hello Everyone!

It’s been quite a while since I wrote a technology Fridays post, but a task I was doing this morning inspired me to put a quick post together.

That task was building a logo library. In my work with Conservation Districts and as a freelance designer, I am often asked to put together posters that feature a bunch of sponsor logos.

I hate this task.

Here’s why:

  • It’s often hard for my client to track down all the logos of their sponsors, and it will sometimes take weeks to get ahold of one little logo, which holds up finishing the project.
  • When the logos do come it, so often they are poor quality. It hurts me to put a blurry logo on a design that I worked hard on.
  • Or, if not poor quality, they are poorly designed or a bad file, with a huge white background surrounding it or in a weird shape that doesn’t play nicely with the rest of the logos I’m trying to fit together.

All of these things combine to make a lot of work, and a lot of back and forth for me. All so I can muddy a design I worked hard on with a bunch of logos that don’t match.

Take a look at these logos that were placed on the bottom of a poster. Which of these stands out to you? Which have unnecessary or unreadable information?

 

But of course, I know that sponsors are SUPER IMPORTANT. Often sponsor dollars are what make the events happen in the first place, and I get that. So today I thought I’d take a minute to talk about how to lessen the headache (mine as well as yours if you make your own posters).

#1: Tracking the Logos Down

Since I have spent so many years making posters with sponsor logos, and since I still have all of those files, I thought it would be useful for myself and my clients to make a logo library.

So today I searched through all of my old files and copied every logo I could find into one big LOGO LIBRARY. Now when someone says, “I’m still waiting on so-and-so’s logo,” I can search my library to see if I already have it. SO HANDY. I’m also working my way through the folder to make sure the names of all the files make sense, so they’re easy to find with search.

This logo library is my gift to you.

 

So why should you care about my super awesome logo library? Well, for one, because I definitely recommend doing the same for yourself if you also frequently make documents that need sponsor logos on them. And for two, because I put mine on Google Drive and here’s the link, free for anyone to use!

That’s right. If the sponsor logo you need is one that I’ve used in the past, then you can knock one time-consuming step off your list. If you have one I don’t have, I also welcome anyone to upload logos to this folder. Plus, I’ll keep adding as I get new ones.

#2: Understanding Logos

My logo library has a lot of logos. Some are really great, and some are frankly really bad. Some are fine on their own but totally unreadable in a small space like the bottom of a poster, or such an ungainly size/shape that there’s just no way to fit them in with neighbors.

So I want the second part of this post to be a discussion about what makes a good logo. Maybe it will inspire the yet-to-be-designed logos of the future a little better.

What even is a logo?

In order to understand what makes a good logo, it makes sense to first understand what a logo is, and what it does.

I’ll refer to some experts here, who have already said it better than me. From 99designs:

At the very basic level, logos are symbols made up of text and images that help us identify brands we like.

But they can be so much more! A good logo is the cornerstone of your brand. It helps customers understand what you do, who you are and what you value. That’s a lot of responsibility on a tiny image!

What does a logo do?

A logo makes you stand out from the competition.

Perhaps the most fundamental function of a logo is giving your business a unique mark that differentiates you from other businesses. Before you get a logo for your business you’ll want to research what your competitors’ look like so you can position yourself. Of course, you don’t want to be so unusual that potential customers don’t understand your brand.

A logo identifies key information about your business.

Along with demarcating your business, a good logo also provides your customer with some crucial information about your company: it can communicate the industry you exist in, the service you provide, your target demographic and your brand values.

For example, a company might use circuit imagery into their logo to show that they operate in the software industry. Or they might use a specific color to communicate they are committed to being green/environmental. Or they might use a stylish font to highlight that they are luxurious.

A logo builds brand recognition

Logos also leave a visual impact that reminds your customers that, well… that you exist! In other words, logos can create strong visual associations with a business. This association helps customers keep your brand in mind. Think about brands like Nike or McDonalds, whose logos are so ubiquitous that they can be instantly recognized with or without the name attached. It’s no surprise that logos are such a central part of brand identity.

What should a logo NOT do?

The three tasks we talked about are a lot. They’re a pretty big ask for one small bit of type and maybe an image.

A logo should not try to convey EVERYTHING about your business

If your business or organization has a lot of goals/products/services/audiences, you may be tempted to try and convey all of those ideas in your logo. But what you’ll end up with is a messy, overly complex situation that at least doesn’t display well at small sizes, and at worst confuses people. The more you can simplify your idea or boil many facets into one idea, the better.

A logo is not the same as branding

Just Creative has a great discussion about the differences between branding, identity design, and a logo:

A logo is not your brand, nor is it your identity. Logo design, identity design and branding all have different roles, that together, form a perceived image for a business or product.

There has been some recent discussion on the web about this topic, about your logo not being your brand. Although this may be true, I haven’t seen any clarification of the differences between ‘brand’, ‘identity’ and ‘logo’. I wish to rectify this.

What is brand? – The perceived emotional corporate image as a whole.
What is identity? – The visual aspects that form part of the overall brand.
What is a logo? – A logo identifies a business in its simplest form via the use of a mark or icon.

Branding

Branding is certainly not a light topic – whole publications & hundreds of books have been written on the topic, however to put it in a nutshell you could describe a ‘brand’ as an organisation, service or product with a ‘personality’ that is shaped by the perceptions of the audience. On that note, it should also be stated that a designer cannot “make” a brand – only the audience can do this. A designer forms the foundation of the brand.

Many people believe a brand only consists of a few elements – some colours, some fonts, a logo, a slogan and maybe  some music added in too. In reality, it is much more complicated than that. You might say that a brand is a ‘corporate image’.

The fundamental idea and core concept behind having a ‘corporate image’ is that everything a company does, everything it owns and everything it produces should reflect the values and aims of the business as a whole.

Identity

One major role in the ‘brand’ or ‘corporate image’ of a company is its identity.

In most cases, identity design is based around the visual devices used within a company, usually assembled within a set of guidelines. These guidelines that make up an identity usually administer how the identity is applied throughout a variety of mediums, using approved colour palettes, fonts, layouts, measurements and so forth. These guidelines ensure that the identity of the company is kept coherent, which in turn, allows the brand as a whole, to be recognisable.

The identity or ‘image’ of a company is made up of many visual devices:

  • A Logo (The symbol of the entire identity & brand)
  • Stationery (Letterhead + business card + envelopes, etc.)
  • Marketing Collateral (Flyers, brochures, books, websites, etc.)
  • Products & Packaging (Products sold and the packaging in which they come in)
  • Apparel Design (Tangible clothing items that are worn by employees)
  • Signage (Interior & exterior design)
  • Messages & Actions (Messages conveyed via indirect or direct modes of communication)
  • Other Communication (Audio, smell, touch, etc.)
  • Anything visual that represents the business.

All of these things make up an identity and should support the brand as a whole. The logo however, is the corporate identity and brand all wrapped up into one identifiable mark. This mark is the avatar and symbol of the business as a whole.

Logo

A logo identifies a company or product via the use of a mark, flag, symbol or signature. A logo does not sell the company directly nor rarely does it describe a business. Logo’s derive their meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolises, not the other way around – logos are there to identity, not to explain. In a nutshell, what a logo means is more important than what it looks like.

To illustrate this concept, think of logos like people. We prefer to be called by our names – James, Dorothy, John – rather than by the confusing and forgettable description of ourselves such as “the guy who always wears pink and has blonde hair”. In this same way, a logo should not literally describe what the business does but rather, identify the business in a way that is recognisable and memorable.

It is also important to note that only after a logo becomes familiar, does it function the way it is intended to do much alike how we much must learn people’s names to identify them.

#3: Show me your logos

Now that we understand the fundamentals of branding, identity, and logos, let’s look at some. Here are my five favorites from the logo library:

American Bird Conservancy. I like this one because of its it’s simplicity. You know right away what they do, the text is easy to read.

 

Ducks Unlimited. Again, so simple, so easy. Simple lines, but it’s obviously a duck.

 

Flathead Land Trust. although the image is a bit more complex than the first two (mountains, barn, trees, stream), the graphics are nice and simple. I also like that FLT has a few variations on their logo, with the text to the side or underneath depending on where it’s used.

Montana Land Reliance. The thing I love about this one is that when I put it on a poster next to a bunch of others, it is always the one that stands out the best. Which, after all, is what you’re aiming for with a logo.

Bradley Livestock has a great one too. I think the fancy lettering adds some old fashioned charm. It gives you the impression of a family monogram, which gives me the idea that this is an old ranching family. The lines are a little thin to do well against non-white backgrounds though.

 

Please avoid these things

  1. Don’t make just one style of your logo. No shape will do well everywhere. Make at least one version of your logo that fits in a square, at the very least because you’ll need it for your Facebook profile.
  2. Make sure you have a version that is exported as a PNG and looks nice against a background that’s not white. Please, please, please.
  3. If your logo is dark colored, also make a light-colored alternative that works against a dark background.
  4. Don’t use Papyrus, or Comic Sans, or any other of the “fancy” fonts that come standard on Windows computers. We have all used these fonts at some point or another, and that means they’re over used.

Finally, if you are a conservation district in Montana and you need a new logo, please reach out to me. I can design one for you. My time is free.

14 CDs on Facebook

At the Statewide Administrator’s Training this month, we had a great discussion about social media and how to use it to better reach people in your area. Social Media is great for keeping your organization in people’s minds, which is important when they’re, you know, thinking about digging up a stream or maybe implementing some cover crops. Your job is to help them, so make sure that you’re the first place they think to go!

Continue reading

Creating Connection with Instagram

I saw this post on digitalgov.gov, a segment of the General Services Administration that helps federal agencies augment their online presences. They’ve got lots of other great resources, ideas, and topics for government organizations like ours. Check it out here.

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By . Posted November 10, 2015.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Instagram lately.

It’s pretty big, especially among the younger populations (AKA. Millennials).

Actually, from what I can tell, it’s pretty big with lots of different age groups, genders, and ethnicities; and it’s growing every day.

Instagram users

Full disclosure: I use Instagram in my personal life. I love it. Especially now that our phone cameras have improved beyond what most people can manage with a DSLR. Especially since micro-blogging took hold.

But the question today is, how can we, as government communicators, leverage this platform to greatest effect?

There’s a couple agencies out there that have taken the bull by the horns and managed to hang on for the ride: the Transportation Security Administration (@TSAon Instagram) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (@usinterior on Instagram). They both post photographs, but the similarities, at least on the surface, end there.

U.S. Interior posts beautiful, well-composed, high-quality photos and occasional videos of our national parks and wildlife. They regularly receive upwards of 20,000 likes on their images and have undoubtedly been seen by many more people than that. They post at least once per day, sometimes twice.

TSA posts small, sometimes grainy, sometimes bland photos of the strange things people try to smuggle onto airplanes. They have expanded now to post photos of their adorable and highly skilled 4-legged employees, along with reminders of the rules for safe airline travel. They post less frequently—sometimes with several days between posts.

So what are these government agencies doing right? They’re creating content that people want to see. They are sincere. Our parks really are that beautiful! Some people really think they can smuggle “Batarangs” on an airplane! When I think about scrolling through my feed on IG, it goes something like this: baby, baby, selfie, coffee, STRANGE LOOKING WEAPON THAT SOMEONE TRIED TO SMUGGLE ONTO A PLANE, baby, food, STUNNING NATIONAL PARK PHOTO, selfie, selfie, selfie. What do you think I’m most likely to stop on?

@TSA and @USinterior don’t necessarily “engage” in the traditional sense, but their imagery CONNECTS. Their content is accessible. Many Americans have experienced taking off their shoes in the airport—now they have chuckle about it because they understand the reason. Our national parks are more accessible to most people than the far reaches of this planet. Visitors can connect these images to their own lives; feel nostalgia for them; laugh about them with friends and family.

Unfortunately, many agencies don’t have these visual resources to work with, so we need to create them. Graphics aren’t right: People visit Instagram for photos, not infographics. (although the occasional one, used where appropriate, isn’t a bad idea). So here’s my charge to you as government communicators engaged in social media—figure out how your agency can use Instagram. Post an idea here. Let’s start a conversation.

The Instagram help center is pretty robust, but here are some links to get you started:


 

So, what do you think? How could Conservation Districts use Instagram to connect with your constituents? FULL DISCLOSURE: MACD doesn’t use Instagram yet. But I’m thinking about it. And in my personal life, it’s my favorite social media (I’m @sturdykate).

To spur some ideas, here are a couple of Montana Conservation Organizations that do a great job with their Instagram accounts: (click on the blue name to see their full feed).

Good afternoon from the Tributary Fire A photo posted by Michael Gue (@young_men_and_fire) on

Let’s Talk About File Types

In all the activities that administrators do, we create a lot of files, and we use many different programs to create those files, which means that on a daily basis we create a myriad of different file types—often without knowing we have done so.

But not all file types are created equal, so I thought it would be useful to spend some time talking about the different types of files you’re likely to encounter, and the pros and cons of each, so that when you hit save, you can choose the settings that will keep your hard work in the best possible format.

Document Files (Letters, etc)

File Types-01 File Types-02

Database-Style Files

File Types-03 File Types-04

Image Files

File Types-05 File Types-06 File Types-07 File Types-08File Types-09

Publication Files

File Types-10 File Types-11

 

I hope that this has cleared up some confusion for you, and will point you in the direction of the best file type for your needs. I have also created an image with all of the document types described here if you want to download it and print it out. Download it here.

 

all file types-01