Brand marks: The resurrection of logos

wwf, logo, identity, black and whiteIf logos aren’t dead, then a genocide is in order.

I think there’s a need for graphic designers to gradually move away from the term “logo.” There’s really nothing wrong with the term itself, the problem is the expectations that clients have placed on logos.

But most importantly, the fact that graphic design has evolved to be a discipline that should be led by branding.

Therefore, some of its terminology should be adjusted accordingly.

Abandoned are the unbranded

No amount of good, kick-ass, wow, dope, or cool graphic design will reward the entrepreneur if their business has a second-rate branding strategy, or worse, if it doesn’t have a branding strategy at all.

In such instances, graphic design is nothing but the making of pretty pictures.

In the context of commerce, a graphic designer is a blessing to the entrepreneur. In a sense that the designer possess the expertise to articulate their brand strategy, through strategic arrangement and choice of visuals.

The name of the game

What we call things is more important that we realize.

If I introduce you to a someone who is a painter. It’s inevitable that you expect them to, well, paint. A singer, to sing. A dancer, to dance. A cook, to cook.

What I like is that the noun is termed based on the verb. He who does, is a doer. No confusion, or unfair expectations there.

So, if you hire a dancer only to find out that he can’t paint. The blame should be on you, and not on the poor dancer.

The way forward

Like I have mentioned in my previous writing, I too strongly urge that we as designers let go of the term “Logo,” and replace it with either “brand identity” or “brand mark.”

I like brand identity, but the downside of the term is that its a bit vague. As a brand identity can be both, visual and verbal. So, brand mark it is.

What I like about the term “brand mark” is that within the term itself, lies its purpose of which will discard the unfair expectations that a logo is somehow expected to fulfill.

Irrational expectations like a logo solely having to make a sale, whenever it is paraded in an ad.

But “Logo” is tattooed in our minds?

First thing first, whether you too see what I’m proposing as the most logical step forward or not, the transition will definitely not happen overnight. But it will need all those that share the same stance with me to double as an evangelist for the term “brand marks.”

There are colleagues who are already doing their bit, and Andrew Sabister is one of the very few that I am aware of.

The steering of this transition is our responsibility as graphic designers, and not the clients’.

The hurdle that needs to be jumped

I strongly believe that graphic designers need to create, and advocate branding-led visual communication solutions. It’s either that, or we play decorators.

There are a few deliverables within the graphic design discipline that seem like they don’t require an in-depth strategic branding thinking. Things like CD covers, posters, leaflets, etc. But I think they, to some extent, do.

The biggest challenge is no doubt, the fact that there are graphic designers who have an opposing stance, regarding the importance of branding.

I am saying it again, “graphic design needs to be branding-led.”

But who am I to press-gang you to be of the same stance as me, when some of the world’s renowned and “celebrated” graphic designers think that:

sagmeister, branding is crap, testimonials, quotations, website, branding
[Screenshot: Sagmeister, Inc.]

My take on the above disregard of branding

Take time to understand the logic behind branding, and hopefully you’ll share the same points of view with those that advocate branding-led graphic design. Only after that, can you start your transition from “logo” to “brand mark.”

— Long live brand marks!

  • Andrew Sabatier Said:


    ‘Brand identity’ is not a suitable replacement for the term logo because a brand defines a specific identity that is made up of much more than just a logo. All identities can be handled as brands but typically it is only commercial identities that are handled as brands.

    It’s not so important that the term ‘logo’ is replaced but that an identity handled as a brand is understood as a system of brand marks of which one brand mark is primary. In the context of referring to brands as made up of brand marks the primary brand mark is indicated in use as one word ie. brandmark. So, technically the term ‘logo’ should be replaced by the term ‘brandmark’. A brandmark is only one type of brand mark.

    Using the term ‘logo’ is not wrong but its use tends to hinder people from thinking in terms of all the marks of a brand and on this basis its use should be discouraged.

    — On May 26th, 2010 at 1:09 pm [permarlink]
  • Graham Smith Said:

    Whilst I agree that the word ‘logo’ can now be associated with quite shoddy workmanship, to term them ‘brandmarks’ is quite inappropriate.

    This leads to the whole misuse of the word brand. Brands are not a given.

    Not every company that has a logo ‘is’ a brand. You can’t promise to create a client a successful brand, neither should you advertise this fact. Yet designers of all disciplines believe that a brand is something you can attribute to everything from a logo for a small town shop, to a unknown financial consultant.

    Brands are created in the eyes of the consumer etc.

    So to change from ‘logo’ to ‘brandmark’ as a universal replacement does nothing to stop the confusion that people already have over what a brand really is.

    I had a massive dialogue on this very thing in my Facebook stream last week, it was astonishing how many designers truly believed one can design and create a successful brand. You can claim, advertise that you design and create identities, idmarks, logo and identity design, but should not claim you design brands or brand identitiy. Unless you are able to predict the future and assure all your new clients that you have the power to turn public opinion in their favour, regardless of the quality of he product, business or service in question.

    The way that designers misuse brand leads to confusion and expectation in the eyes of everyone else and clients. Clients want a successful brand, so they assume it can be guaranteed if a designer says so. Just not the case.

    Saying all that, and going back to the word ‘logo’, if a refresh was to be given to the name, it would need to be chosen carefully.
    — On May 26th, 2010 at 1:40 pm [permarlink]
  • Andrew Sabatier Said:


    The point is not just to discuss a suitable replacement for the term logo, the point is to demonstrate that a whole new language-space is required to handle brands. A language-space that the term ‘logo’ works to obscure.

    Any discrete identity can be usefully handled as a brand and no identity needs to be successful to qualify as a brand. A company with a logo is a brand, it’s just not very effectively branded and probably not very effectively run as a business either.

    All that varies between brands is the extent to which all the various brand marks work to create an effective identity, regardless of the identity’s main purpose or efficacy. A company with only a logo to show for their branding has clearly not managed their brand properly. Every aspect of a brand should be articulated by a coordinated concert of brand marks.

    Graham, you’re imposing a limitation on the definition of a brand, a definition that says more about how you view brands than about what brands actually are.

    To fully grasp the point of the term ‘brandmark’ is to understand the necessity of a new way to handle brands (and branding). If all you can show for a business is it’s logo then, indeed, you haven’t created a brand you’ve just designed a logo.

    Logo’s alone shouldn’t be expected to represent brands. On this basis it should be clear that logos aren’t worth much.

    — On May 27th, 2010 at 11:11 am [permarlink]
  • Mokokoma Mokhonoana Said:


    I agree with Andrew, a company with a logo is a brand. Irrespective of how poorly executed their strategy might be, it is still a brand.

    The thing is, a company doesn’t really need to have a branding strategy in place for it to be regarded as a brand.

    A branding strategy is merely the company’s efforts to control, direct, or manipulate the associations that consumers place on their business.

    A brand is a perception, and perceptions reside in the mind (of consumers).

    A simple example would be a logo designed by the client’s neighbour’s son with Microsoft Word, as much as it is likely to be of a second-rate quality, the sad reality is that it is still a logo.

    It is not the execution (good or bad) that defines the process, intent, practice or thing.

    A logo is merely a trigger of those association that consumers have attached to a company, it is what lies within those associations that should make the sale — and not the logo.

    If a client is to hire me, it will be largely based on the associations (incl. expectations) that they have attached to me — and not the letters M.o.k.o.k.o.m.a

    All the eight letters can do, is bring those associations to the client’s mind.

    *A brand’s being is not dependent on the presence (or absence) of a logo. Likewise, a human being doesn’t rely on having a name to be.
    — On May 27th, 2010 at 12:10 pm [permarlink]
  • Rajesh Satyarthi Said:

    Its not what is logo its about what is brand? I’m absolutely agree with Mokokoma brand is in all its simplest form is a perception, I believe a logo is just a symbol unless you associate a meaning a perception with it… popularize it to current and future consumers and competitors.

    If i haven’t seen Nike’s ads all around me for pretty long time with a consistent message a projected perception, i might not see Nike’s swoosh as check-mark which assures me its the right thing infuse confidence as they say “just do it”.

    yes, logo is misused and misinterpreted. but i don’t think Brandmark will ever catchup with general people it is however right replacement because a logo is first and most visible Mark of a Brand.
    — On September 20th, 2011 at 4:48 am [permarlink]


With this writing I strive to initiate a dialogue, thus, sharing your points of view on this writing is encouraged and will be highly appreciated, whether it supports my points of view or it is of an opposing standpoint. I reserve the right to make adjustments to grammar and spelling mistakes, and to edit or delete comments that are offensive to any of the contributors of this writing.