Join Sean Adams for an in-depth discussion in this video Icons, part of Branding for Designers.
- Our lives are filled with all kinds of symbols. We see simple to understand icons, such as a cross or a plus sign and know what they mean. We can understand more complex symbols, such as the American flag communicating patriotism, or an apple that might be a symbol for knowledge or New York. Icons are logos that rely on symbolism. They work when we understand what they mean and whom they belong to. They are incredibly powerful, and cross cultures and languages.
But, there are so many icons today, that it takes a long time for one to become successful. An icon can be literal, such as Greyhound bus line's running greyhound. Others are abstract like the Nike swoosh. Icons that have succeeded took years of repeated exposure before they could stand on their own. The Apple logo was connected to the Apple name for two decades before the icon was recognizable enough to drop the word-mark.
An icon is not an illustration. It is a symbol that will need to reproduce in all media. It should relate to the brand message. The Chase Manhattan icon is based on a Chinese coin. The CBS eye was designed when the Columbia Broadcasting Company entered television. Overly abstract icons are, frankly, hard to make and hard to remember. For several years, every client seemed to want an icon that communicated coming together.
The result was lots of strange shapes merging in the center. These may have communicated the idea abstractly, but were so ubiquitous that the audience didn't see them. When the solution is an icon, I suggest that we link the name to the symbol for at least a few years. This gives the audience a chance to recognize it. It may seem like hammering someone with the same idea over and over. You and your clients see the same icon all day long, but the audience might see it for a few seconds, and not again for a week.
Branding is about communicating the message. That takes time, and typically, repeated exposure. It's like your grade school teacher taught you when doing a speech. Tell the audience what information you're going to tell them. Tell them the information. And then, tell them what you just told them.
- The history of branding (pre- and post-1950)
- The elements of branding
- Conducting research
- Solving problems and presenting solutions
- Creating logos and identity systems
- Building a visual system with color, typography, and more
- Communicating branding with manuals and vision books