Who knew that a logo design would receive this much international attention? In exactly one week’s time, former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for president in 2016, unveiled a shiny new logo, inspired a new font aptly named Hillvetica, and was accused of theft by WikiLeaks. The online feedback via Twitter and other channels was highly critical, claiming the logo looked low-budget (did you get that on Fiverr?), unoriginal (FedEx called and they want their arrow back), and, well, unpresidential.
But perhaps it was exactly the lack of stars and stripes that has everyone talking, evaluating, and wondering what the logo means. With all the buzz and press coverage the new logo is generating, maybe we all should pull a Hillary.
How do you make a wise logo design choice? Getting a logo right is never easy but here are the core values that I recommend any logo should communicate to its audience to make it a resounding success.
1. Be Professional
Conveying professionalism is essential for building an audience and retaining the customer base that you already have. Like all new businesses, you want to build accountability, credibility, and trust with your potential customers. But startups have a unique challenge in communicating professionalism in that you also want to convey permanence, longevity and a durability beyond being the “next cool thing.” Savvy consumers have higher expectations of the businesses they choose to reward with their dollars, and they don’t want to become customers of a company that they aren’t sure will still be around in a year.
So, where to start? Visually communicating professionalism does not necessarily mean spending a hefty brand budget. It does mean clean, cohesive design, with your business name in a clear and legible font. Stay away from overly trendy imagery or icons, as these can become outdated quickly and make your brand look amateur or irrelevant. Look at your potential logo design next to other players in the space, or high-profile startups of the last year. Does it look too trendy? You want a design that will still feel relevant in 5 years. Perhaps it won’t represent the latest trends in graphic design, but in 2020 it won’t look quintessentially 2015.
You can achieve a logo design of this quality gradient several ways: support another startup and keep it super affordable with a DIY logo maker; give the job to the lead graphic designer on your team, who will either be extremely excited to brand your business, or give an eye roll when no one is looking (getting a logo right really is hard); or, if your board members have a favorite branding agency that has helped other companies in the portfolio, you can pay the hefty bill without the guilt. Expert Tip: Even if you outsource the design work to an agency, you will need to provide important details and information about your business to inform their design. You cannot take a hands-off approach.
2. Share Your Unique Expertise
Your customers are relying on your business to deliver a product or service better than anyone else. They are trusting you to provide them something that they can’t do for themselves, or maybe that they hate doing themselves (Hello, Hello Alfred!). The bar is high to deliver unique expertise, and to provide it better than your competitor. Expertise is often challenging to communicate visually. Speak to it through a tagline, slogan or testimonial that accompanies the logo. Keep it straightforward and simple, so that the qualifications, not the verbiage, are the focus. You can also reinforce expertise through your logo by displaying it next to other trusted logos. Did you get a seal of approval from Sarah Perez at TechCrunch? Didn’t I just see your app mentioned as one to watch in Mashable? Let other trusted sources vouch for your expertise, and your customers will respond.
When considering Hillary Clinton’s decision to opt for an H versus a C, the conventional choice for presidential candidates, it was likely deliberate for a couple key reasons.
First, the H was clearly more amenable to the arrow-centric design than a C. By choosing the arrow over stars and stripes, this logo instantly became more versatile, relatable and refreshing. I’m sure there will be ample representation of the American flag in the logos of future new candidates. Second, this country has already had
Second, this country has already had a President Clinton. Choosing the C may have reintroduced U.S. President #42 to the conversation, instead of maintaining focus on the current Clinton running. Your logo should represent the key differentiating quality which sets you apart from your competitors. This uniqueness cannot only be communicated via a logo, or even an accompanying tagline. It needs to be reinforced in every email, CEO interview, customer interaction and message that your business puts out. Which brings us back to Ms. Clinton and her defining logo element of the arrow. What does it mean? It will be a critical task for her to tell this story, not just visually through the logo design, but in the rigorous discourse leading up to November 2016.
3. Embrace Technology
Clearly for this audience I don’t need to reaffirm how much of our lives so effortlessly weave on and offline, and that a successful business needs to communicate not only an understanding of technology, but a savviness about it. It’s so critical that it is worth reinforcing. Tech savvy does not need to be illustrated overtly in the logo itself, but rather in how and where you use the logo.
Too often, a management team will get attached to a logo design, only to later realize that it’s not recognizable when scaled down. Any effective logo design must still be legible if it is scaled down to a small icon, for your app or Favicon. Additionally, you’ll need equally-effective iterations of your logo for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, just to name a few. For many of these channels, this requires two sizes, including a large cover image. Leverage the extra space in the cover images to promote a special offer, market a new product or service, and reinforce your logo and overall brand. This needs to become a new permanent page in your brand book because consumers expect to connect and interact with their favorite brands on their preferred social media channel.
When I’m impressed with a business, I share my customer appreciation in a fan mail or post on Facebook. When I’m frustrated about a poor customer experience, I tweet my complaint (thanks @legalseafoods for your kind, prompt reply this past month). It’s just another way to stay connected and provide feedback.
While we won’t know whether this new logo will help candidate Clinton successfully secure a place in the Oval Office until November 8, 2016, we do know that she has successfully generated overwhelming buzz with its debut. Varied adaptations of the logo are already plastered across her social channels and have been replicated, emulated, or lampooned by designers worldwide. Its designer, the famed Michael Bierut of Pentagram, revered for his branding work for Saks Fifth Avenue and The Atlantic, has caused a frenzy with two colors, one letter, and one very controversial arrow. One thing is clear: Hillary Clinton is clearly winning at getting coverage, both positive and negative, with the visual identity and tone she has set for her campaign.
Dena is the Vice President of Marketing for LogoMix, a self-service branding and marketing platform for small businesses, featuring the easiest and most powerful way to make a logo design online. She has scaled global teams in customer acquisition, CRM, brand marketing, public relations and social media. She draws on more than ten years of executive leadership experience, from start ups to publicly traded companies.