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Does your logo have an STD?

Patient about to receive needle

Finding cures for logos with Shamefully Transmitted Deterioration. Photo:

Guest post by Jen Pennington, owner and creative director of Rhizome Design, Inc

There’s a lot of talk these days about having a sustainable brand in the marketplace. Experts will talk about branding, and marketing, and customer experiences, and these are all genuinely important aspects in maintaining a successful brand. But there’s always one thing that is rarely mentioned…could it be because it can be unsightly, hidden, and sometimes go undetected? Yes, it’s true. Your logo could have an STD or what I like to call a Shamefully Transmitted Deterioration.

Finding cures for logos with Shamefully Transmitted Deterioration. A brand is more than a logo, but a logo represents that brand at-a-glance. So as a designer, when I see logos that look pixelated or fuzzy, it’s like nails on a chalkboard for me. I feel the need to save it or cure it even if I did not create it.

So where do these diseased logos come from? There are two sources for this strain of the virus. One is directly from within a company. It might be from clueless sales or marketing people who don’t understand how to use their logos or what to hand off, or worse yet, from a CEO who could care less. Logo usage guides may or may not exist, be rarely used, or in some cases they may be too complex to use. I’ve found creating a basic logo usage guide for clients that explains various formats and speaks simply with visuals and callouts, is a much more effective way to keep a brand intact.

The second strain comes from inexperienced designers who hand off only JPGs or rasterized versions to their clients. These are the designers I want to take out in a back alley and…well, never mind. I can understand the client may not be big enough to warrant a logo usage guide, but they still just hand off logos into the ether. In some cases designers go to all the trouble of creating the logo in Illustrator but don’t outline the font. (A major rookie move). This means when it’s opened by another person it’s looking for a font that may not be available. Unusable.

For example, a client of mine does several events every year with major sponsors, and after nine years of working together, I have beaten it into him (in a really nice way) to ask his sponsors for the correct types of logos for my purposes, which are print, web, and signage. I ask for Adobe Illustrator® .EPS files or PDFs I can open Illustrator. This is because vector files are the best files to use when multiple media applications are required. Sometimes for smaller print projects a really high-resolution .JPG or .TIF file will work just fine. But in my case I need those vector images to scale up and not look deteriorated.

Sometimes I get the perfect logos sent to me. It’s a beautiful thing really. Other times, I get the dregs of logo hell sent to me, and worse yet, people send me images from the web. (Yeah this will look good blown up to 2 feet long on a 15 ft. banner. Insert eye roll here). He’ll sheepishly send them over to me and ask, “Can you work your magic?” My magic is the penicillin of many a promiscuous logo—a logo that’s been passed around from multiple sources. It may not cure it completely, but the illusion of a healthy brand will be there when I’m done.

So what’s a respectable logo girl to do? Well the first thing I try is going back to the company and asking again for the right logo or putting me in touch with the art department. This entails tracking down the designer, who speaks my language.

If I can’t do that, the first place I look is Thank God, that site exists. You just need to make sure you have permissions to use them. In my client’s case he has signed contracts with those sponsors and logo usage is part of the contract.

If a particular brand is not on Brands of the World, then it comes time to use the magic penicillin. I take a logo that’s been poorly JPG’d or some web logo and recreate it in Illustrator. This means finding fonts that are similar or the same, using techniques to pick up colors and shape, redraw what I can with tracing tools, and recreating icons. It feels so completely wrong to touch these logos inappropriately. It makes me feel dirty, I’ve lost time and money on the project, and the logo is now a bastardization of what it once was. But do I feel bad? No. Because I am not the keeper of that company’s brand, and I’m trying my best to work with the sins of others.

It’s a sad thing really. All the time and money that was used to create a once beautiful logo only to be passed around like cheap commodity. So remember people, take good care of your logo, if you want it to be STD free, or prevent unwanted future generations of genetically altered versions milling about.

To view Jen’s amazing work or read more of her musings, visit Rhizome Design.

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