Popular logos


Identity: Leaving Your Mark

by Jack Shepherd
January 30th, 2017

Digital Design Director

Why does Nike have a swoosh?
Apple’s icon?
Starbucks siren?
CocaCola, no symbol “logo” to speak of?

OK, so we can’t all be Nike. But when it comes to your business identity, there is a lot to think about. Breaking it down into manageable pieces, we can understand the decision-making process behind a logo.

Anatomy of an identity

A logo is composed typically of a couple of components. Let’s start by looking at a logo and what it’s made of. Or better put – an identity. The face of your business.


Your logotype is the word of your business visualised. As a typeface or “font”, the way it’s spelt out and arranged can influence the look and feel. Is it a serif or sans-serif? Modern or traditional. Is it UPPERCASE, Sentence Case or lower case? Maybe it’s not a font at all and it’s custom hand-drawn. What does that convey and does it feel like it represents your business? How about the letterspacing. Is the type thin or bold? What sort of arrangement needs to happen if any? In often cases a logotype can work on its own, or be more than enough and nothing else is required.


An icon is typically one image that works with or without the logotype. Usually a simple piece, it needs to work both small and large. If you’re a craft brewery, instead of showing the expected barley and frothy pint icon, maybe the icon ties into your bigger picture brand story – be it person, place or thing.


Sometimes there is no one size fits all and you can use a series of setups that work together. A dynamic or “fluid” identity system.

A bigger question presents itself. Does your business need an icon? The short answer to that is, it all depends. Sometimes it comes naturally or sometimes; you need to get creative. It shouldn’t be forced and it’s not always easy to commit to one thing or another. Through the process, there are ways at arriving at something that speaks volumes as a representational and critical part of your business image. You might not need one, but you very well want one. Distilling what your business represents into one mark is the trick!

Thinking outside of the Literal, Laterally

What’s an identity anyway? A brand? A logo? What’s going on here, what’s up with these company’s logos?

If you look at those marks by themselves, they don’t say a lot. They are simple. Iconic. Representational. How can an apple icon represent a product company (well, that’s a long story) but you get where I’m going with that one. It’s about the idea.

What if I told you, say, perhaps if one owned a dental practice – they didn’t need to use a tooth as their logo? Form can transcend function – gleefully dazzling our imaginations in the abstract. Literal thinking is entirely different from lateral.

How else you can you show something that’s ‘all been done’ before.

Look, not every logo needs to be clever. A straightforward approach serves its purpose. It’s to the point. And it shouldn’t feel forced. Literal can work if it’s practical or economical. But often we can do much better if we put a little more effort into it.

Having a good name can help a lot. Your identity could come together quite quickly. But when you need to push and dig a little deeper, it’s an involved exercise.

Identity as a System

An identity is a system, developing a visual language that speaks true to who you are and what you’re all about. It includes images, icons, colours, tone, and dare we say – a gut feeling. The best brands speak to us somehow. And don’t forget – as cliche as it is – a brand is not what you say it is. It’s what your customer believes you are. And the savvy consumer knows when you’re trying too hard, or you’re a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing.

Want to sell high-end products? Better invest in some design. Simplicity can be harder than it looks. You have to edit, commit and run with it.

Don’t be fooled into spending all your time and effort into the logo. It doesn’t stop at your identity. There is no literal representation of what the brand or business is or does. Not the logo by itself. A logo is one aspect of how a company defines itself.

Identity is one piece

Not many brands are represented by any one single piece or part, but by all of its pieces, working together.

A brand is not always necessarily tangible. In the sense that you often get a ‘feeling’ from a product or service – your brand personified. It has personality. In one sense or another.

We could relate brand to a fundamental need we all require – shelter. When constructing a house, you’ll have a developer, partners, contractors and various parties involved to make it happen. There are specialists in architecture, engineering, framing, concrete, drywall, electricians, etc.

A team works together towards a goal to accomplish something bigger than themselves. Much like an identity is a critical piece of the brand puzzle. I’m not conflating what we do with anything overtly grandiose. But it’s an important part of your business. And if it’s done right, it lasts for many years to come.

Start Now

When you are ready to shift your focus inwards and be introspective, do not fixate on the details. Start with the bigger picture, even if you can only see what’s in front of you, today.

Now is the time to start thinking about your identity and brand as a whole. From scratch or a redesign. Sometimes all you need is a little refresh.

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