Ranting about branding

A client recently asked me to redesign a logo, and I started thinking about how just having a logo in place doesn’t necessarily mean that you have your brand wrapped up. The following is the result of a few emails back and forth between me and a colleague, Kate Hastings of Hastings and Associates, about the best way to express this to a client who is focused on a logo, possibly to the detriment of the brand itself.

One of my favorite points in here (Kate’s not mine) is that “A brand is not a logo. A logo is only the graphic depiction of your brand.”


Thank you for the opportunity to work with on your logo refinement requests. As we work on this project, we want to share information related to the successful use of a service mark, so that you are fully-informed and armed with the best information to make your brand successful in an international arena.

Normally, when a client comes to us asking for graphic elements that identify their brand to be used nationally / internationally, we advise taking a much more comprehensive approach to the project, because of what’s at stake: your brand identity success. Successful branding is both a science and an art that go hand-in-hand.

A brand is not a logo. A logo is only the graphic depiction of your brand. Because of that, careful determination of your brand’s core identity would come well before how it looks in a logo design. To be successful, designing the logo comes last, after you’ve identified the brand elements: the core values of your product. Even then, we would do research to make sure that the logo graphic works and conveys the right message to the targeted demographic, that it has appropriate usage latitude, and that it does not infringe on an existing brands.
We would then work to craft the logo/service mark by trying several styles, mocking up collateral materials, and presenting the concepts to various people inside and outside of the company. Then you could be assured that you’re hitting the mark. Without the science part, the art will not be able to deliver the results you want. By approaching your logo appropriately, we could prevent a situation like we are seeing with the current logo: it looks good, but it is not suitable to the goals of SWT. Without getting to the basics of brand design, it won’t ever have the basic tools it needs to take you where you want to go with it. 

Once the brand identity phase is complete, we would be happy to work to finalize the logo, create collateral samples and a usage guide so that you can go forward fully-armed with a visual vocabulary that immediately communicates to potential customers.

We would price this project based on how much of our studio resources it would consume, and an amount based on usage. In other words, we would charge more for a logo used internationally than we would for something used locally or regionally because you need greater visual performance to penetrate a worldwide audience.

I realize that there are budgetary concerns that may prevent this project scope right now – the reason I am mentioning all this is to give you some insight into what we view as an ideal process to establish a brand that works. We would be remiss not to inform you that your logo works hard “out there,” and we know you would want it to be working the hardest possible for you. By missing these important development steps, it cannot work as hard as it could. Of course, for the time being, we are happy to modify your logo ad hoc and to add other elements as needed, to keep you growing and advancing down the path. Please let us know if we can help you add these important strategies, as we go down the path with you, toward your best success.