Logos vs brandmarks
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

There seems to be a proliferation of logo-centric and logo-obsessed blogs online at the moment.

Logos have a deep history in consumer culture. Imbued with a mystical otherness, the word logo comes from the Greek word logos, meaning both the source and fundamental order of the cosmos. And in a Christian sense, logos is used to mean the divine word, through which all things are made.

Until the birth of the brand consultancy advertising agencies were brand custodians. Design was categorised as either above or below-the-line. Above-the-line design was design in direct service of advertsing and below-the-line, design for everything else. Below-the-line design was handled by the design consultancy. Both advertising agencies and design consultancies talked to clients about logos... after all the logo is the vehicle through which all a brand's things are made.

Since marketing as a profession has come of age it has joined forces with the design consultancy and given rise to the brand consultancy. Brand consultancies apply rigorous methodologies to brands, which help demystify their commercial effectiveness.

Brands are made up of the complex relationship of terms which enable particular experiences, one of which is the brand's primary mark. This mark is most usefully referred to as the brandmark. It is a mark that cues the brand experience, it is not the experience itself.

Logos refer to an outdated advertising agency and design consultancy speak, when brands were assessed in less sophisticated terms and where it was perhaps necessary to regard the runaway success of some brands with mystical wonder.

If a brand is handled as a logo it is likely to be a very limited experience. A brandmark represents a far deeper and richer experience which a logo on its own could never hope to carry. The divine mystical allusion of the logos is a nice romantic thought but thanks now to brand consultancies, better left to religion and ancient Greek philosophy.

Logos have had their day. The lay population may still think in terms of logos and it may be the quickest means to explain what brand identity designers create but it doesn't do the expertise justice. If you work with a logo designer you will get a logo, a brand identity designer will, led by a marketing strategy, create a brand.