Logo Not Necessary: An Art Director Attempts to Put Herself Out of a Job

July 6, 2016

About a week ago, the SQP design team was slapped with a harsh critique. A brand we were creating was accused of lacking an emotional draw.

Excuse me, what? Us—SquarePlanet? Preachers of why and harpers of human connection? We created a logo without considering how it would make our audience feel? We made a logo that was somehow absent of a story?

Yep. That’s right. We did. Because logos are just logos. They can’t move people. They’re not inspirational. They can’t spark a movement or sway an audience. They’re just one small part of an army of tools used to convey a brand. Even though the logo being criticized was a byproduct of a story with a lot more meaning, it could never be responsible for telling the story alone.

Now, before you jump to the comments and start calling us colossal hypocrites, let me explain.

When our approach came into question, it immediately reminded me of an experience I had buying a gift last year. Hear me out—it’ll all connect—I promise.


In my search for the perfect gift, I happened upon the greatest company of all time, FootCardigan. They have a simple proposition: for $9 a month, they’ll send you one ridiculous pair of socks. It seemed like a great gift idea so I dug into their website to find out what FootCardigan was all about.

[x_image type=”none” float=”none” src=”https://www.squareplanet.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Screen-Shot-2016-07-01-at-12.40.31-PM.png” alt=”Foot Cardigan Home Page” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover”]

The site welcomed me with the faces of various uniformed delivery men, each toting their respective sock-wrapped products. The photo was accompanied by hilarious, approachable language ranging from a gratuitous testimonial by Benjamin Franklin to an ‘About’ section that literally had me LOLing. It was love at first quip. Their site is so jam packed with glorious nuggets of awesome that I could not help but make the decision to gift $108 worth of socks (which, when you say it out loud, is really quite ridiculous).

[x_image type=”none” float=”none” src=”https://www.squareplanet.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Screen-Shot-2016-07-01-at-12.56.30-PM.png” alt=”Foot Cardigan About Page” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover”]

Side note: I also bought a year subscription for myself and actively opted in to their marketing emails. Yes. Opted in. Do people actually do that? I did it. And I’d do it again.

But when it got down to it and I actually thought about why I was so eager to buy, I realized it wasn’t about the socks at all. It wasn’t about the fact that I desperately had to find a birthday gift. It wasn’t about a novel product offering and I didn’t even give a casual thought to their logo design (though, it is quite nice).

In fact, I don’t think there’s one bone in my body that was swayed by any of their design efforts at all. In the end I wasn’t buying what they sold, how it looked, or even how they sold it, I was buying their brand—and consequently—their why.

I think FootCardigan’s why has absolutely nothing to do with keeping feet warm on winter nights. What keeps them going is their desire to put smiles on faces (and joy in mailboxes). They believe in being human. Their founders probably didn’t stake their life’s mission on the fact that socks could save the world. They just happen to sell socks as a byproduct of their beliefs.

The Takeaway

So why am I telling you this very long-winded and kudos-laden story?

Because creating a great brand has almost nothing to do with a logo or even a product. It doesn’t start with a commercial or a unique photography style. It’s all those things, but it’s none of them. It begins and ends with your ability to be a person and connect.

[x_blockquote cite=”Marty Neumeier via The Brand Gap” type=”center”]“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.”[/x_blockquote]

Yes, that. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Our branding process doesn’t start with “Hey Kaylee, can you and the team make a logo for these guys?” as it often does with other “branding agencies” (air quotes grammatically incorrect and totally intentional). It starts with our guts. How do we intend for this brand to make their audience feel? Why does this brand exist? What problems are keeping its founders up at night?

Answering those questions allows us to tailor the expression of the brand to a specific feeling. It’s the voice telling us the company’s background story and goals. It’s the relatable content plastering the walls of their website and products. It’s the feeling you get when a mass marketing email shows up in your inbox and you actually want to read it. It’s a package deal. A great brand is made when it’s able to clearly communicate its beliefs to the world.

[bctt tweet=”A great brand is made when it’s able to clearly communicate its beliefs to the world.” username=”squareplanet”]

It all goes back to our old rule of 87/13/13. 87% of your time should be spent on content, and 13% on delivery. I’m not good at math, but by my calculations, 87+13=100 and design isn’t accounted for yet. That’s because your brand can exist without a logo! Yes, really. That logo is part of the extra-bonus optional 13%. The design is the last duck to put in the row. It’s the icing on the cake. It’s a barrage of other illustrative idioms that I won’t keep adding here.

In the case of our recent project, it was clear that our critics were relying on a logo to do something it could never do on its own. And while their intentions were noble, building a great brand isn’t making a logo, it’s finding your why and shouting it from the rooftops.


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