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News+Views: Press

How to stop Twitter hating your logo

Digital Arts asked Form co-founder Paula Benson to share her thoughts on how to manage negative reactions to the launch of a new logo design on social media.

You can read the published article here but we thought we’d share with you our fuller thoughts on this delicate subject:-

Managing negative responses to the launch of new logos
by Paula Benson, Co-founder, Form

I must admit I don’t spend a great amount of time reading design-related press, blogs and social media, but I’ve seen some harsh criticism flying around on logo and identity launches recently – some of it justified, some of it plain ignorant, and some which makes me rant.

What bugs me is that so much attention is still given in this day and age to a stand-alone logo. A logo is often part of an overall identity or visual language that only makes sense when you see the bigger picture. A logo is important but it’s not the be-all-and-end-all. When a client asks us for a new logo we often identify that in actual fact they also need a new or better overall visual language – a logo change alone is not going to vastly change brand perceptions.

When ‘The Met’ (New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art) logo was launched recently, from what I understand they only released the logo itself without the bigger picture. When they later went on to explain the wider story, critics saw that as back tracking or post rationalizing and that created a small storm within the design community. New York Magazine’s architecture critic John Davidson accused it of looking “like a red double-decker bus that has stopped short, shoving the passengers into each other’s backs.” Maybe it didn’t help that Wolf Ollins announced that the logo was the result of two and a half years work. We’d be extremely lucky to get as long as two and a half months on most of the logos and identities we create!

When Uber launched it’s new identity recently there were a stream of articles and social media coverage but when I took a look at the website that same day, it didn’t even feature the main logo symbol everyone was talking about! In fact, the Uber symbol everyone was getting so outraged about wasn’t even a logo. You have to join up the dots when making a noise about something.

Here at Form we’ve been designing logos and brand identities for companies big and small for 25 years and I can honestly say we’ve never received any major negative reactions. In fact, conversely, the reactions have been predominantly positive by clients, their audience and the design community. I firmly believe that’s because, before we even start creative work, we take time to really understand our clients and their audience, delving into the crux of the brand – our intentions being to truly represent them and to portray the messages they want to communicate.

A logo and brand identity can be launched well by making sure it’s fit for purpose in the first place of course – ensuring it answers the brief, is aesthetically pleasing and communicates all the right messages. Nothing leaves our studio until we are sure the whole team and the client are happy.

We often send out a well-considered press release explaining our thinking behind the logo or brand identity, being careful to explain the brief too. Design magazines and blogs will use this to inform what they write. You can’t put words in their mouths (it’s a free country after all) but a well-written press release can go a long way to informing what is written about the work.

We don’t use a press agency and don’t have a dedicated person working on the launch of new work, so all words in press releases and our own communications are from our own mouths, and from the heart. We don’t do spin. I think people know when they’re being fed bullshit or over-complicated post-rationalized strategy and that’s what often ignites negative responses.

Whatever you do, people will often jump to conclusions and comments are sometimes made on face value, without understanding the brief or the long-term vision.

Interestingly, only once in our 25-year history have we been asked by a client to put our work through market researching or a focus group. In fact we often actively discourage it. We’ve always worked from instinct and gut. And after 25 years of creating successful and award winning work, I think we’ve proved our guts can be trusted!

I saw a revolting piece of design the other day and noticed the client had said “it researched well”, which reminded me of a story I heard when we were working with the Design Council – a classic focus group case study: Philips were launching some new radios and they wanted to test reactions to a series of fun, colourful new radios against traditional grey ones. Throughout the whole session, the group responded positively to the new friendly colours. Job done, they thought. At the end of the session, the organisers said to the group that they could choose any of the radios on their way out as a thank you. Yep, you got it; each and every one of them chose the grey one! Just goes to show what people say, and what people do, are not always the same thing.

Another important point to make on this matter of reactions to a logo launch is that a final logo is more often than not, not solely the designer’s decision. It involves teamwork between client and design agency, and sometimes it might involve compromise. Therefore a negative reaction to a logo or identity launch does not lie purely at the designers’ feet (and vice versa).

The kind of budgets often at play don’t usually cover launch, PR and marketing strategy of a new identity. It is very much up to the client on how they handle the launch. But we always advise them to be aware that not all responses will be positive! You simply can’t please all the people all of the time. But as long as the response is predominantly positive then our advice is – crack on!

From what I observe, some clients and designers receive negative criticism to an identity launch where they have jumped into a project without really taking time to address who they are and how they want to be represented, or miss-judging how the public see them.

Social media has flown the gates open for armchair critics who can hide behind a screen. Some people like to have a pop at anything. And we’ve been particularly aware of this when dealing with a national institution like Abbey Road Studios. There were a few mild pops, mainly because there is so much love for the brand – people like to think it belongs to them and they know best, but we’re tough and the overall response was great.

Generally people don’t like change. But as designers were in the business of change, so you have to develop a tough skin.