Aol. revisited….

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The “new” Aol. has shared their brand strategy with Fast Company in an article that includes an interview with the Wolff Olins creative team as well as new iterations of the logo.

Read the Fast Company article here.

Today’s press release states, the new brand is “deliberately disruptive and deliberately unlike what is being done by other online media businesses, it is designed for an environment where media is no longer broadcast, but rather is discovered through fragmented, non-linear conversations.”

I now understand more on the brand strategy. Mind you, this does require a brain shift for me. And I am not sure I am totally convinced that it “works”.

The use of the logotype in the videos explains alot. We should not have taken these logotypes and showcased them as static images, as we did in our November 24th post. They are meant to be viewed “in motion”. This means that at some point during its time in motion, you will see the logotype in its entirety. A very playful way to showcase the logo.

Here’s where you can view the full suite of motion clips.

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As stated in the press release, “Wolff Olins threw out traditional ideas of identity as Aol. moves from an access provider to a standalone content company.”

Wolff Olins creative director, Jordan Crane, says in the Fast Company article, “The handbooks that have been written in the past are changing. With this direction, it suited the whole experience to have something very contemporary.” He goes on to say, “Maybe in the future all logos will be in motion.”

“It’s not about it being 1000 logos, it’s that it’s a consistent wordmark that’s consistent and clean,” says Maureen Sullivan, Aol.’s chief-of-staff. Apparently, Aol. has no signage in their own office. As they say, “It’s all video screens.”

Sam Wilson, Wolff Olins managing director, says “Brand identity is changing. It’s not a sign outside the door, or the corner of a business card, our idea of brand is a deeper vision than that.”

I find it hard to believe that the “wordmark” will not be used as a static image anywhere. No business cards? No signs? A first… an Annual Report in video?

I believe we still need to pay attention to traditional media, no matter what it is we do as a business. No ads, no print? I fear not. There must be one signature brand image for motionless content. I, for one, am not ready for an entire world in motion.

I am intrigued by this idea and can’t wait to see if it stands the test of time. Is this literally, an “evolving brand”?

It’s easy being green…for some

Owning the color green today means environmentally-friendly.

And the latest to hop on the green bandwagon is McDonald’s. In Europe only, they are changing their traditional red backdrop for a deep hunter green — a more eco-friendly image.

About 100 German McDonald’s restaurants will use the green backdrop by the end of 2009. Some franchises in Great Britain and France have already started using the new color scheme behind their Golden Arches.

Red is a strong color – an attention getter that pops out when used in visual icons almost anywhere. When used outdoors, vibrant red lends so much contrast to the blues, greens, and browns of nature, it easily grabs visual attention.

globalbestofgreenEffective marketing tools are being used to help drive the perception of being environmentally “unfriendly”. The company states on their website how they now use “greener” practices, such as lower levels of energy and water consumption, environmentally friendly refrigeration and converting used oil into biodiesel fuel. Their public image efforts can be seen on the corporate responsibility area which showcases the McDonald’s 2009 Global Best of Green theme.

We will see if the iconic red backdrop is slowly replaced globally by green. Today, it’s good to be green but can McDonald’s take on green successfully?

Surprise! A new logo for AOL… ahh, Aol.

AOL is breaking away from Time Warner next month, and leaving their old look behind as well. They are replacing AOL with Aol. and making an undistinguishable statement with this period after the Aol. The new brand identity print, video and online versions launch Dec. 10.

The Aol. logotype sits on different backgrounds of any kind ranging from moving objects, photos, funky drawings, people and whatever is desired or the flavor of the moment.

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This rings a bit of googleness to me. Google uses different images to “play with” its logotype letterforms. They have been very successful with it. The reason? We still see the Google logotype in its iconic colors across all media the same way wherever it appears. The letterforms are “played with” on their search website. Somehow you always know it is Google.

Allen P. Adamson, Landor Associates (brand and corporate identity consultancy), states in the N.Y. Times, AOL “signals your father’s Internet”. This explains the switch to the Aol. “playful” look and feel – it’s an attempt to shed the old perception of AOL.

Let’s see if they can pull it off.

The constantly changing images behind the logotype are intended to elicit surprise, says Sam Wilson and Jordan Crane, of Wolff Olins New York, the creators of the new brand identity. The period in the logo was added to suggest “confidence, completeness,” Ms. Wilson said, by declaring that “AOL is the place to go for the best content online, period.” I guess branding is all about surprises!

I might warm up to this premise, if the Aol. logotype was not “strategically placed” on objects where parts of it blend into and disappear on its setting. Call me a purist. This changes the positive-negative space relationship of the Aol. visual icon. So whenever you see Aol., it visually never looks the same. I can see changing the backgrounds, although this is a stretch for me, but changing the icon as well? There needs to be some constant repetition of consistency across all media to build a visual brand.

In this example, the period is not even there!

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And in this one, the look is entirely different than any of the others. It actually looks like the logotype is set in a gray morphic bar. Historically, under normal circumstances this would be considered a breach of the logotype.

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So here is where I draw the line. Times change. Logos evolve. But change and surprises everywhere a logotype appears? Are we in a new paradigm and I am just not there? I just do not believe a company can be successful in building a strong brand this way.

Help me out with this one. What do you think?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hertz – a rebranding journey

Hertz launched their first re-branding effort in 20 years last week on the web.

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What does this mean? A new logo, uniforms, signage, ads, marketing materials and much more. The rental-car company is trying to convey that they are “more friendly.” They are replacing their old tagline, “Let Hertz Put You in the Driver’s Seat,” with “Journey On.”

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Hertz will attempt to own yellow across all of its communications. Whether it is its buses, locations or uniforms, “we have a great opportunity to paint the world yellow,” says Mike Senackerib, CMO, Hertz.

They can change their font and as long as they stay with their yellow they can maintain their recognizable identity within the car rental industry. Other brands that own yellow? Sprint, DHL, Stanley, DeWalt, Lance Armstrong’s Live Strong and McDonald’s have all built their brands around the color yellow.

Here’s what I see.

The rounder letterforms indicate soft, friendly and clean. As stated in Brandweek, Hertz wants to make the brand more contemporary and approachable. I think they have achieved this.

The original logo with its big blocky letters displayed strength and depicted Hertz as a heavyweight. Not at all the same feeling the new brand displays. So, times change and logos evolve. Sometimes for good, sometimes not but when a total rebranding takes place you can be sure to see change in everything Hertz.

Visual branding guidelines

Every impression of your visual brand has value. Viewing it with consistency builds memorablity and brand recognition allowing you to get the most value from your advertising and promotional dollars.

How is this done?

Guidelines for visual styles can be developed. Essentially, these are the rules for ”here is what you can and cannot do visually”. Often ”do’s and don’ts” of copy elements and editorial style are included as well.

The elements of a corporate identity guidelines (or sometimes referred to as a visual branding guide) include…

Contents

Introduction

Company Values or Spirit

Visual Identity – Logo and hierarchy, size and relationships

Copywriting and Tone of Voice

Color Palettes for web and print-primary and secondary

Typography – Specific Type Usage and Styles

Photographic and/or Illustrative Style-Any detailed or unusual shooting angles and/or perspectives to increase impact.

Paper & Ink Print Specifications

Graphic Devices

Layout and Grids

Visual Applications

Digital and Web

Contacts

More detailed brand guidelines may include…

Signage, Trade Show Graphics

Advertising – web and print

Stationery

Merchandise – apparel, giveaways

Co-Branding

For clarity…

It is best to have only one or two key messages per page.

Show clear examples of how the brand should look across an appropriate range and a variety of media with a few examples of ”what not to do” as well.

The results…

A working pdf file that can viewed online, emailed or downloaded and printed. The standards can eventually be established as an online identity resource.

Flexibility…

It’s a fine line. The rules should be flexible enough for designers to be creative but rigid enough to for the brand to be easily recognizable. Occasionally, situations will call for rules to be bent, but they should not be broken. Continuity is key so the brand can successfully display across all media. Keep in mind, with all this said, the rules of branding should remain somewhat ”fluid” and ”evolving” as new scenarios present themselves.

Examples…

Shown here is the exclusion zone and clearances on the corporate logo without tagline. In the guidelines, this is also illustrated with the tagline.

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The print (pantone and cmyk values) and web (hexadecimel) color palette for primary and secondary colors.

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Visually communicating with color

Your brand colors allow instant recognition and distinction for your company. Staying within a custom color palette used repeatedly and consistently will help instill your brand.

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Above, example of a color palette designed for Axela’s brand identity.

Good use of color is very powerful and has many functions in the world of visual communications. Although color is subjective and people will always have their likes/dislikes in relation to it, here’s what is important.

Color helps….

viewers filter out what is extraneous so they can get to the relevant information they need.

attract attention and is a way to direct the eye.

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make the information you are trying to convey, memorable.

represent different types of data. The color-coding of elements and data facilitates information retrieval.

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Make communications more effective. Good use of color will guide viewers and help convey your message, easily and efficiently.

Visual communications in an infinitely busy world

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In a world filled with infinite information, how do we achieve mindshare?

Visual communications. Designers seek to create clarity in their communications so viewers will accurately interpret the intended message. We work to guide the viewer’s eyes to where we want them to go. If the visual elements are all fighting for attention, there is a good chance we will lose our viewer.

Through a thoughtful placement of elements we establish a visual hierarchy to direct the viewer’s eyes. The goal is always to attract and gain mindshare.

How do we achieve this?

We create:

appropriate color schemes

grid-based layouts for coherency in presenting information

type orientation for optimal reading

visual cues

a hierarchy of information with drill down for additional detail

spatial relationships of all objects

All to move the viewer through a piece to facilitate the absorption of information while focusing on the central message and its intended action.

Surprisingly, this is standard for any print or web visual communication. Doesn’t visual communications seem easy?

A simple visual solution for your complex brand?

Understanding how the mind synthesizes visual information is crucial in creating a visual that instills recognition. And recognition is everything in branding. The first thing we recognize is color. Then comes shape, symbol and finally words. These visual cues are important in conveying the subliminal underlying concept.

Here are some things to keep in mind when developing a visual brand.

Keep it simple. Simplicity builds recognition. When a visual is too busy it distracts the viewer from the overall visual, its message and the brand.

Be identifiable. Simple shapes are easily identified.

Be memorable. Connect subliminally with the viewer.

Be meaningful. The vision behind the visual speaks volumes about the company.

Be significant. Use positive and negative space effectively. This easily ties into the above four.

Be recognizable. Easy visual recognition should transfer between black/white or color.

Be scalable. The visual must be easily recognizable sized very large and very small.

Developing a visual brand is creating a visual concept of your company. Behind your company there is a concept of who you are and what your objectives and goals are. Convey that clarity and the better your visual translation can be.

Put yourselves in your customers shoes for a good perspective. Know that your customer is visually and culturally evolving. Their visual sensibilities have been elevated by the much improved visual effects in all media. So help your brand evolve. Stay current and relevant to your customers visual world.

Here is an example of a visual exploratory developed from the client’s vision.

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Our work involves synthesizing the concepts our clients convey to us. The final chosen visual is below.

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2016 Summer Olympic Logos

On October 2 the location of the 2016 Summer Olympics will be revealed. For two years, cities around the world have been vying to be the events host. It is now down to Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo.

Here are the “bid logos” for these cities.

chicago1Chicago, United States

Meaning behind the logo: The Chicago logo’s central element is the Chicago star, the symbol on the city flag. It is said that the six points on the star represent hope, respect, harmony, friendship, excellence and celebration. It has also been said that the logo’s six-pointed Chicago star represents a compass pointing out in all directions of the world. The colors of the star represent the colors used in the Olympics rings.

Organizers statement: “A star tells a story of hope, universally seen as a guiding light for people everywhere. Placing the Chicago star at the center of our logo symbolizes our desire to put the athletes at the center of the Games — since they’re the real stars — and celebrate their accomplishments in the heart of our city.”

Designer: VSA Partners

Bid slogan: “Let friendship shine”

tokyo2Tokyo, Japan

Meaning behind the logo: Tokyo’s logo takes the form of a traditional Japanese knot known as “musubi”.  “Musubi” has long been utilized in Japan to signify blessings during times of celebration. It integrates the five Olympic colors into its design of  decorative knotted strings.

Organizers statement: “This logo, our MUSUBI knot, integrates the values that underpin both the Olympic Movement and Tokyo 2016. It ties together sport and culture, urban and natural environment, Japan and the world, the world and peace”

Designer: Kenji Ekuan of GK Design Group

Bid slogan: “Uniting our worlds”

madrid3Madrid, Spain

Meaning behind the logo: Madrid’s logo is the shape of the palm of a hand using the Olympic colors. The design features a hand traced in the colors blue, yellow, green and red with an “M” drawn into the palm in black over “Madrid 2016.”

Organizers statement: The hand is a symbol to welcome foreigners to the city and its people, with the colors representing the nationalities and cultures living within the city.

Designer: Argentine Joaquín Malle. This design was one of 2,700 received by the Madrid bid committee before a short list of 10 were submitted to the public on Sept. 3. The logo received 31.96 percent of the vote, more than double received by the runnerup.

Bid slogan: “Hola everyone”

rio2Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Meaning behind the logo: Rio de Janeiro’s logo suggests their natural rich landscapes with a yellow sun rising behind the green hills and valleys of Rio (highlighting the Sugar Loaf, the city’s best known icon), and blue sea. The logos overall heart shape  represents the Brazilian’s passion and enthusiasm for sports. Through its repetition, a stylized clover is formed, associated with the luck for everyone seeking to surpass limits, without any artifices other than the strength and heartiness of the person who brings along his people’s dreams. It incorporates an exclamation mark into the number “1″ to suggest the expectation and excitement for the opportunity to host.

Designer: Ana Soter

Bid slogan: “Live your passion”


Advertising Genius

For those of you who are as intrigued as I am by creative ad genius, Art & Copy (2008), the advertising documentary directed by Doug Pray, was released last Friday, 5 days after the T.V. season premiere of “Mad Men”.

In Pray’s film many ad slogans and revelations are discussed with the creators and those surrounding the campaigns.

jdi1The synthesis of “Just Do It”

According to the film, Gary Gilmore, the notorious spree-killer, uttered the words “Let’s do it” just before a firing squad executed him in Utah in 1977. Years later, the phrase became the inspiration for Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign.

Dan Wieden, a co-founder of Wieden & Kennedy, tweaked Mr. Gilmore’s last words thinking it would make a good slogan for Nike. He said the resonance of “Just Do It” was completely inadvertent and unforeseen. In the film, Mr. Wieden recalled the moment it dawned on him to use the phrase. “None of us really paid that much attention. We thought, ‘Yeah. That’d work,’ ” he says, adding, “People started reading things into it much more than sport.”

Are these random creative coincidences or creative genius at work?

Mr. Pray, the film’s director, is a documentarian who has also directed commercials. He said part of his reason for doing the film was to shed light on the people behind ads that have left a mark on American culture. “There’s a beauty to things like ‘Got Milk?’ or ‘Just Do It’ or ‘Where’s the Beef?’ — this incredibly simple writing that seems to kind of say more,” he said. “They seem to work on some kind of a different level that has nothing to do with the product.”

I don’t see the creative process as random. I see it as genius. The brain, with its unknown complexities, can take any information and synthesize it in a way that appears completely random. If one is paying attention, the cues are there. You just have to let them surface and spark!

Now… just do it!