Rock Solid Branding

Prudential’s “Logo Evolution” of The Rock® is a perfect example of the simplifying of a logo. What began as a detailed illustration in 1870 has now evolved to its most simplistic form, displaying more of a symbolic visual icon. As mentioned in the last post, simplicity is one of the keys to a great logo. And great logos gain recognition.

logo evolution

This first got my attention when viewing Prudential’s “Logo Evolution” TV Ad. It succinctly displays how the “Rock” logo has evolved visuallly. The concept being, although the company’s iconic “Rock” has changed, the company itself, has not. The ad appropriately ends with their branding, We are The Rock® you can rely on.

See the TV Ad here.

The full breadth of “Rock” logos is cleverly titled on their website, “America’s Most Valuable Rock Collection”.

logo design

One of the visual elements that stands out for me with this icon is the white space on the right of the Rock that leads the eye right to the “P” in Prudential (highlighted in yellow on the logo shown below). Notice the company name is in good proportion to its icon. When scaled up or down, both elements remain clear and recognizable.

logo design

These are the sort of fine nuances that a well-trained designer adds to build an outstanding design.

What Makes A Really Good Logo?

The Worldwide Logo Design Annual (WOLDA) showcases the 2009 edition which includes 192 logo winners selected from nearly 2000 entries. See a few I have chosen to display below. You can see all the selections here.

These are all really great logos. Why?
Here is a quick litmus test for a good logo.

Is it simple?
Will it work in black & white as well as color? Simplicity builds recognition. Simple shapes are more easily identified.

Is it memorable?
Does it stimulate recall? Does it facilitate recognition?

Is it significant?
Does it use positive and negative space effectively and meaningfully.

Is it appropriate?
Does the visual representation have meaning and significance to your company?  Does it convey a high degree of professionalism and the appropriate personality?
The vision behind the visual speaks volumes about the company.
As said by Paul Rand, “A logo derives its meaning and usefulness from the quality of that which it symbolizes.”

Is it distinctive and original?
Does it differentiate you from your competitors? Does the color evoke emotion by communicating certain attributes? Does it attract attention?

Is it versatile?
Is it adaptable to all graphic media? Does it work well large in size as well as small?
Will it work well on a business card as well as a billboard?

Check yours and see how it holds up to these 6 attributes. Could it communicate better?

Design Briefs Provide Focus

How do we strive to ensure the success of a design project?

We want our clients to focus in on what they want and how they want it. What do clients want?

Design Briefs can hold the answer.

  • They set up clear business objectives.
  • They help define expected outcomes of the intended project.

The designers role?

The Design Brief is not meant to achieve the aesthetics of design but to synthesize the information conveyed and give the opportunity to ask questions for clarification.

Put on your listening ears!

Asking questions and allowing the client to speak about their company and their perceptions results in valuable information gathering. Listen carefully.

Questions that can lead to discussion build a valuable Design Brief.

> Learn about <the company>, how it perceives itself and its competition

Tell us about <the company> brand.

Give us five words that best describe your company.

Tell us about your competition.

Tell us what makes <the company> different? What is the value-added?

Tell us briefly (define briefly) why your customers purchase your product/service.

Tell us why your customers should purchase your product/service.

> Define your target market

Please identify and group your target market(s)?

> Marketing

What have you done that works and why?

What have you done that did not work and why?

> Set up expectations

What is your expected outcome for this project?

> Set up parameters & possible limitations

Develop some questions relevant to the current project such as:

Do you want to sell more products/services or generate awareness?

Is there available photography or are we providing images?

Who is providing the copy?

Depending on the project, how is this being used?

> Set up critical timelines

One of the most important steps in setting up expectations is to define when the project is needed.

> Samples

It can be helpful for the client to provide the designer as much information as possible and possibly share examples that convey their likes and dislikes. By reviewing these the designer can usually discern commonalities that will make a difference.

Using the Design Brief

Finally, we find it most productive if we are able to meet or conference with the client after they have received the brief and have had a chance to work through their thoughts. For some, this process will be difficult and will work better with dialog, so it depends on who the key players are as to how you approach it. Some clients will have this down requiring very little dialog, but the opportunity to probe a bit deeper can prove effective in gaining valuable insights.

If developed well, the Design Brief will allow everyone to have a clear understanding of the project and its goal. Once written up, share the Design Brief with the client so they can read through it and add/dispute any key points.

The Design Brief process tells the client, we hear you, we understand you and we want you to be successful. And who doesn’t want that?

The Green Logo BP Hides Behind

From “British Petroleum” to “Beyond Petroleum”, BP spent hundreds of millions of dollars in 2000 promoting their new brand and tagline. The question now is, are they 100 percent committed to their brand?

Greenpeace UK is holding a BP rebranding contest. They speak for many who watch as BP hides behind their “nice green logo”.  Enter yourself. Get more information here.

Greenpeace displayed their own version (see flag at left) briefly at BP’s corporate headquarters in London.

Take a look at the 972 entries (as of this posting) here.

Most of these are humorous and not so humorous illustrations, conceptually translating the BP irony. Most are drawings or artwork not particularly suitable to be used as a logo.

I have selected a few below which I think could feasibly qualify as a new BP logo.

I admit, I did not go through them all, so in all likelihood, there are many more that would work as well. This is a small sampling of my choosing.

These speak for themselves.

The W brand

Can you think of a brand that uses more than three of your senses?

Well, this past weekend we shared in a momentous occasion and stayed at the W Hotel Hoboken where we experienced the W brand.

“W”himsy and “W”onderlust

Central to the W brand are three core values – flirty, insider, escape. Employees are supposed to provide, in a flirty manner, an insider experience that allows guests to escape.

The W experience engages all your senses.

As you enter the hotel “living room” (the lobby) you experience candles flickering, fresh orchids in tall glass vases, dim lighting, stacked fashion books in a cozy sitting area, and incense burning.

They turn the lights down and the music up as the day goes on to create a more comfortable atmosphere in the evening.

The staff happily invites you to indulge in the fresh iced fruit water that changes flavor daily.

All the names of the physical spaces are warm, friendly and homey. Housekeepers are called “stylists’’ and elevators are called “lifts.’’ Hotel staff is also encouraged to use some words that begin with “W.’’

Their fun, playful and clever white canvas bags in the rooms hold additional amenities. Each bag creates intrigue and engages you with its peek-a-boo view and a clue in nice large readable sans serif letters as to what’s inside. A bag in the bathroom holding something white says “The Back Up Plan”. Would you have guessed it was toilet paper? It engages us and appeals to our sensibilities.

Employees are taught the W’s Secret Seven ways to create a positive guest experience. The Secret Seven are basic tenets of customer service, including smiling and using people’s names, but some, like “active listening,’’ to pick up on complaints overheard in the lobby.

Signature W CD’s in the rooms contain musical compilations based on the artistic sensibilities of their guests.

Hard and soft yet soothing surfaces are all consistent with the brand. The brand experience is extended through their Bliss Spa collection (complimentary in rooms) and their complimentary Acura shuttles.

The black, white, red, grey modern zen-like color scheme consistent throughout the hotel is relaxing, elegant, artistic and inspiring.

A frosted glass tabletop snack/convenience stand in each room slowly and continuously changes its color.

Upon leaving in our car that had been garaged in their valet parking, we found two bottles of water in the cupholders that displayed the words, “Wet Your Whistle”.

What more would you want when you stay away from home, than to be “W”hisked away, “W”owed and “W”oed by the W brand?

Cotter Visual Synergist

New Google Logo

A new Google logo design modification and a new search results page design launches on Wednesday, May 12.

The new logo integrates brighter colors and simplifies the visual while retaining the playfulness of the original logo.


Improving on an existing visual brand that works, adds value. I like the fact that Google has retained the original look and only modified it slightly. The subtle design changes just show Google is looking to improve the viewers experience.

The logo shadow on the letters is now much more subtle and not as distant from the letterforms which was slightly distracting. The dimensional shadows on the inside of the letterforms are lighter while still adding necessary dimension. The yellow is stronger which helps with readability. Eyes can scan right over a yellow that is too light. The “TM”, another distraction, has been removed.

Read more on the functionality design changes on the Google Blog.

Sometimes very little change is just the right amount!

Celebrating World Graphic Design Day

April 27th, World Graphic Design Day, celebrated since 1995, is an opportunity to recognize communication design and its role in the world.  It is also the anniversary of the founding of Icograda, the world body for professional communication design and the initiators of World Graphic Design Day.

As stated on the Icograda website, on this occasion, designers reflect and hope that our international network can contribute to a greater understanding between people and can help to build bridges where divides and inequities exist.

This year, building on the strategic priorities of global advocacy, unity and engagement, Icograda is inviting a global exchange on design’s value. Using the power of social media, individuals can share why they value graphic design.

I value design because…

it is an opportunity to tell a story.

it eases understanding.

it enables a great product or service to achieve its potential.

in its essence, its simplicity, it creates order to what can often be chaotic.

it demonstrates what we can create in peoples minds.

Top 10 attributes of the best clients

I love what I do for a living. Although it was not always called graphic design, I’ve been doing it all my life. I am truly grateful to have found a way of earning a living that keeps me motivated and spirited. Cotter Visual Communications is in its 22nd year of doing business and it is about time we share, partly, why we do what we do.

Recently, we have had a flurry of business activity. The results? Good business but less blog posting. I apologize for the less posts.

Occasionally, I hear/read about designers and their client relationships. It seems as if only disgruntled designers post blogs or discuss their clients who frustrate them. I need to be the one who writes about the good clients. Our clients make me really appreciate who they are and what they are doing.

What constitutes a ”good client“?

Here are some of the attributes I admire in ours.
They are:

collaboratorsseeking the greater good for their company

focusedwith a clear goal for the company and the task at hand

motivatedwanting to take their product/service to the next level

innovatorsnot afraid to try something new

supportive – encouraging their sales and other internal support teams

organizersconveying information and feedback with cohesiveness and understanding

producersspeaking with their customers is a priority

leaders – enhancing the strengths in their people, product(s) and/or service(s)

partnersknowing the value in the strength of partnering

respectfulappreciative of others time and expertise

Thank you for being who you are (and you know who you are!) and for choosing to work with us. We couldn’t do it without you!

10 tips for better banner ads

Studies have proven that most banner ads start losing effectiveness after the third time a person has seen it. If visitors haven’t clicked on it by then, they probably never will. If you are spending a lot of money on advertising and purchasing hundreds of thousands of banner impressions, you will need to come up with a lot of different banners.

10 tips that can increase banner ad effectiveness:

  1. Highlight the visual brand prominently throughout the ad.
  2. Make each second count. Support the core message throughout the ad. The ad will probably only get one second with the user, so be sure it counts.
  3. Get right to the point. We shouldn’t expect the user to wait around and watch the ad in its entirety.
  4. Keep it simple. Try to use no more than two messages per execution.
  5. Use people imagery. Making the human emotional connection results in better ad recall.
  6. Use a strong call to action. What is the desired response? Give people a reason to go further. Lead them – tell them what to do next.
  7. Create intrigue with a desirable download or a special promotional offer.
  8. Use an experienced designer with an eye for what will attract attention in your chosen publication. What works visually for one, may not work for another. Sometimes the ad should look like part of the page content and sometimes the ad is clearly not part of the content and needs to present itself that way.
  9. Remember, we just want people to click on the ad. Communicate quickly and generate leads. Ads should go to a landing page supporting the offer to continue a dialog.
  10. Carefully study ads in your targeted publication. Ask which ones work and which ones don’t and find out why.

Online advertising is unchartered territory. We are breaking new ground and learning more about this everyday as we look at what works and what doesn’t in the technical scientific business to business arena. Unlike a tried and true science, it is evolving all the time as more and more online advertising opportunities present themselves.

Let us know your banner ad successes and failures.

Advertising at its best

Key stats on the 2010 SuperBowl Ads*:

• $3 million for a one 30-second spot

• Seven 15-second spots in the game, the most since 2002

• Dot-coms were the biggest category in this year’s game with 5 minutes and 45 seconds of time, followed by autos and beer, each with 5:30

• 106.5 million viewers this year – the highest ever according to the Nielson Company

• 41 paid advertisers in the game

• A total of 66 different messages were aired

• Top four advertisers in terms of total ad time were Anheuser-Busch InBev, Hyundai, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, accounting for 25 percent of the total paid ad time

• Two commercials from Doritos, both created by consumers, were among the top-watched spots in households with TiVo, with one ad entitled “House Rules” ranking number one and another called “Underdog” finishing fourth. Joelle De Jesus of Hollywood won $25,000 for “House Rules.”

• USA Today’s ranking named Snickers the big winner with its spot featuring Betty White and Abe Vigoda playing football.

See and vote for the 2010 Ads.

My favorites were too many to mention with Audi A3 TDI – Green Police and Snickers – Betty White at the top of my list.

Worth seeing for entertainment value: Etrade Baby – girlfriend, Bud Light Castaways, Bridgestone – Your Tires or Your Life, Doritos ads, Bud Light Asteroid, Motorola – Megan Fox, Boost Mobile – Super Bowl Shuffle, Budweiser – Bridge Out and TruTV – Troy Polamalu. Uninspiring were Dockers, Godaddy.

*Courtesy of Adweek and Brandweek