A Brand New Logo for Comedy Central, ha ha.

It’s okay if you confuse Comedy Central’s new logo for a copyright symbol! The “hidden irony” in the copyright symbol is apparently intentional.

The network’s Bob Salazar, SVP/creative director, (brand creative for Comedy Central), says it is an ”irreverent wink”. Salazar said that the channel “Wanted a brand image that responds to the variety of multimedia options viewers access our content on,” such as the iPad and other interactive devices. “The Comedy Mark is an amalgam of all the things we’re doing.”

If we immediately “SEE” the copyright symbol, then what statement is their brand mark making?

They say, “Everyone misses the joke?” Ah, sorry! We are not THAT oblique!

Fast company says, “The copyright is the ultimate emblem of the corporate world. Here, Comedy Central is literally turning it on its head. The joke is subtle but clever.” (Read more at Fast Company’s Co.Design blog.)

Whaaaaaat? Subtle … clever? I don’t think so. It’s just not innovative, original, distinctive or a good logo. And lucky for them, the copyright symbol is in the public domain.

View this video on Comedy Central’s new logo by its creator, thelab. The video is certainly not boring and uses the new logo in a very innovative and fun way. But it’s still a copyright symbol no matter which way you look at it!

Visual Unity

Whether it is on the Web, in print or on a trade show floor, you can create a positive experience by engaging your customers visually. Graphics that are simple, colorful and evoke emotion are impactful.

Our goal is to create a sense of unity from the central message and supporting copy, photographs and logos. All three components should fit together to make a coherent whole.

Unity in composition can stop people in their tracks.

Grouping people, objects and text

Grouping elements can give them greater impact than if they were standing alone or apart from one another. When several items are placed in proximity, the eye moves easily from one to the next. The items become one visual unit, providing a single message for the viewer.

If the group is the most prominent part of the graphic, the structure will hold together as an overall composition and draw attention.

Repeating shapes, colors or values

A design element repeated can form a path for the eye, leading to an important message logo or image. Repetition can create consistency

Which square will people look at? This stand-out-from-the-pack repetitive approach is useful for helping viewers focus on the uniqueness of a product, company, or event.

Attract and lead the eye with continuation

Human eyes instinctively want to follow a line to find out where it leads. Aligning edges of items creates an invisible line the eye naturally follows. By aligning the edges—horizontally, vertically or diagonally—the composition becomes unified.

Once again leading the viewers with strong visual cues gets the message across.

The “F” pattern and the “Z” pattern.

When visually communicating, it is known that we create directional flow with visual elements, all with the intention of getting a message across.

Using the “F” pattern

One of Jakob Nielsen’s 2006 eyetracking visualization studies show users read in an “F” pattern on the Web.  Below is a piece we ran in a 2006  Synergist enews.

Using the “Z” pattern

In print, the conventional “Z” pattern of reading (in western cultures) has always been used for the strategic placement of important information. Starting in the upper left corner, working across to the right and then back to the left again, going top to bottom. We placed a “Z” over the ad below so you can see how that works.

The contrast of the “F” and the “Z” and their mediums is something to ponder.

Whether we lead the readers eye with an “F” or a “Z” in mind, the goal of visual communications is to invite readers into the page and have them leave with your message.

Eye-tracking studies support visual communications

As in everything we do when visually communicating, we focus on meeting the users needs.

Eye tracking studies for the web reveal valuable information on how visitors take in a website. Studies path a users visual direction on a web page with software that uses heat mapping.

Shown here, heatmaps from user eyetracking studies. From Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, 4/17/06

The areas where users looked the most are colored red; the yellow areas indicate fewer views, followed by the least-viewed blue areas. Gray areas didn’t attract any fixations.

It is very interesting when you look at this and follow how a visitor scans the page. This gives us valuable research on how to build a user-friendly website.

Other variables such as the type of website and its visitors do make a significant difference — the same rules do not apply to all.

What are visitors coming for? Is it for information or to purchase a product or service they need? Is it business- or consumer-based? Is it a niche audience?

Reading an article referencing the most recent eye-tracking study by Jakob Nielsen brings up some interesting results on images that we can all learn from.

The study shows people photos are good to include, but only if they are of real people. Viewers skip over generic photos if they are not directly relevant to why they are coming to the site. Poor design and cluttered content is a factor that is clearly to be considered vital in making this case. Jakob Nielsen refers to this as “visual bloat”. I love it!

So, if photos are being added to a website without much thought to their relevancy, they are of no value. If an image is not relevant, how can it make the emotional connection to the user?

The example he uses is, on the Amazon website, people “mostly” ignored generic images of televisions because they didn’t offer real information. But on the Pottery Barn website, people engaged with the product photos for extended periods of time. Yes. When we are purchasing a product online we have set criteria that helps us make the purchasing decision and the biggest is, we need to SEE if it fits our needs.

There are also people who need to actually touch the item they are purchasing so they may never actually buy a television online.

If a website is selling products, it is most important to have a photoshoot with a professional photographer so the products can be best showcased for their selling advantage. It is important that users are able to see alternate views and enlarged images.

Tip: Jakob Nielsen says when users click to view a larger version of an item, the one that appears should be at least twice as big, preferably more.

Eye tracking studies are just another way for us to support and improve our efforts of visually communicating effectively.

Your personal brand. It just is.

As in your company’s brand, your personal brand is equally valuable.

If you are not doing anything to build it, it will be done for you, good or bad.

So whether you think you have a brand or not, it is created for you in everything you do. And we all need our brand to reflect who we are positively.

Why do we want to build a personal brand?

It is important for our customers to see us as allies. We need to mold perception and build trust, respect, understanding, insight, rapport, value and memorability so we can serve customers needs best.

How do we do this?

  1. Who are you to your customers?
    Define the attributes you have and want revealed to customers. Are you a trusted partner? Are you a valued resource? What is your value-added? Think like your customer for a moment and list the things you think they most value in you. Or better yet, ask them!
  2. Take these attributes and think of ways you can offer them everyday to the world. Think about the things you say and do that help instill these attributes.
  3. Find ways of distinguishing yourself.
    What are some things you can do to support these characteristics?
  4. Be genuine, never contrived.
    You can only build a personal brand successfully if it is truly who you are.
  5. Keep it simple.
    Simplify complex concepts reducing them to their essence. It will make it easier for you and others to embrace them. Remember, the answers lie within YOU!

Lastly, believe your strong personal brand and live it everyday, in everything you do. Remember, you bring it with you everywhere you go.

Visual Branding Gone Bad

Iconic clothing brand, The Gap, unveiled its new logo October 6th resulting in a frenzy of outraged designers.

Marka Hansen, President of Gap North America explains Gap’s need for a new brand logo: “It is one that we’ve had for more than 20 years and it should evolve. Our brand and our clothes are changing and rethinking our logo is part of aligning with that. We chose this design as it’s more contemporary and current. It honors our heritage through the blue box while still taking it forward.”

Louise Callagy, another Gap spokesperson, told Ad Age: “For the last two years we’ve been working on evolving the brand identity for Gap.”

Ms. Callagy said the retailer has been surprised by the response to the new logo, which was received well internally.

Two years to develop? “Received well internally?”

Sounds like this now infamous mark was the result of a logo designed by committee. It was “received well internally?” If only all of their customers were internal!

The Gap has now responded with its plan to ask others to share their own logo designs on their Facebook Page. Details are coming on this crowd sourcing project.

Personally, while I applaud The Gap’s effort from a PR standpoint, I don’t endorse its crowd sourcing from a philosophical one. Asking unpaid consumers to design a logo that will evolve The Gap’s brand, just undermines the necessary hard work that goes into a good logo design, or at least SHOULD go into a good logo design. Over the course of the two years they say was spent coming up with the “evolved” Gap brand, not one person at Gap thought to do consumer testing for the logo that is to potentially lead them through the next 20 years? I really don’t know everything about the process they used for this, but while I’m glad the new logo was “received well internally,” this is the type of self-centered thinking that can compromise the branding process and ultimately give branding a bad name.

I could probably write a whole post about what is wrong with Gap’s new logo, but something tells me you don’t need me to do that to convince you. Everything has been said about the use of the Helvetica font, and I agree that it was a poor choice. Beyond that, all physical space in a logo design should have meaning. When two shapes intersect, such as where the square intersects with the lower case “p”, the result should form a positive-negative space relationship that is strong, intentional and meaningful. It just seems, as if internally, since they all agreed they liked the old square they decided it is easy to keep it. Although they know they needed a brand evolution, they only regurgitated the existing image in a less meaningful form.

They now have to do something after last week’s onslaught of negative commentary. If you had told me two years ago that one poorly designed logo would inspire parody twitter accounts (see http:/twitter.com/gaplogo and http://twitter.com/oldgaplogo), parody websites like “Get your own crap logo”, and fervent dialog, all hemorrhaging negativity, all in less than a week’s time, I’d have been shocked. And so its crowd sourcing solution was probably the best response. If consumers were unimpressed with Gap’s effort and wanted more, what better way to rebuild brand loyalty and equity than to give them the power to see something they created become the company’s new visual mark?

Hopefully, Gap and others have learned or at least have been reminded of something from this experience. If you don’t do good solid branding, your customer will do it for you – positive or negative!


Ad Age reports that Gap will not be moving forward with their new logo.

It seems designers en masse not only dislike the new logo but are outspoken in their disdain for being needed to help fix the logo blunder with the proposed crowdsourcing project on Facebook. Gap has posted a message to FB saying the impending project is not related to the logo. Backpedaling?

It goes on….

Is this merely a poorly designed logo or is this poor comprehension of the brand internally? Was this redesign a marketing stunt? New strategies for the new paradigm?

Does this help or hinder Gap’s brand awareness?

If the logo is the result of Gap’s design firm (Laird and Partners) submitting to Gap’s internal team “vision”, how can this not reflect badly on Laird and Partners? Where do we, as designers, draw the line between integrity in what we do and the money we accept to do it. The client (customer) is always right?

Design Means

I have heard it said, design means being good, not just looking good.

When I graduated college with a degree in graphic design over 30 years ago, I was often asked, what is graphic design? This seems humorous now in a time where “graphic designers in the U.S, outnumber chemical engineers by four to one.”*

What I answered, then, is very different than what I would answer now.

Then: Graphic design is arranging type and art on a page to look good.

Now:  Graphic design is visually communicating with intent.

This brings up the question, is design just about looking good?

What is good design? It is definitely more than just “looking good”. Keep in mind, “design” can mean the design of anything.

Yes, good design serves a purpose. It is integral to everything we create with intent.

* A whole new mind: why right-brainers will rule the future by Daniel H. Pink.

Visual Metaphors For Memorable Communications

Metaphors are representations. They represent an idea but are not the idea itself.

We use visual metaphors in design to create a familiar experience for people by focusing on ideas and objects they understand. The metaphor associates two objects that appear unrelated at first but unconsciously, the mind makes the association almost immediately. So people stop and take a second look. You get more than 4.7 seconds with this creative strategy.

The strength of a successful visual metaphor is that it dramatizes the underlying benefit/risk thus encourages customers to create positive thoughts about a product and/or service. The smarter the metaphor – the more memorable the campaign.

The “tortoise and the hare” concept (below) works as an effective metaphor because it says to the customer, slow but steady will not help me succeed in my world. Good use of simple imagery helps reinforce this idea upon impact.

Cotter Visual Communications creative strategy

The “apples to apples” comparison (below) is an effective metaphor because when a product is perceived as a commodity with no apparent differences, it allows the customer to think, maybe there are differences. It is easy for people to understand and universally understood.

Cotter Visual Communications creative strategy

Smart advertisers use metaphors instead of outright claims because in a world of media overload it allows people to avoid advertising.

To sum up, metaphors are beneficial because they allow customers to:

– use their imagination;

– make positive associations with a product/service;

– come up with positive and sometimes misleading associations themselves – associations that are not written, just implied.

And guess what? People are less likely to argue against associations they come up with themselves, and more likely to remember and act on them!

Happy Logos

From swish to smile.

The swish inspired by the Nike “swoosh” has been a visual element used in logos for about 20 years now, and it seems it has finally seen its day. Make way for the rise of the “happy and friendly” smile!

And then a frown can turn it upside down.

What happens when we turn that smile upside down? We get a symbolic frown with an underlying subliminal message just the opposite of “happy and friendly”. When using an arc consider the intended meaning. Most often it is best to keep the upturn smiling. Just as in how we prefer seeing a graph travel an upward trend, even when the meaning is negative. Once again, perception and how we synthesize information is our ally.

Happy, fun, vibrant, fresh, friendly….

Another common visual element is the use of vibrant, bright colors representing youthful, happy and fun. The more vibrant color palettes easily help the brand visual stand out.

Color blends lend a unique variety of color yielding a distinctive look. Some of these logos were obviously meant to be used in full color only and will just not visually translate without the full array.

Often, it can be the most subtle visual elements that change an intended meaning.

What kind of messages is your brand identity communicating?

Show-Stopping Tradeshow Graphics

Four seconds!

That’s the amount of time you have to engage a prospects attention as they walk by your booth.

How do you achieve this? Show-stopping graphics are a great place to start.

Here are 10 Successful Strategies for Seizing Visual Impact.

1  A picture is worth a thousand words

Use photographic images. Images that evoke emotion engage people. Read post on visual images. Customers like to see people like themselves.

2  Showcase your corporate identity prominently

Your booth should be visible and legible from down an aisle on the showroom floor. A large booth header is always preferred and easily identifies your company from a distance.

3   Be recognizable

Your fonts need to be legible and an appropriate size so they will be readable at a quick glance and from a distance. Choose your fonts wisely. Some fonts are just not legible and are difficult to read, even at large sizes.

4  Message placement is key.
Use the upper half of the booth graphic for the most important message. When people are inside the booth area (assuming we are talking about a 10 x 10 ft booth) the bottom 3-4 ft is often not viewable from even a short distance.

5  Color helps your message stand out

Cool colors (blue and green) appear slick and professional. Warm colors (red and yellow) attract more attention, yet can be too strong if used inappropriately. It is most important to stay within your company’s color identity.

6  Build your visual brand

Use graphic elements from your existing marketing pieces. Consistency and continuity is the key to successful branding!

Read about visual synchronicity.

7  Convey benefits, not features

Give prospects a good reason to stop. What are you selling? Differentiate yourself from your competitors. Design your graphics to promote the benefits of your company products or services, not the features. Think like your prospect, “What’s in it for me?”

8  Be inviting, be memorable

Create a clean, warm environment people want to step into. Try not to box in too much of your space with tables or displays. Create an easy-in and easy-out.

9  Online integration

Include your web address in your design for people who might want to learn quietly before approaching. This is definately the least important message to convey on a booth graphic since your audience is right there with you. Use it as a sign-off in the bottom third of the graphic.

10  Big picture

Your booth design should be general enough to last a long time. Remember, it is only a backdrop and the overall big picture meant to pique a propects interest. It isn’t meant to tell the entire story.

The rest is up to you and your company ambassadors to create the conversations that lead to sales!