Let’s start with the term ‘brand’

It is one of the most overused, yet misunderstood terms in the world of marketing and advertising. Many people assume that once you’ve nailed your logo, your brand is complete. However, although your logo plays a very important part, it is not the only thing that completes it. Your brand is not just your product, location or you as an individual, it is the way your audience feels about you, how you are perceived; a brand is intangible—and the value comes from inner feelings.

Often a business invests in creative workshops to define and refine their brand’s personality, to nail it’s core and USP, or even to gain clarification on what audience they’re speaking to. All of these elements help to create a valuable brand.

So, you’ve spent endless hours perfecting your tone of voice, logo, marketing materials and your shop front for example. To make an impact with all of these elements, they must be kept consistent. Brand guidelines are designed by businesses like ours to help protect the consistency and strength of your brand so that it continues to create value for your business. After all, YOUR personality doesn’t change depending on who you speak to, what city you’re in or what you’re doing, therefore neither should your businesses. Brand guidelines explain the fundamental parts of your brand identity and how these elements should be used. Your brand guidelines should act as a manual for whoever works with your brand including employees, designers, marketing agencies, printers or the press.

In the rest of this blog post, I want to delve into logo rules in particular that you may not realise are there. I will use two of our rebranding client case studies, M&M Property and STL Partners, to explain these rules.

Your logo is what customers will recognise you by and associate you with. It will have been carefully crafted to be a symbolic visual device that summarises the personality, mood and feeling of your brand. It has to be used consistently if it’s going to be memorable, valuable and successful.

Your logo is what customers will recognise you by and associate you with.

Rule 1: Isolation Area

One rule that you may not know about, when designers create and apply your logo, is something called an ‘Isolation Area’. This is an invisible box that surrounds and guards your logo from any other design elements encroaching into it’s personal space. This could potentially confuse the audience or take the strength and impact of your logo away. For example, the image below shows a logo that we created for our wonderful clients STL Partners. The isolation area is measured by one of the segments that makes up the S, T and L icon. This isolation area should never have anything encroaching into it.

Here’s an ugly example of what could happen if this rule isn’t followed:

bad example of logo placement

As you can see, your eyes don’t know where to look and the logo is overpowered by text and colour. This is because the isolation area rule has not been followed and the text and coloured blocks are far too close. There is no room for the text to ‘breathe’!

Logo isolation area example

Rule 2: Positioning

The positioning of a logo itself is not generally something that could go wrong, but let’s never say never. Usually, a logo orientation speaks for itself, but sometimes there’s an additional rule for where it should appear on a page within a layout. For example, a logo could have been designed to always be positioned at the top centre of a page, or at the bottom right corner etc. You get the picture.

In logo guides, there are often suggestions of how NOT to use the logo too, almost like a dummies guide. See an example of this below.

Bad example of logo positioning

Rule 3: Colour

Now we’ve looked at logo placement, it’s time to turn our attention to colour; something a brand should be distinctly recognised by.

See The Fast Company’s post of well known examples where the colours have been swapped:

As you can see from the examples beside, it’s striking how different the brands look when used in the incorrect colours. This is because of the emotional connection a person makes with colour after it has been reinforced through consistent use.

Logo colour examples
reversed colour logo examples

All brand guidelines contain clear advice on correct colour use. These are broken down into CMYK, RGB, Hex Codes and Pantone values. Each of these has specific uses, for example CMYK is used in design for print and RGB is used for screen. You can see an example of our colour guides for STL Partners below. In this example we’ve added further detail by mapping out 75% tints as well as two gradient options.

Colour breakdown examples

Take a look at our client M&M Property’s logo as an example:

M&M Property logo correct colour
M&M Property logo incorrect colour

You can see below how jarring and confusing the logo can look when the colour rules are not followed. Colour choice in design can often place a brand in a certain industry. This example could be a marshmallow brand or something, totally unrelated to property – URGH!

Rule 4: Grayscale

When a logo is used in grayscale, it needs to be used correctly so that the structure of the logo is not lost. On the right is an example of STL Partners’ logo, where their grayscale rules have not been followed. The separation of the segments in the S, T and L characters are normally defined by colour, therefore you cannot see the separations when using the same tone of grey in each segment. This lessens the impact and the meaning behind the design is lost.

STL Logo incorrect greyscale usage

The example on the right shows the logo in grayscale when the rules HAVE been followed. As you can see, the segments that create the S, T and L are clearly defined and the concept is still apparent.

STL Partners correct greyscale usage

Rule 5: Wordmark and Typography

Fonts have a massive impact on your visual language and tone of voice; they say SO much about your brand. Usually there will be a selection of fonts chosen for your wordmark, heading, sub heading and body copy. These rules are put in place for consistency and to create hierarchy, which is important for legibility. They also protect against unwanted scenarios – it would be weird having a paragraph of body copy larger and bolder than the heading, right? The image below shows how we display this section of guidelines.

STL Partners typography examples

Imagine if the M&M Property logo, as you’ve seen throughout this blog post, used a hand written font! Ew!

M&M Logo wrong typeface

When designing a logo, the whole wordmark structure is carefully considered and designed to look beautiful. Kerning, tracking and leading are all taken into account when we craft the design and these things have been specifically tweaked to fit each individual brand. This means that the wordmark should never be typed out by an end user – it is a fixed lock-up with the logo. In other words, never mess with the typography that sits with your logo, look what could potentially happen below (even when the same font is used) UH OH!

M&M Logo typography bad example
M&M Logo typography bad example
M&M Logo correct typography

To Conclude

I hope I’ve shown the importance of getting to know your way around your brand. Brand guidelines help and I hope that this post has given you some insight into the logo rules that you maybe didn’t realise were there.

Does your brand have solid guidelines to protect your visual identity? Is your brand itself creating the value you hoped it would? If not, you might be interested in our bespoke brand workshops. If that’s you, then please do get in touch. We would love to help you create something powerful, consistent and lasting—it’s what we are passionate about and get excited by!

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