We all know a picture can say a thousand words, and that’s all good. But it’s much more interesting when an image says just one word.
After all, that’s what visual communication is all about – a symbol or icon that immediately communicates a word or meaning. Take away centuries of language, evolving alphabets, cultural differences and geography and we’d find ourselves in a place where we communicate through pictograms. From ancient cave drawings to modern workplace safety info-graphics – these systems are all intuitive. Ask a small child to draw a flower and everyone in the world would recognise it. OK, an easy example as it’s a physical shape in nature. But get them to draw a smile and it would be just as recognisable, and would intuitively suggest positivity. It’s built into our internal recognition system.
To shamelessly steal an example – in his book World Without Words, Michael Evamy talks about designing warning graphics for nuclear waste sites. These sites contain nuclear waste with a half-life of 10,000 years. So creating a ‘keep clear of this area or you’ll be up s**t creek’ sign, which will deliver that message for such a significant time period, is no easy task.
You can’t rely on language, as it’s too likely to change. You can’t rely on technology, as it becomes out of date so quickly. To communicate far into the future, you need to learn from the past, and rely on intuitive visual symbols.
Companies have been represented by symbols since branding began. Now we call them ‘logos’. Sometimes they express a theme, a quality or a service. Sometimes they don’t say much at all; it’s simply about recognition. But the best ones are the simplest – the ones that communicate one thing, globally and intuitively.
Look at Target – it’s a target. No matter who or where you are, that symbol communicates the word ‘target’. Look at Apple Inc. – it’s an apple. There’s no disputing that. The logo communicates the name, whereas the quality and personality of the brand come through from the products, stores and experiences. The logo only needs to say ‘this is an apple’.
In today’s ever-shrinking world it’s essential for brands to be globally accepted, especially if the brand lives in a digital space. We applied this logic recently when we rebranded a global football (soccer) portal. They came to us knowing they needed global appeal and recognition, in a category where their sport is pronounced differently around the world and so is their brand name.
Fortunately for us, they had a million dollar name… Goal.
The job was simple: keep the symbol as clean as possible to retain the universal recognition. The less design, the better. We all know that logos alone do not make a brand. With such a simple logo we had to express the brand’s personality and values at every touch point. Put it all together and you have a truly global brand with bags of personality.
But with such a simple design comes a complicated problem. How do you encourage the client to buy your single-minded solution? Many a client would try and add bells and whistles to make it ‘ownable’ or say a little more. It takes a brave client to buy into, and fight for something so simple. To not overcook an idea. To do less, better. So thank you Goal, for not making another all singing all dancing brand marque, but grabbing the opportunity to own a universal symbol.
Take a look at the full case study here.
Written by Simon Morrow