How do you communicate something effectively and concisely to people who don’t share a common language?
Don’t rely on language.
Wyman’s Wordless Wayfinding
The fact that good design doesn’t always require words is especially relevant at a major international event like the Olympic Games, where visitors who speak dozens of different languages are trying to find their way around.
“A person who doesn’t speak the local language is just as illiterate in a strange country as someone who can’t read at all. We’re all illiterate if we don’t understand how information is presented.”
It was on this foundation that the 1968 Mexico City Olympics graphic design team, lead by Lance Wyman, built a system of pictograms and color coding into the event branding.
Even with less translation, information became accessible to more people. You didn’t need to know Spanish or French or English, because coordinated tickets, signs, banners, and information kiosks would guide you to the right venue and all the way to your seat.
“As Wyman says, ‘Graphic design became an important visual ambassador.’ […] The clear pictograms and distinctive colors […] helped to reinforce a sense of place and create a memorable Mexican identity.”
For all the non-verbal signage, the logo itself is the most text-focused of any Olympic City. The lines of the stylized “Mexico 68” were inspired in part by pre-Colombian Huichol art, yet the overall effect is mod 1960s.
“Has any design scheme so perfectly caught the graphic spirit of the times […] ? [Wyman and his collaborators] worked out a geometric fantasia of concentric stripe patterns that expanded to engulf a custom alphabet, groovy minidresses, and eventually entire stadia.”
On April 30, I partcipated in LaidOffCamp Phoenix as a volunteer, speaker and sponsor (providing volunteer buttons). The free, one-day event provides people looking for work (full-time employment or freelance) with information and resources to help them find it.
The event had a LOCPHX record of 330 attendees at the Chandler Community Center. The day’s workshops were divided into 5 tracks: finding a job, starting your own business, community building/networking, surviving layoff, and tools. Attendees were encouraged to stay connected after the event via LinkedIn and Twitter.
My talk, “Branding on a Small Business Budget,” was part of the small business track, but most of my points could apply to individual/personal branding, as well. There were several great questions from the audience after the talk, so we got to discuss additional branding and design issues that were on people’s minds.
The next LOCPHX event is scheduled for this October. There has also been some discussion about LaidOffCamp events being held in other parts of the Valley. Keep an eye on the LaidOffCamp Phoenix Twitter account for updates.
AudienceAudit came to us looking for business cards and suggestions on how to update their branding.
They already had a logo and a tagline (“Connect with your customers”).
However, the logo did not visually convey the connection central to the tagline, and, in fact, the business. It was as if an invisible line separated the “audience” side (with darker colors) and the (lighter) “audit” side.
To make the logo feel more cohesive, we recommended a small change. By simply reversing the dots’ color pattern (going from light to dark instead of vice versa), the updated logo suggests two-way communication – both company and customer understanding the message the other is sending – and has a more balanced look.
We put the tagline into a handwriting font, to emphasize the human touch.
Finally, we designed a two-sided business card that puts the focus on connection – right where it should be.
You shouldn’t mess with your logo more than necessary. It’s the symbol of your company, and symbolism doesn’t change overnight.
If/when the time comes to update your logo, the change should be just that – an update. It should keep the essence of your brand intact, while adapting to changes in your company.
Starbucks has done a great job of this through the years. Their most recent update removes the logo’s text, making it a more global symbol. It holds onto the mermaid imagery and signature shade of green. It’s cleaner while still instantly recognizable.
The redesign of the Seattle’s Best Coffee logo, on the other hand, is a superb example of what not to do.
Clearly using a different playbook than its parent company (yep, Starbucks), Seattle’s Best threw out the old logo in its entirety – serif font, old fashioned (if dated) charm and all – and went with something critics say looks generic or, worse, like a blood bank logo. (For some reason, my first thought was that it looked like an icon from an airplane bathroom. Maybe labeling some mysterious cabinet wedged in between the paper towels and the tissues.)
A company usually decides to change its logo because it’s growing. If it’s growing, it must be doing something right. Why not build on what’s right about your brand instead of starting at square one?
Fast Company’s article “The Brand Called You” is filled with insights on personal branding. Although it was first published over 10 years ago (in the days of yore before Twitter and Facebook), the principles hold true.
5. What’s Your One Thing? What’s the soul of your brand. What’s the one thing that defines you – and it’s not features and benefits. Volvo = Safety. Apple = Innovation. Disney = Magic. What’s on the other side of your = sign?
Note: This is not easy to figure out. You may need to engage in some brand anthropology, and have an agency help you find your one thing.
Just like in life, you can be whoever you want to be. You don’t have to cater to what people think you should do or what they think you should say. You have total freedom as a company to direct your brand wherever you want to go. But you do have to be consistent, otherwise you’re going to confuse people. Are you the version of you that they met online, or are you really the salesperson that’s pushing them out the door? Are you the company that offline said they’d go above and beyond to ensure customer satisfaction or are you the online retailer who know won’t make a wrong order right?
Figure out and then bleed it from every pore. All out. There’s no middle ground.