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Living Visual Identities The changing role of logos in brand expression

Rohit Banka AOP - Branding and Identity MA Visual Communication Birmingham Institute of Art & Design 2009-2010

1 How and why are logos changing their role in brand communication?


Origin of thought / Paul Rand: what is the role of a logo? / Is it really important to have a logo, to brand or develop a visual image for a company? / My encounter with the New Museum identity.

“It’s official. The age of the static brand is coming to an end. Organisations, companies, institutions, even charities are realizing that having identity schemes that ‘flex’ and adapt to circumstances are more appropriate in the multi-channel, multi-lingual world that brands now inhabit.” by Michael Johnson

3 / Unconventional concept / Flexible and never ending visual idea / Form follows function

My own learning needs / A step ahead from Research Methods 1 / Relevance to Visual Practice 2 / Relevance in the current and future practice in branding


The role of a logo in brand expression / A logo is the face of a brand / It doesn’t sell directly, it identifies / A logo derives its meaning from the thing it symbolises / A logo, like a signature, functions as a promise / Is logo the only visual element which identifies a brand?

“Although the logo is a vital element of a brand identity, it is a component of a larger system of expression. While important, it is limited in its ability to express emotion and convey meaning. As such, the visual system as a whole is a far more important consideration than the logo in isolation.�

by Christopher Armstrong September 2008 Interbrand, Toronto


Where does the visual identity fit in the world of brand expression?

Name Tone of voice Messaging Tagline

Verbal Expression

Logo Typography Image style Colour Layout

Visual Expression


Definition: Flexible (adj.) 1. capable of bending easily without breaking. 2. able to change or be changed to respond to different circumstances.

Important Terms Definition: Identity (n) 1. the fact of being who or what a person or thing is. 2. the characteristics determining this. 3. a close similarity or affinity. / Two important qualities: Suggestiveness and Recall / Identification is achieved by recognition. Recognition implies repetitionIs / Is repetition the only answer for recognition?


Definition: System (n) An organized set of ideas or theories or a particular way of doing sth: the British educational system a new system for assessing personal tax bills a system of government.

8 Grid designed by Jan Tschichold

9 Definition: Living Identity System (self constructed) A set of devices that operates with the help of pre established rules in order to identify something or someone, at the same time having a capability to change or adapt to different circumstances, hence keeping it alive at any given point of time.

Past branding / Lacks consistency / Hard to find a strong identifier / Static and quiet / Campaigns ideas

Static versus living visual identity V&A museum

Current branding / Logo becomes an important identifier / Flexible and highly adaptable system / Each time its provides a new identity altogether / Dual work: Promotion + Identification


Living visual identity Aol. “Aol. is a 21st century media company, with an ambitious vision for the future and new focus on creativity and expression, this required the new brand identity to be open and generous, to invite conversation and collaboration, and to feel credible, but also aspirational,� Karl Heiselman-Wolff Olins CEO

/ Identifier : Word Mark / Highly flexible and adaptable but recall value is questionable



Visual identity elements

Model 1

Model 2

Model 3










Visual style




graphic motifs


Touch & Sound


Other devices



Typography Environment


Image style 5th Element

by Matthew Healey What is branding?


by Tony Spaeth

by Per Mollerup

My own model

Living visual identity LBi / Open brief: Lost Boys International is more intriguing / 2 Identifier: Image style & Typeface (Better recall value) / Flexible element: Name / Flexible & adaptable system / Could be pathbreaking


Identifier: Colour

Identifier: Typography / Grid / Layout

Identifier: 5th element - Packaging

? 18

If logos are defined as the identifiers for the organisation, can other visual identifiers replace logos as primary identifiers ?

When living identity system can become chaos ?


/ When it looses a balance between fixed and non-fixed identifiers / It is vital to have at-least one fixed identifier for a successful living identity system

“Identify the appropriate balance between structure and flexibility. Too much flexibility results in complete chaos, too much structure results in lifeless communications.� Jerry Kuyper standards_manuals.htm

Feasibility of LVI systems / ‘Santa Barbara Museum of Art’ failed / Possible with the advancement of technology and creative softwares / Project duration gets longer / Issuing a brand manual becomes a tougher task / Need a constant monitoring and amendments / Require a professional design team to execute the system



Seed a story - At the heart of a living identity is a powerful brand narrative. This is a seed from which everyone – from agencies to the public – can grow their own stories about the brand. Given the rise of social media, it is essential that a brand narrative has the strength and flexibility needed to thrive in the uncontrolled hands of people outside the business.


by Ben Wolstenholme Moving Brands



/ LVI systems can be used as powerful strategies / Dual Work: Strong Identification value + promotional value / Traditional identity or Living visual identity system, designer need to decide as per what the brief asks for / Consider having atleast one fixed identifier while designing a Living visual identity / “Logos only die when they are a part of a fixed system that can’t respond to a changing world” - Moving Brands

“Beautifully Inconsistent - Just like people, brands should adapt according to where they are, what they’re doing and what others are doing around them. This is why we’re interested in how a brand should sound, feel, smell, taste and act, as well as how it looks. Conventional, static identities often shout ‘I’m here!’; living identities inspire conversation.” by Ben Wolstenholme Moving Brands paged=1&living=1#

“We’re much more interested in the many different ways a

Learning Outcomes

brand inspires people to think about – and contribute to – it’s story. This could be anything

/ Consider Identities as systems

from a colour to a sound,

/ To innovate (challenge the convention)

gesture, image, material or

/ To question the basics of logo design

phrase. Think about Apple’s

/ Consider using all the five senses

pinch or swipe. Think about

/ Logos can be played with, if there is a purpose

Intel’s sonic mnemonic. Think

/ Logos as primary identifiers, can be questioned

about the brown delivery vehicles of UPS. The way a brand’s different elements combine over time is what really brings it to life.” by Ben Wolstenholme Moving Brands paged=1&living=1#


Questions, thoughts, arguments... ?

Rohit Banka

Living Visual Identity  

The Changing Role of Logos in Brand Expression

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