Brand consistency is a phrase that you will hear people in our field say again and again. And again. Style guides, color palettes, font families… all of these things make up the “rules” of your look and feel, and they are important to the strength of your brand. As designers, we are trained to consider the brand in relation to any project that we do. Watering down your look by introducing new elements can make your brand less effective and can limit recognition.
Then again, rules are made to be broken… so when is it okay to change your logo? To clarify, I’m not talking about re-branding and creating a new logo for your company – that is a conversation for another time. It is, however, sometimes acceptable to alter your existing logo for a specific purpose. There are several reasons that you might want to do this, but there are also some important considerations that come into play.
A general rule is to focus on small alterations with a significant purpose – in other words, it should make sense. Here is an example: the S.A.F.E. Schools Fund has a logo that is a padlock superhero character. Usually, he is used in entirety in the brand’s warm gray and red palette. However, every year the organization hosts a “woman-less pageant” fundraiser that has become very popular in the community and very significant to their brand. For this event, a modified character—wearing heels, a crown, and a feather boa, of course—is used in place of the original logo for all of the marketing pertaining to this specific event. It remains consistent by using the same proportions and shape as the original logo character, but also has unique elements that set it apart. It is different, but there is a clear link to the overall brand.
Color palettes are a part of the brand that people often want to change, but constantly presenting your logo in a different color can make it look like you don’t have a good feel for your company. If it’s a necessity, be mindful about the change. For example, what if you are embroidering some shirts but your brand colors won’t show up very well on the fabric color? Often a reversed or one-color version is a great solution for this purpose. Remember, the shirt color becomes part of the palette as well – how do they work together? If you wouldn’t use that color in your branding, there’s a good chance that you should re-think the palette.
Before changing your logo, consider what you are trying to accomplish. Would an add-on to your current logo be a viable option? Recently, Xenith Bank created a foundation that needed it’s own identifier. A completely new logo would have distanced the initiative from it’s parent company. Instead, a tagline was added to the original Xenith logo to identify the foundation but still work within the overarching company brand.
Frequency should also be considered. Do you feel the need to change or modify your logo often? Why? To us, this is a red flag that says your current branding may not be the right visual for your company anymore. If that’s the case, an update or even a full re-brand might be in order.
So, yes, sometimes we will give you special designer permission to use an altered version of your logo (GASP!) but—as Spider-Man knows— with great power comes great responsibility. If you can’t verbally and/or visually connect the changes back to your brand, you run the risk of doing more harm than good. In the end, the strength of your overall brand image should matter more than trying to fit in with the latest trend.