What’s in a logo?
A great law firm logo can provide the nucleus for all the marketing materials a company uses to brand itself beyond its competitors. So what is a logo? A logo is a symbol or other design adopted by an organization to identify its products.
When considering branding, remember to separate the company’s product/service from the company’s marketing of said product/service. Great branding, more often than not, is born from one simple, smart idea. That idea, at least with great brands, is often encapsulated in the company’s logo. And the logo, itself, becomes the basis for the rest of the company’s great branding.
The Mark Of Great Branding
Consider the FedEx brand. The product/service is, essentially, superlative worldwide delivery. FedEx’s marketing consistently delivers messaging that reinforces that FedEx is the best at delivery, whether it’s because they are the fastest, offer the best price, go to the most places, etc. Their marketing consistently, and often very creatively, brands the company as the best at getting things from point A to point B.You see their trucks and vans everywhere and package delivery literally changed the day the brand was launched.
From a branding perspective, FedEx may have the most brilliant logo of all time. Why? Because of the arrow. You’ve seen the arrow a million times, but most folks outside of advertising, marketing or design, don’t “see” it. The arrow in the logo is the graphic demonstration of getting things from A to B. The logo encapsulates what the brand is all about. And the rest of their marketing and advertising emphasizes this as well.
For a brand that gets things from A to B, their logo, based solely on the company’s name, accomplishes a great deal with the smallest of design elements. Once you’ve seen the arrow, you never not see it again. They manage to incorporate the arrow into the logo for other languages, as is the case here, in Arabic:
And for those consumers who don’t see the arrow, all they see is the huge branding of the company’s name. Whether you think it’s brilliant or not, as we think about branding your law practice, think about whether there’s an opportunity to create a logo with your firm’s name. The subtler it is, the better it can work. As long as the design element incorporated within the name is true to the service being offered and isn’t just for the sake of designing.
This brings us to an important point. As important as your logo is, we advise not to over-think it. It’s easy to get caught up in a design vortex, fixating over fonts seemingly forever. Trust your gut. Look for the immediate response your peers give upon seeing proposed logos.
Nonetheless, attorneys often overlook their logos, to their marketing peril. You should take the time to create or evolve your logo to stand the test of time and help brand your law firm effectively over time.
A newer logo that’s on par with FedEx, is the one for Amazon:
This logo captures the brand offering (shop for everything from “a” to “z”) with, literally, a smile. It’s efficient. It’s bold. It also is focused on the company name, which is important for law firms, who use their name as the essential element of their logos. The logos for Amazon and FedEx make logo creation look easy. As with everything else in life, where the practitioner makes the job look easy, it rarely is, especially for novices. For attorneys, looking to create a logo for their small law firm, what’s important is to find ways to make your name-based logo stand out and be memorable to potential new clients.
But, what else makes a logo great? You recognize it with the quickest of glances. You immediately know what it stands for, although for the great ones, this can be largely because of the massive amounts of marketing that have delivered the logo to us. Consider one of the most famous logos of all time:
Nike’s “swoosh” is an obvious example of a great logo. It’s so effective that the name of the brand doesn’t have to be seen with the logo to know what brand it is. We also know that this symbol stands for “Just Do It”, again, now, without even having to see that tagline written with it. Now, again, this is largely due to their massive marketing efforts. Still, it’s a symbol that clearly stands for the Nike brand. It emotes feelings of determination and kicking butt, whether in a professional stadium or on a back road near your home in the middle of nowhere. A great logo literally tells you what to feel, think and do.
Admittedly, this will be much more of a challenge for a law firm. But hopefully this discussion will help you clarify what your firm’s logo should stand for and what it should look like. More about this in a bit. But first, let’s look at another great logo:
Apple’s apple. Think about how this symbol emotes different feelings inside you, compared to Nike’s “swoosh”. The apple stands for tech ingenuity, creativity and thinking different. iPhones, iPads, iTunes, whenever you see the apple with a bite out of it, you know immediately what brand it is, and you have thoughts and feelings that emanate from this symbol. But, for our purposes, we want to share with you how, unlike Nike’s logo, how Apple’s logo has evolved through the years:
In fact, most logos evolve. Apple’s first logo incorporated Isaac Newton, under a tree. It was a baroque illustration and seems almost naïve by today’s standards. But Apple’s logo evolved into a rainbow apple for over twenty years, then to the black apple in ‘98, and then into the glass today. This apple is on every box, product, commercial, even on the front of their beautifully designed stores. It is ubiquitous in our culture. So, important for this lesson and your law firm’s logo, most logos evolve.
Part of it has to do with how a company grows, along with what it offers, as well as how a brand evolves from being a local, to regional, to national to a global brand. And part of it has to do with how our society has come to need the simplest of marks to connote a brand because consumers are bombarded with so many messages every day. And part of it has to do with the need for logos to be used on so many different types of materials, formats and media.
Next, consider Johnnie Walker.
Johnnie Walker was the first scotch sold around the world, and their logo, the striding man, captured the spirit (pun intended) of the brand perfectly. In the ‘90’s, Johnnie Walker decided to evolve their striding man logo. The new Striding Man was used as they expanded their brand from their Red and Black labels to include Gold, Blue and Green, as well as in global communications for the brand.
In fact, it’s used as an integral part of their global advertising, the Keep Walking campaign.
Next, along with the reality that almost every logo evolves, is the reality that most brands simply use their name as the basis of their logo.
A lot of the major, well established brands have always done this. They may treat their name with a certain shape, or color, or gradation, but their logo is essentially their name. Not a picture of an object that stands for their name, like a swoosh.
And today’s generation of new brands also tend to base their logo on their name. The use of the company name as the logo is very relevant for law firms, where the brand is essentially you, the attorneys. And, more often than not, brand logos across industries today are grounded in the company name.
LawLytics follows this path as well.
We feel our name’s uniqueness and how it conveys our brand offering substantiate using it as our logo. We use shades of blue to accentuate our name as logo in the various places you’ll find it. When your brand’s name is unique, as when it is the core to what your brand offers, as with law firms, using your name as your logo is the rock solid approach.
What About Law Firm Logos?
Ask yourself, what separates your law firm brand from others? It is, most likely, you and the other attorneys at the firm. It may also be some of the cases you’ve won, if they garnered good press. Does your web presence reflect this? Are you leveraging and sharing with the world what makes your law firm brand different from your competition? When a potential client is looking for representation, what will they find out about your brand? Only you can answer this. And, depending on your answer, you can spread the word about this.
Consider the logos for Winston and Strawn, Jones, Day, and Shearman & Sterling:
Their fonts are very old-school and has a distinguished feel. They are old, conservative firms with lots of corporate clients. Once you find your font, consider the various ways to treat your name-based logo. Stacking, spreading out, intermeshing and other ways of designing the names are all options.
Next consider the color you will use for the font, as well as the field that surrounds the name.
There’s a ton of source material to refer to about the effect different colors have on viewer’s cognition, interpretation and connotation with colors. We believe it really comes down to what you feel represents you and your firm best.
This attorney uses a compass, a symbol of direction and knowing where you’re going. It is fairly unique for an attorney logo. It’s well designed, tastefully handled and unique for an attorney logo.
One reason it’s unique is that, for attorneys, the icons used in logos, tend to be gavels, scales of justice and columns. Each of these icons can be powerful, but they must be treated with a uniqueness. Don’t let a marketer sell you a logo with a stock image of a cliché’ icon. Demand, at least that any icon be treated, aesthetically, in a way that reflects you and your practice.
Mr. Bly’s logo also fits well with the state where he practices, Maine, where a maritime feel is quite appropriate. His use of blue underscores this. The compass also anchors the entire logo, giving it a solid, firm foundation. Mr. Bly’s practice focuses on criminal and DUI defense, and his clients tend to be in a sea of troubles, looking for someone who can provide a direction out of their troubles. The gradation in the color in the text of his name gives the logo personality and enhances the readability. This logo is an example of a really solid design, and the compass is a large part why, that truly represents the lawyer and his practice.
Back to gavels, scales and columns for a second. In general, these icons are, what we in advertising call, quick-reads. They stand for justice, fairness and the institution of the law, while a compass stands for direction and finding one’s way. Gavels, scales and columns are powerful, but they need to be designed in a way that makes them unique to the law firm, as in the case here:
Glendening’s logo has a unique treatment of the scale of justice, lynch-pinning nicely with the letter “G”. Glendening has a criminal defense practice, and nothing speaks louder to defendants than fairness and justice. Glendening is a female attorney with a solo practice. The color palette reflects her personality well.
Another thing to keep in mind, when considering an icon to accompany your name in your logo, is what your main competitors are doing with their logos. Do you really want to use a gavel if your three main competitors are also using a gavel? Of course not. So, like any smart brand, do a quick audit of your main competitors and eliminate their iconography from the field of considerations for your logo.
Here is an example of a logo that uses the scales in un-creative way:
It is literally a stock icon of scales. There is nothing unique about it. Considering that the firm emphasizes estate and tax planning is completely lost in the logo treatment. There are risks in having a forgettable logo. This firm probably has a vibrant practice, and given that the firm has 25 years experience, they, no doubt, are doing a lot of things right. They may be the very best in their practice area, the best in their community, but their logo sells them short. Maybe the wanted a logo that, um, truly reflected their name. We don’t want to pick on them for, like many attorneys, they may be too busy with their practice to think about about their logo.
Your law firm’s marketing will benefit from unified branding. The cornerstone of your branding is your logo. It needs to be as genuine and as unique as you and your practice are. It needs to stand apart from your competitors. It needs to be an easy read in every media. But, to be clear, your logo, and all of your marketing for that matter, is nowhere near as important as the reputation you develop throughout your career. In advertising, there is an unspoken rule that the worst thing for a bad product, is great advertising. As you build your practice, and develop the reputation you deserve, marketing can help spread the word.
All of your marketing should be branded with your logo. Hopefully, you’re convinced you to go beyond simply having a generic text-based logo without any visual highlight whatsoever. Make your logo reflect you and it will serve you well as the sign-off for every piece of marketing, PR, and correspondence that leaves your office.
Creating a great, representative logo shouldn’t require moving mountains. Still, don’t fall for any marketing ploy that “mails it in”, treating your logo simply as text on a page. A generic logo is an invisible logo. When potential new clients are searching the web for an attorney, the little things, like your logo, can make the difference.
Answer the five questions on this slide and you’ll be well on your way to laying the foundation for your firm’s logo creation:
- What does your law firm stand for?
- What do your competitors stand for?
- Does your name say it all? If so, that’s your logo. Treat it (design it) wisely.
- Could your logo benefit from an icon or other design treatment to highlight your practice area or philosophy?
- Could a tagline help your logo stand apart and attract more potential new clients?
We suggest hiring a professional to design your logo. It’s a philosophy that’s akin to the one about the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. When dealing with designers, emphasize the need for your logo to stand out from your competitors, to be legible and printable anywhere, and to be a quick read.
Fonts, Kerning & Symbols
Double check the kerning and symbology of any logo created for you. The kerning is the spacing between each letter and between each word. Here’s an example of poor kerning in a logo:
The result from a poorly kerned logo may be humorous to some, but certainly not to the owner of the business or potential clients. The same effect of poor kerning can occur when the font itself, rather than the kerning, delivers a poor result:
While humorous, these present valid learning points for attorneys who create their own logo.
Another concern happens when designers attempt to anthropomorphize letters in a logo to create human-like symbols:
By attempting to make the letter “K” (which is the first letter in the company’s name) into people, the result is a logo that’s sure to get more laughs than intended.
The same kind of issue can occur when designers incorporate symbols into a logo. Be sure to share any potential new logo with a good selection of people you trust. Different sets of eyes pick up on different aspects of a logo, and usually someone in a group will spot any potential problem, like with this logo:
If your designer utilizes an icon, be sure conduct a focus group of your own, to make sure you’re not over-looking a potentially embarrassing result. Another way to approach any potential new logo is to ask, if your logo walked into court, would everyone know it’s you?
To start with, earlier this year, Phaidon Press published a revised and expanded edition of Per Mollerup’s “Marks of Excellence”. It’s one of the tomes of the design world.
Mollerup, Professor of Communication Design at Swinburne University of Technology, ran Designlab, the award-winning design office in Copenhagen for 25 years up until ‘09. He’s a master of design. And Marks of Excellence shows why. It contains practically every famous big brand logo, as well as their evolution. The evolution of a logo is an important concept for law firms to embrace. As your firm grows and evolves over time, as the emphasis of your practice change, your logo can evolve as well. But it must be handled wisely.
Another book about logos that’s perfect for attorneys who are starting their own practice, and therefore are in need of a new logo, is David Airey’s “Logo Design Love” (published by New riders, 2010). Airey’s book isn’t just for designers, but rather, perfect for anyone interested in how logos are created. It’s easy to read and provides a great description of the process involved with making a logo. He uses lots of real-life examples
“Logo Design Love” is a brilliant guide to best practices and includes some great, practical tips for designing logos. Airey also wisely included contributions from some legendary logo designers, like Lindon Leader, who created the Cigna logo, as well as the FedEx brand identity system, and Gerard Huerta, who designed the logos for Time magazine and Waldenbooks. The book really delves into the different ways designers work when creating logos.
For anyone who doesn’t want to buy the book, check out Airey’s blog of the same name (as the book). There’s a lot of helpful information about logos and the design process there as well. He’s a veteran in the design world and his helpful insights can help attorneys when they are dealing with their own designers.
There are a lot of resources out there regarding logos. But the above are must-sees for anyone exploring the creation, or evolution, of their own logo. They include a lot of “best practices”, which will serve you well. And, even if you don’t design your own logo, you’ll be armed with some very salient talking points and review criteria when directing any designer who’s working for you.
Fun Fact: Apple’s first logo was designed by co-founder Ronald Wayne and features Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree with a phrase from Wordsworth: ”Newton ‘A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought Alone.”