They say that “a picture paints a thousand words” and while the identity of who “they” are remains a mystery, one thing is for certain: “they” were right.
A logo is essentially a picture, or rather an image or symbol that conveys a message. The logo must express your message and tell your audience something about yourself or your company, without words. Design purists will argue that a logo is, in it’s truest form, just a symbol. Not words. In all honesty, there are very few brands in the world that have succeeded in establishing their identities with just a symbol: one notable exception being Nike. When we see the Nike “swoosh” we know instantly that it’s Nike, and because Nike is so well established in the athletic industry, we know what the swoosh represents (Nike was the Greek God of victory, by the way). Not many companies achieve that level of success, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be your goal.
A design that uses words as an identifying mark (logo) is technically referred to as a ‘logotype’. In the outdoor industry, for example, Cabela’s is a well known brand, yet Cabela’s doesn’t have a “logo” per se (not according to the purist’s definition of a logo). The name Cabela’s is spelled out in a font treatment that is easily recognizable and is in fact, Cabela’s graphic identity.
So what we’ve got are logos and logotypes, which are two different approaches to the same challenge: establishing a visual identity and conveying a message. To the client seeking a visual identity to represent their company or product, it doesn’t matter what it’s called. Whether a symbol or a stylized word or words, it must be unique and memorable. And the only way to arrive at that result is by having a custom logo designed.
Less is more.
A beautifully detailed design with lots of colors and gradient fills may look pretty when viewed at a certain size, but what happens to all that detail when you shrink the design down to be 48 x 48 pixels? The beauty is lost, and so is the effectiveness of the logo. In other words, if your message can’t be conveyed visually in a simple manner, then the logo doesn’t work. Certainly every client has different needs, and some businesses lend themselves to a busier logo, but it still has to hold up to different types of reproduction at a variety of sizes and minimum of colors. The lowest common denominator is black and white. Aim low. In the outdoor industry, a popular practice is to brand caps and clothing with embroidered logos. Embroidery has it’s limitations, and if your logo is too complex even the best embroidery shop in the world won’t be able to do justice to your logo.
Who needs a logo?
Anyone competing in a public space for the attention of an audience needs a unique brand to set themselves apart from the competition. Whether you’re an outdoor retailer offering product to the marketplace, a fishing tackle manufacturer, a professional hunting outfitter, or perhaps just an outdoor blogger sharing their thoughts with the world—you need a logo: something that is unique to you that sets you apart from others engaged in a similar venture.
What value should you place on a logo?
Answer that question by asking yourself this: how do you want your audience and customers to perceive you? If you are a large company involved in some aspect of the outdoor industry, you need no convincing to know the value in a good logo. But a small company should not sacrifice the quality of their brand just because they’re “the little guy”. What if you’re just an outdoor blogger, with nothing to sell and no income generated from your musings? Same rules apply: your goal is to attract and retain readers. If your site isn’t user-friendly, chances are you’ll lose your audience, no matter how good your content is. Establish yourself as a unique voice in the outdoor world with your visual identity. You may not be selling anything, but your brand is still very important and a well designed site branded with a professional logo will go a long way towards your success. No matter what your endeavor in the outdoor world, building a quality brand starts with a professional logo.
Don’t try this at home!
We all have our individual talents and strong suites. If you’re a great fishing guide, a custom boat builder or you craft beautiful traditional archery equipment, keep doing that. But bear in mind that just because you’re pretty good with Microsoft Publisher doesn’t mean that you will be able to create a professional logo. In fact, you may be detracting from your brand image by trying save a few pennies and doing it yourself, or having a friend who “draws pretty good” design something for you. Do what you do best, and hire others who are masters at their trade to do the other stuff for you. They will have your very best interests in mind, just as you have your client’s best interest in mind when you build something or provide a service for them.
The result will be a professionally conceived and executed logo that conveys your message and positions you or your outdoor company as a quality brand. Afterall, isn’t that what you’re all about?
Here are some examples of well established brands with recognizable logos from the outdoor industry: