Are trademarks (aka logos, symbols, monograms, emblems, etc.) really that important? That’s the question that's crossed my mind recently while designing one for an interior design studio based in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was researching other design studios across the web when I realized that what I’m most interested in is not the trademark, but the Big Idea behind a company. It's ethos and purpose. I’m about 12 hours into the project, and I haven’t designed anything (aside from a presentation of my research), but what I have done is collect a bunch of words into sentences and phrases that represent my client's Big Idea. Reading these words is much more exciting than looking at the trademarks I've found.
Trademarks are limited in their ability to communicate Big Ideas. They’re an expression of a Big Idea, but they’re not a Big Idea. At best they identify and/or a signify a company or organization.
That doesn’t mean one should neglect the design of their trademark. It should still be good, following age-old design principles, ultimately with the aim to be as timeless as needed/possible, and it should also represent the organization's personality and culture (i.e., don’t put lipstick on a pig). But beyond these “shoulds," a trademark doesn’t have much more responsibility. Instead of stealing the spotlight, they’re better among a cast of characters that make up a brand identity system of an organization.
Considering a new trademark? Perhaps it’s best to uncover your Big Idea first? It may take longer, but if you begin to live out your purpose and ambitions, the logo will follow, increasing the affinity your audience has toward the shapes, typefaces, and colors that represent your company or organization. Already living out your Big Idea, but your trademark is still lagging behind? Then maybe it’s time to consider a refresh. Either way, this is a conversation that I love to have with people, and I’d like to have with you whether your a fellow designer or current/potential client.