What’s the difference between a Logo and a Brand?

The Tokyo Olympics identity system has re-raised the age old question. What is a logo and what is a brand?

We had this discussion in the office recently. It was prompted by a blog post around the farce that is the Tokyo Olympics identity system. (It’s been turned into a public design competition, which essentially devalues the role of professional design).

The post pointed to some of the triumphs of historical Olympic identities: Mexico, Munich and London and the sheer depth of consideration given to them as design systems. This was in stark contrast to something dreamed up by a man on the street as a ‘logo’ for the coming Olympics in Japan. In our discussions, and referring to Mexico, Munich and London, someone said ‘That’s what makes them such good brands’ which is where the whole debate started. You see, I’d argue that they’re not brands, but that they’re identity systems. I’d further argue that the Olympics is the brand, not the host city, but that’s a different discussion.

Brand has become such an overused word that it’s gradually ceased to carry any real meaning. Clients often come to us talking about their brands – and we understand that they’re referring to their products and services. However, I think it’s worth arguing that in very few cases are they true brands. Most often they are just graphic identity systems. It’s a distinction that we don’t point out to many clients, but it’s worth making from a purist’s point of view.

So, although one function of brand is to identify one product or service from another, I think it’s got to do more than that to be a successful brand – it’s got to mean something. It’s got to elicit feelings and emotions beyond the simple function of the product or service. I believe that’s the case whether there’s a brilliant design system behind it or not. So, in this sense it’s entirely possible to have a great brand that’s been poorly executed in design terms and vice-versa. There are lots around – just watch any ad break on commercial TV and you’re blinded by them.

Here at Good we believe brand is a vital asset for any business. It’s a shortcut to the essence of a business. It represents the values and guides the company in the way it acts and faces out. Whether that be to customers, staff or shareholders. However, some of this stuff can be seen as a bit abstract or a little bit fluffy. That’s where the logo comes in. The logo is a graphic representation of a brand and it should be simple and easily understood in any media. It should clearly stand out on a giant poster on the roadside, as well as on a 4-inch screen in the palm of your hand. So, in this sense you can see that a logo is built as a design system to represent a business.

So, the difference between logos and brands is important. Especially when it comes to stating clearly what it is we do, and how that links to taking on new projects. Brand leads, design follows. It’s as simple as that. The brand thinking sets the foundations upon which the brilliantly executed and crafted design sits. 

At Good we’re passionate about providing these brand solutions. And when we work with clients who are willing to go on that brand journey with us, we tend to create our best and most effective work.