Your logo. Is it a SUM of its parts?

Simple

Unique

Metaphor

Logos aren’t illustrations. They are abstractions. They tell A story, not THE story. They should work as well the size of your small pinky fingernail (in black and white) as they do on the side of an 18-wheeler in color…three colors max, please.

There are three main criteria good logos satisfy. I’ll use the Apple Computer logo as an example.

A good logo is simple. It is not an illustration with a bunch of detail. Most logos use positive and negative space very well. Think Target, Nike, and the Coca-Cola script. No outlines, no shading, no gradients to fall apart at small sizes. The Apple logo used to be banded with a rainbow of colors. The refreshed design works great big and small. It’s simple and an immediate read.

A good logo is unique. An apple with a bite taken out of it is kind of an odd mark for a computing company, no? So it’s memorable and stands out from the crowd. How many lawyers use the scales in their logos? A: Too many of them! How many roofers use rooflines? *sigh* These marks don’t differentiate; they don’t say anything special. They don’t tell us what the brand does well. 

Which brings us to metaphor, which in laymen’s terms means using one thing to stand for another. Telling a story. The Apple logo is all about that bite. Remember the Garden of Eden? That bite out of the apple=knowledge!! Perfect for a computing company…and the twist is a delight.

So check your logo for SUM. Does it compute?

Answer the question!

Look, if you want your message to rise above the thousands of voices your target audience is exposed to every single day, you’ve got to answer the question.

“What’s in it for me?”

May sound simplistic, may sound selfish, but you gotta appeal to viewers on a personal level. Tell them right off the bat why they should buy your product, come to your event, sign your petition. 

And we’re not talking about listing a feature. For instance, say a new car gets great gas mileage. You could say that, but it’s more effective to state the benefit of owning a car that gets great gas mileage. For most folks, that would be more money in our pockets. Ka-ching! For some, it would be less time spent at the filling station. Others would like to know that they’re shrinking their carbon footprint. So the benefit is a fatter wallet, more time for fun things, or being a greener citizen.

Get it?

And by all means, don’t give us a list of benefits. Focus on a primary, maybe one secondary. After that, spell out clearly your mandatories and a call to action. Never assume your audience magically knows what you know. If there is important info that will answer questions your viewer might have, include it someplace…it doesn’t have to shout.

We’ll leave hierarchy, typography, white space, and the other elements and principals of branding and design for another post. 😉

It’s all about the campaign.

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It's all about the campaign.

I just wrapped up a job I’m really excited about, for the sixth annual Hands Together in Flatrock Music and Arts Festival. Like many jobs, it started smaller than it ended. I was hired to design a poster and a T-shirt for this annual festival held in a very diverse neighborhood in Nashville. The design was to utilize a hand motif that’s been used previously, and reflect the diversity of the area.

I did a bunch of brainstorming and arrived at a place that felt appropriate for this burgeoning neighborhood. It’s a vibrant place, with lots going on. I sent a rough to my client for approval. He liked it. So together we worked through the approval process for the poster. It went smoothly, and after they were printed, my client got very positive feedback from sponsors and people in the neighborhood.

I moved on to the shirt design, which initially was only going to be a couple of colors. Because of the success of the poster, my client was able to find some money to print with more colors. Hopefully, this will translate into sales at the festival!

It was also at about this time when he decided to advertise with Nashville’s weekly arts magazine, the Nashville Scene. We did a quick renegotiation, and I was able to carry this project all the way through to completion. I’m proud of the way it all works together across sizes, formats, and color platforms. I’m also glad to work with a client who trusts the process and was with me every step of the way. Thanks, TC Weber. It was a fun gig and I hope to work together with Flatrock again next year!

Why fitchthehomeless doesn’t work

I have issues with fitchthehomeless. I appreciate the desire to fight back against Abercrombie and Fitch’s misguided philosophies on target audience and sizing restrictions. (If you haven’t seen the clip yet, it details Abercrombie’s mission statement of providing clothes to cool kids exclusively, and the fact they don’t manufacture clothes for larger females.) In response, the  activist filmmaker goes to a Goodwill, buys up a bunch of A&F clothes and then hands them out to homeless people in Los Angeles. The call to action is that we do this, too, thereby changing A&F’s branding from that of an exclusive label for cool kids to that of homeless people.

But the clip’s author treats the homeless people he gives the A&F clothes to as nameless, faceless beings…almost as dehumanizing as the policies he’s railing against. Perhaps a simple boycott would be better? Perhaps speaking directly to those “cool kids” and inviting them to act in solidarity with their “less attractive” brothers and sisters would be a more potent message for change? 

There’s a disconnect between motivation and message here.

What’s in a name?

In my experience teaching graphic design at the Art Institute of Tennessee-Nashville, one of the hardest things I’d ask of my students was to brand themselves. Rockstar students who’d usually excel mightily at linking target audience with message would sit for hours in bewilderment when it came time to focus on their own strengths and how they might fit into the marketplace.

I had this same struggle when figuring out what to call this baby venture that’s just setting sail. For years I’ve loosely called my realm of services Heather Lose Design. It seemed to make sense to use my name since I grew up in Nashville and have been working in media for so long, with good results. People know me, so I wanted to keep my name in the mix. But…

Recently I wrote two stories for the May/June East Nashvillian, including the cover story.

I am doing publicity work for a crazy talented young musical artist named Nathan Diller.

And I do radio. Have done for years.

So “Design” is a box that’s become too small.

Friends are gold. I turned to facebook and asked whether Heather Lose Productions would be a good fit. And man, did I get some solid feedback. Studios. Media. Heather Lose Unlimited. (As if! Thanks Laurie!) Shenanigans. Lose Lobos! (Bwah.) And some other fabulous ideas too. It was pointed out, beautifully, that “Productions” may signify music too much in our particular market, and that it puts the focus too much on what others are doing. (Thanks Daryl and Shelley!)

The one that sticks, and the one that feels right, is Heather Lose Creative. It encompasses not only my professional services, but also my personal projects including the Tennessee Fireworks Project, my work with the Nashville Community Darkroom, and yeah, even my garden which is infinitely beautiful and brings such joy.

So this feels good. Call me Heather Lose Creative. Because truly, that’s who I am, and that’s what I do. Always have, hopefully always will.

Nice to meet’cha.