From a design perspective, it is interesting to note that through the centuries logos have progressed relatively little. Even today in our multimedia environment, logos, by and large, display the same static, template-like characteristics they began with. Advertising, of course, has made it possible for companies to communicate to customers in a wide variety of ways, but logos themselves have tended to function rather like postage stamps: stuck on as a kind of afterthought as inconspicuously as possible so as to avoid interfering with the advertising message.
This cookie-cutter approach to logos has been dominant up until now. Today, the door to innovation seems literally wide open, as the Internet puts us in touch with a treasure chest of tools for expanding the sphere of our activities. Through the use of sound, full motion, animation, and morphing, logos can be transformed from lifeless and static appendages, into dynamic and vital communication tools. And although brand identities must continue to be governed by rules and standards, they can transcend all previously accepted boundaries.
In order to harness the full potential of the new media at our disposal, it is important for us to consider an old but forgotten truism: our senses reinforce each other, as when a movie soundtrack conjures up images, and scenes from the movie bring to mind the music. Together, sound and sight act as a powerful stimulus to memory. Note the ingenuity of Steven Spielberg in the movie Schindler's List. By introducing an element of color into an otherwise black-and- white film, the director succeeded in leaving his audience with a haunting memory of a little girl in a red dress. Sight and sound devices are not new, of course. But they need to be explored once again in the rapidly evolving world of branding. The introduction of an auditory component into the world of branding represents an exciting new field of possibilities. And the coupling of sound and image can have a dramatic impact on brand recognition (Intel inside).
As logos are increasingly freed from the template-like structures that traditionally constrained them, the possibilities for design and positioning seem endless. For example, although logos need to preserve a consistent and recognizable shape, they could be broken down into small, recognizable elements, allowing customers to make a mental link with a company with a minimum of concentration. The Reuters company Instinet has done just this by identifying itself with a specific color, shape and theme. Through a variety of techniques, the flowing red matador's cape that appears in its print ads has been transformed, on the Web, into a dynamic and ingenious communication tool.
Presented on stock tickers, banners and in new media, brands and corporate identities can flourish in a way never before possible.
What is unfolding in the world of logo creation is nothing short of a paradigm shift. Ground-breaking technological opportunities are giving rise to a new reality-one in which shapes, forms, textures, images and sounds will all have a vital role to play in strengthening and enhancing a company's brand and identity, one that allows us to explore the full range of communicative possibilities unleashed by the Internet environment.
Of course, this shift has to be carefully orchestrated if it is to be optimally effective. That's why design management and corporate identity firms need to take the lead, developing rules about how each element in the new multimedia world can be used to best effect.
The time is ripe for channeling our energies along bold and innovative paths. A new millennium is opening, and with it a new perspective on branding.