Would you wear your logo?

Kevin Mullins

The Importance of Brand Context

I’m the proud son of an oilman. For over 35 years, my dad operated oilfields, drilling stations, and electrical plants in Southern California’s central valley. He got up every day at 5:30 AM, made his breakfast and headed out the door for work. Yeah, he was oldskool.

Apart from his tools, truck and lunch box, my dad never left home without two things: his coffee and his hat — the trucker-style with netting in the back and a big logo emblazoned on the front.


The evolution of the Chevron logo
Source: https://1000logos.net/chevron-logo/

Even though he was a blue-collar guy, not a designer, my dad had a sharp eye for a good design. He and his buddies collected hats, jackets, patches, signs, and pins from the companies where they worked. Occasionally I got lucky, and a hat or a pin was passed down to me. These were the logo designs that hard-working tradespeople loved to wear — badges of pride and honor. I was proud to wear their stuff.

When you stop and think about your company’s current logo, are you proud to wear it? What about the warehouse staff or your field service teams, are they? When it comes to designing a brand, too many companies forget the principle of context. Iconic brands like Texaco, Aramco, Shell, or Mobile Oil became iconic for a reason. Their brands were made to work no matter the context or medium; from the sides of rail cars to highway signs, t-shirts, and office letterhead.

How well does your logo work in your context?

Jacob Cass wrote the following on his blog post for Just Design:

1. A logo should identify your business.
2. A logo should be recognizable.
3. A Logo should be memorable.
4. A logo should be cost-effective.
4. A logo should stand the test of time.

Most importantly, a good logo should adapt well to any medium on which it’s used, especially if it’s going to be worn. Aaron Draplin, a leading designer in Portland, Oregon, says:

“You can’t mess with the sort of bedrock of understanding how a logo works all over the world, or how to handle it […] It’s one thing to design that logo and have it floating in white space on a PDF, but rarely will you see it that way. Where you’ll see it is in a tiny little corner on Instagram, on a guy’s business card or his sweatshirt. That’s where you’ll see it.”

The Big Question

Over the years, my dad received lots of hats, shirts, and mugs he didn’t like. He shoved them into the back of the closet or gave them away. One thing he didn’t do however, he didn’t use them. Even though we’re living in the internet age and more connected than ever, this can and does happen today. If you fail to consider context in your brand’s design, you may end up with a logo design no one understands or even likes.

If you’re a service-based company, your employees are your front-line brand ambassadors. Ask yourself whether an oilman like my dad would be proud to wear your brand. If you think it looks good but makes your employees cringe, it may be time for an update.

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