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Thoughts on Logo Design Longevity and Timelessness
One of the topics that a client will bring up prior to the commencement of a project is on Logo Design Longevity and Timelessness. Specifically they'll be hinting that the logo I'll be designing for them survives 5, 10, 15 even 20 years into the future.
No pressure then.
It's actually a reasonable suggestion on the face of it—who wouldn't want the result of any investment to last years into the future—but the more you consider what external factors are against a logo design lasting a decade or more, the harder this'll seem possible.
It often seems a challenge to ensure a logo will last a few years, let alone 5+.
Ensuring logo design longevity is not something that ANY logo designer can predict, let along actually promise to a client. To promise to a client that this new logo design will last 5, 10 or 20 years would be so very wrong on so many levels—would be curious to know if any designer has tried to pull that particular stunt.
The best any logo designer can do is to ensure that at the very start they have a complete and full understanding of: the brief; the company, service, product (or whatever requires the logo design); the branding of direct and indirect competitors; the target audience; being aware of, but not necessarily sucking up to, current logo design trends; and numerous other mitigating factors.
If these points have been adequately factored in, and the designer has delivered a 'fit for purpose' logo and identity design, then this could be considered a job well done.
Even if this is true, no one can predict how long this particular logo design might stay in service for. It might be a 'rad or sick' looking logo, but that doesn't guarantee the longevity of a logo's life span.
Factors Influencing a Logo Designs Longevity, or it's Timelessness
There are a few initial reasons that I can think of in why it would be irresponsible to tell a client you can design a logo that last 'x' amount of years. I'll refer to a fictitious brand called, "Poppycock".
— One of the factors that's mostly out of the control of a logo designer, is if the people behind PoppyCock decide to rename/rebrand/refocus the core of their their business to be nothing about poppies, or cocks.
This would require a logo redesign, and would be something the original logo designer would have been hard pressed to account for (unless one designed a suitably generic or type only logo design, and only then if this is what the client was happy with, and let's not forget said designer might have tried to sell them a more neutral, time lasting type based logo, but the client rejected it. So meta.).
— The arrival of new competing companies can also throw a considerable spanner into the works. If their competing brand shines brighter than PoppyCocks, and their branding is far more audience inviting, then this can have a knock-on effect.
This might result in a subtle brand refresh (not a complete redesign) for PoppyCock sometime in the near future, or it might mean a more detailed analysis of how PoppyCock needs to stand-out above the new competition.
— The company might be scooped up by a larger company, thus seeing the original logo banished in favour of something completely different, or more in line with the new parent companies branding. Again, hard one for a logo designer to predict.
— If the client/board/committee had 'pushed' for a certain style of design that leaned heavily towards current logo design trends, and was against the wise advice of their logo designer, then this could likely end up being relatively short lived.
Especially so if PoppyCock was a product where it's UPS (Unique Selling Point) was a product based on longevity, then well…
There are a few ways a logo designer can try to ensure a certain logo design has more longevity over that of another style of design, but even this doesn't mean it's immune to external factors mentioned above.
Some of the methods employed to try to increase logo design longevity and timelessness might be to under-design, than over-design.
By this I mean: to decrease the chance of a style of design becoming a victim of an inadvertent design trend (you might accidentally create a style of logo that becomes a trend without meaning too, and thus becoming a victim of it's own success!) a few years down the road.
The more neutral a design is, the less chance it has of becoming victim of a flash-in-the-pan trend, and an example of this might be a typography based logo design, or a simple but strong logo mark.
This doesn't mean boring, bland or a lack of imagination from the designer. It just means that the accompanying identity ideally needs more substance/personality to it (requiring just as much imagination, if not more, from the designer), thus creating strength through the whole brand identity, rather than the logo taking a lot of the weight.
More In Conclusion
So when a client asks me how long my logo design will last them, or they specially ask that the logo last 'x' amount of years, I generally have a pretty good explanation to hand of why this isn't probably going to be possible.
Ultimately though, I always ‘try’ to design-in longevity and timelessness by not being overly dependant on current design trends, and to ensure I've a complete handle on the brief, and trying not to be 'directed' in inappropriate directions by the client.
That's about as ‘responsible’ as one can get.
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