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The Evolution of a Brand (Part 1): Logos Undercover

In addition to my photography business, I am a brand consultant to businesses big and small, all over the country. When Petra said she wanted a brand audit by me, my reaction was, “Why? You have such a beautiful, high-end brand! Won’t this be a little redundant for you?” I asked.

But then, when she described her painful process to arrive at her current brand, I began to understand her past uncertainties. I realized that she needed objectivity and a profit-minded critique, which is so important to brand effectiveness.

No need to feel naked, Petra. Let’s go streak across the quad with this!

A brand is a living, breathing thing that should not just be conveyed through a logo, but 360 degrees across your business. I call this the “Brand 360” when working with my clients. But, in this first post in the Brand Audit series, I will focus on Petra’s “DIY” logo evolution.

Logos=vibrant adjectives

We come into contact with logos everyday and we’re subconsciously programmed to interpret “that is expensive,” “this is friendly,” “that is efficient,” “this is naughty,” and so on. Logos create vibrant adjectives and familiarity in our minds before we’re even aware of it.

When you choose to build your business as a luxury brand, you need to visually show that you are elite to all other alternatives in your business category. By design, a luxury brand should attract the upper echelon or tastemakers of your market. If it’s not about the size of their wallet, it is at least about their magnitude of great taste.

Think of these logos then close your eyes:  Moet & Chandonne … Tiffany & Co …  Louis Vuitton … Mercedes Benz.  

Now, think of these logos and close your eyes:  7Eleven … Dr. Pepper… Walmart … Kia. 

See the difference?  They are not good nor bad logos in comparison, they are simply achieving different business objectives.

Do you ever wonder why some brands just “look” expensive?

Plain and simple, it’s because it they are designed to appeal to rich people and social influencers. On some anthropological level, wealth is about honoring the classics and traditions of wealth! But, always with some stylish spin. An analogy is to think of it as a young, gorgeous guy who is  considered “old money.” To look expensive, there is usually a nod to what is classic and refined.

When it comes to logos, it’s a design composition like any other art form. Your key focus is on four parts of the composition:

  • Color
  • Balance
  • Symmetry/Form (through Fonts)
  • Legibility

And, like colors, fonts have psychological takeaways too. Together, these create a symphonic impact and a moody takeaway.

To know Petra is to know her brand

I like to get to know each client extremely well before creating any brand recommendations, so they are not living in someone else’s “skin” with their brand. As I got to know Petra, there are key elements about her personality I would observe:

  • Petra values classic elegance and appreciates refined taste (including beautiful expensive shoes!)
  • Petra is very much to the point; there is efficiency and an appreciation of simplicity and honesty above all else.
  • Petra has a no-nonsense approach to business and life
  • Petra is bold, authoritative, funny and colorful, whether it be her fashion choices or her conversations

THESE were key elements that perhaps should have been possible starting points for Petra’s logo design.

Here’s where she started

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Petra’s initial logo designs stray away from the classics and bring her further away from an elite luxury brand.

By adopting a more trendy font look and curve, she reduces her “luxury” appeal, however would have been great options if she were appealing to a younger boudoir client, or as a senior photographer that is about the “now,” the “fun,” the “carefree.” In essence, her font and color flourish do not convey “empowerment,” “luxury,” “taste,” “royal indulgence,” and hopefully “investment,” which were all brand goals for Petra.

It appears that color flair in the initial logo was Petra’s attempt to infuse her personality to the brand. However, the color choices were rather subjective and instead of conveying meaning through color, it feels like an embellishment (slightly reminiscent to me of the NBC Peacock logo with colors and shapes).

Logos are visual symbol. Think of it as a business “tattoo” that conveys what you stand for. If an element has no meaning, leave it out. Just like it’s futile to get meaningless things tattooed on your body!

In this later phase, Petra simplified a bit and added the element of this little purple ladybug. Cute, approachable, and feminine, this design added a little more purpose and symbolism through color. It signified, visually, that she is either about “Ladies” or “Youth” and that she was fun. Or, it was about a bug. Bugs and beds not a good idea to mix & match. Still, it was aesthetically nice. Did it convey expensive/elite? No, here it still fell a little short.

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In the later phases, Petra began to discover for herself that “simplicity breeds elegance” and she was on to something special. With her classic font choices and plenty of “air” in her font spread, she really was beginning to convey power and high-end elegance.

She chose purple, to make her brand uniquely hers. The purple symbolizes royalty and dignity and can be mournful, or sometimes soft and lonely. Purple is described as an “unquiet color” being mysterious and mystic in a cultural sort of way.

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If you have ever seen Petra’s images (and you should), this feels way more on point. I love that sense of boldness, longing and mystery I always feel in her images. She was on to something. “Cultural, mysterious, mystic, royal, dignified”… all ideas on par with her brand goals!

Where her brand is now

Somewhere around 2012-2013, Petra’s business really made some incredible strides and began to get national level attention, from both photographers and prospective clients. At this point, through various professional milestones Petra knew she was ultimately high-end and deserved to be priced accordingly.

Her images began to speak for themselves about the brand, and the need to convey those ideas through color really was not necessary. She also began educational workshops and industry-related developments, so a serious brand would best suit her.

A shift to an all black logo, which A). matched everything aesthetically and B). felt elite and authoritative was a sensible, logical move.

In my opinion, Petra has a great looking, meaningful and differentiated logo now. I’m so looking forward to auditing some of the other elements that make up her 360 degree brand voice.

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