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  • Writer's pictureCajvanean C. Alexandru

Your Design Is Not Original. Why it's important to balance familiarity and authenticity in brand identity.


Why Your Design Is Not OriginalCajva

When I start a brand identity project I'm always excited of all the logo ideas I will bring to the table. I usually sketch dozens and dozens of ideas think of all the assets I can build with them, but only a couple of them make the cut. Some of them are not original enough, others are conveying the wrong message and those who make the cut are hard to pick from. This is the design process after all. Extremely rare are the cases where the designer sketches the perfect idea from the start. In our search for the design that is different and original, we understand that we must belong, fit in and to be familiar.


Orgynal Thesygn BY CAJVA

"This reminds me of . . ." or "this takes me back to . . ." or maybe "it kinda resembles this . . ." are some of the expressions you might get when you are receiving feedback on the work you did. But is this a bad thing? Well, not really. For example, airports around the world are not owned by the same company, but when you arrive into one, you somehow know what to do. You have a feeling and recognize the patterns of how to act and where to go because this airport "reminds you of" the previous one. Same goes with a lot of places and products. You go on a website and instinctively know that on top it should have a logo and a menu and a rough idea of how to find the things you are looking for on that website. If the website is different, it's a whole different experience but while it might take a while to get used to, one can also get frustrated. And just exit the website all together. "This is not for me!" the user might say. And he is right.


Design done right is design with intent.


If you represent a serious and trustworthy company, by today's standards, your logo should mimic all the other serious and trustworthy companies. It's not hard to see how the companies on top are doing it. Some might even argue that they all look and feel the same. And it's important to be that way. If you are not a customer or not interested in an industry, you might make such claims. I lost count of how many times I've heard "these SUV cars, they are all the same, they are big bulky and ugly and they all look alike". That is not a customer. The customer, knows all the differences, sometimes even to the smallest detail between all the brands, models and even manufacturing process. It's not for everybody, it's design exactly with intention for a specific group of people. What works for a group, won't work for another and that's essential.


It is important who we design for. We design for people who feel like they are a part of something bigger. They are a part of a community. A community of people who appreciate and care for the same things. And that is why the designs we do must mirror the essence of the world they inhabit. A logo originality is not that important as long as it gives it's user the sense of belonging and the positive experience.


Should we just copy those who we want to emulate?


You missed the point. You don't emulate, you enter into a market where you want to establish yourself/company as part of the group. Our logos and our visual identity follows the same traits and philosophy, they exude the same type of wizardry all the great companies do. Put them side by side they are visually different but they feel the same, they convey the same trustworthiness.


How do we achieve this?


By asking the right questions. When starting a brand identity, you don't ask the company who you are designing for if they want a duck or a dog, or if they want blue or red in the logo. You ask who is their customer, who is their competitor, what is their philosophy, brand values. You ask questions to find meaning and to understand the market you are doing this for. The market you are serving are looking for something specific, and if you understand it and design for it, you can push the company to it's success. Can? A company's success depends on so many different factors. You can build a great brand identity for a company that delivers a bad product. Or bad customer service. Or doesn't promote itself. Or ignorance. Or all of them at once sometimes.


It's not always a prerequisite.


Building familiarity and recognizable designs is not always required or needed. There will be lots of cases where one must stand out, be totally different or just go wild. That's when you can be as creative and original as you can. And you must! It's understanding when, how and why in order to have the right intent and meaning in your design. One doesn't not have to reinvent the wheel. It has to work, and if it works, the design has reached it's purpose.


It wasn't always like this.


The rise of data pushed graphic designer from a place of creativity to a place of marketing and strategy. Nowadays decisions are driven by profit and numbers. These logos have to look the same, they have to fit this narrative of the fast paced environments. That's why you see most of the brands nowadays drooping the previous logos and just going for a simple sans serif font. I see this move as a paradox because it shows us how the design is important but not important at the same time.


If we also take under consideration that we can't use some of the symbols because they are taken, it leaves us with fewer and fewer possibilities. Obviously, it's almost impossible to design another logo of an apple without thinking of the one apple logo to rule them all. Thinking of a bird logo? What about the Dove, Twitter and other along the lines. Shape and color also plays an essential role. I can't help but think of the logos of Target, Beats, Pinterest and Vodafone side by side.


Using the type, color palettes and other visuals in conjunction with the logo the designers are creating these design systems in order to make these brands stand out when the logo won't do it. On the surface, all these companies logo gathered on a sheet of paper would look the same. That's why in our modern times building an entire brand identity is a response to these changes that makes this world of design - at least in my view - quite sterile.


But they were all deceived, for another logo was made. Deep in the hearts of the designers, the creativity burned hot. And in these logos, they poured the passion, the authenticity, and their own style and signature. Designers are creating these for fun, when companies won't ask for it. At least I do, and I know quite a few others like me that are doing it. Maybe we are searching for something. I like to think that our individuality and humanity drips out through these beautifully crafted designs. It's a form of art most of the times and a way to express ourselves.


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