Monday, November 15, 2010

Logos & Branding - A Practical Analysis

A few weeks ago, the City of Dunwoody unveiled a new series of logos created by contractor Sky Design.
The City has learned a few hard lessons about branding and logo implementation in the process.

  • Just because you spend a lot of money on it, doesn't mean that everyone will love it.  Dunwoody joined the club with The Gap and Tropicana brands who redesigned their logo image and got their heads handed to them by their customers.  The Gap just abandoned the new effort (even though it was very stylish) and Tropicana is trying to work in their new logo identity with the old one.  It happens - you research, you conduct surveys and focus groups, you wear out your font file and your color wheel, and come up with a design that SHOULD be effective.  Then your PR person is issuing statements when your creation falls flat on its face. 

  • Google is your best friend.  Pay attention!  The original tagline for the city was "Smart People - Smart Place".  Sounds good, right?  The City of Plano Economic Development Board thought so too.  They used it first.  To add insult to injury, the tagline showed up on an internet search.  Trademarked or not, there was going to be a conflict.  Plano was on the phone to Dunwoody in about a day.  It's not worth the hassle to use a tagline that's been claimed elsewhere.  The new tagline is "Smart People - Smart City".

  • Large design firms with a lot of experience may sometimes cannibalize other designs. Even inadvertently.  The initial reaction on the local blogosphere was that the original logo looked too similar to both the Walmart and E-Trade logos.  Someone with WAY too much time on their hands lampooned that idea, as major newspapers commented on it.  Could be a coincidence but if the public sees a similarity it doesn't matter.  Others commented that even the unveiling video shown at the Music Festival was recycled from another presentation for another corporation.  Recycling happens.  Can you get away with it?  How lucky do you feel?

  • There may be more issues on the horizon.  The City government teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention & Visitors Bureau to create variations of the main city logo to create a sense of "unity". 

    Here's the problem:  there's a line between being "unified" and being "identical".  When elements of several designs are too similar - either in fonts, taglines, or structural elements of a website, etc - it gives the impression that each design represents a different division or department of the same entity.  The Chamber and CVB are NOT the City government.  They are totally independent of the City.  But the logos indicate they are part and parcel of the City government.  The City ultimately dictated the branding for two independent organizations.  The Chamber and CVB are going to have a major issue clarifying their identities as such.

    "OK, wise-guy, what would YOU do?"

    The rest of this post is purely hypothetical as the decisions have been made and the City, CVB and Chamber are all going forward with what was created.  All images below are copyrighted and may not be duplicated or used elsewhere.

    Scenario 1 - working with the original City logo.
    First, I wouldn't duplicate the logo or taglines for the Chamber or CVB.  They need their own unique identity, just like the PCID.  However, to indicate that several organizations are playing a part in building up the new city an additional logo or icon would be created, with elements of the original for consistency.  This icon could be used on websites, stationery, or brochures to indicate that partnership.  And not just the CVB or Chamber either.  There are a lot of organizations within Dunwoody that are part of its success, including the Preservation Trust, the Kiwanis, Rotary Club, Optimists, homeowner associations, political parties, the Marcus JCC and a slew of houses of worship.
    Here's the general idea:

    Scenario 2 - back to the drawing board.
    Here's another vision of a City logo and civic parternship icon that doesn't compare to Walmart or E-Trade and the tagline passed the Google test.
    The graphic elements are a stylized star; reflecting the new beginning the city had at incorporation in 2008.  The tagline is not only open to new businesses that may establish here, but also to current residents and commuting workers.  Now that Dunwoody is its own city, the population is going to have to advance its interests, even when they're not all in agreement.

    And here's the "partnership" generic logo that other city groups could use to indicate their part in supporting the City.  Note the rearrangement of the graphic element above.  It's consistent with the City logo identity, but the graphic layout and the text indicate a different purpose.

    Branding costs money, time, effort, experience, and expertise.  But no matter how much planning goes into it, a new brand launch is almost always a gamble.

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    The Realities of Entrepreneurship for Women

    As most of my friends, colleagues, and customers know, my husband and I are expecting our 3rd child this month.

    Literally, any day now.

    In many if not most major corporations, women recovering from childbirth (or even who have adopted a baby) have six weeks of maternity leave guaranteed before they are required to return.  It's a great policy that fosters mutual respect between the corporation that demands a certain competency in the workforce and the worker who has a private life and a family.

    Entrepreneurs are literally on their own.  I found out the hard way last year with my second child that there is no such thing as "maternity leave".  Even if your customers' jobs are caught up, even when you announce several times when you are unavailable, even if your entire infrastructure is running on autopilot and your marketing efforts have been put in limbo, women are on call at any time. 

    Here's my favorite example.  I promise, it's 100% true.

    July of last year, my second daughter is born.  She's off to the nursery for a night's rest after a long day.  I've been transferred to family care for the same.  I'm using my smartphone to make immediate birth announcements to be followed up by formal stationery later.  In the process, new mail is downloaded:  including a technical question on behalf of a client who is having a new tool installed on his website.  Two things:  1) everyone in this group knew I was not available this week due to childbirth and 2)  coincidentally, the email had been sent just as I was delivering the baby.  No kidding.

    So what's a mom/entrepreneur to do?  I could have ignored it but I like to think I'm very prompt with replying to requests as best as I can.  Besides, I was bored silly now that the "great work" had been done.  I decided that being in a hospital room was no reason to not be a professional.  This was my exact e-reply:

    Dear XXXXXX,

    Thank you for contacting me.  Yes, I am the correct person to direct this question to.  In brief, the answer is XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

    I'm not able to go into detail at this time.  The fact is, I gave birth earlier this afternoon.  There were no complications so I expect to be discharged within a couple of days.

    If I could impose upon you to hold that thought until Monday, I will be back in the office and have full access to my systems and can provide a more complete summary of how to incorporate your functionality into XXXXXXXXXXX's website.

    Sincerely yours,
    (etc etc etc)
    Needless to say, my client and his other contractor were MORE than willing to give me every last minute I wanted or needed to get his code installed!

    While I'd rather not entertain emails from the quasi-comfort of a hospital room, I've finally accepted that when I have access to my home-based office, I'm at work, period.  Doesn't matter if it's 2 hours, 2 days, or 2 weeks after a medical situation has passed. 

    For this week, all of my customers can rest assured that their needs are being met.  I have one last project to put finishing touches on.  All domain names that I have been entrusted with have been duly renewed and secured.  Databases and code have been backed up both server-side and locally.  Updates and training have been completed.  Billing is in its last stages.  I have consulted with the server provider for final troubleshooting and checks so nothing needs attention for a few days.  And yes, I will again have my smartphone with me.

    Stay tuned for more happy customer updates on this blog.  There are two new projects rolling out that I am very excited about, plus a slew of updates.  There are even new projects on the horizon that are being brainstormed at the moment.

    For very brief news, (like, when I'm ensconced in the Baby Factory and it's a bad time to send an email!) follow me on Twitter at @SDOCPublishing.  Even at a time like this I can handle 140 characters!

    Wish us luck!


    Tuesday, July 6, 2010


    The Dunwoody Music Festival is SDOC Publishing's latest site launch.

    SDOC is hosting the site as well as instructing the Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce staff in adding to the content.

    The specifications were:  create a site around the colors and design of the new logo and make it easy for the staff to update.  So we started with Joomla CMS and customized a template to match the logo.  Then we created a comprehensive data architecture that will present information in two phases:  registrations and sponsorships, then festival promotion in the fall.  Registrations and sponsorships involve fillable PDF forms to be faxed or emailed to the office, plus email-based custom signup forms for volunteers and info requests.

    More pages are in the background, getting filled in by the Chamber office staff as information is confirmed.  Keep checking back to watch the development!

    The Dunwoody Music Festival (formerly the Dunwoody Fall Festival) is a showcase of musical talent - including a Battle of the Bands! - and a Chili Cook-Off that brings the community together on October 23 and 24 at Brook Run Park in Dunwoody.