When is a logo not a logo?

We'll break it down for you

Graphic Design

In years gone by, a logo has been a single mark that was designed once and then applied to all brand touchpoints. Today, a logo may need to be as large as a billboard or fill the side of a bus. Alternatively, it will often be as small as 16px square - the favicon that appears in your URL bar.

What works for one application will be totally unsuitable for another. As a result of the growing number of ways that a logo may be used, logos that have previously worked well need to evolve and change.

What’s the answer?

The simplest answer to this question is to not design a logo.

What? A designer telling me not to design a logo?

Yes - The answer to this is to design a Flexible Visual Identity System. Rather than having a single static logo, a flexible identity system acts as a 'graphic framework' that allows brands to be adaptive to whatever application arises.

A good identity system is one which has been created to provide flexibility and consistency, whatever the application and build brand recognition for it’s audience.

At it’s core, this system can be broken down into four main elements.


The Core Logo

Your logo is be the core of your brand’s identity system. A simple description of a logo is “the combination of words and or symbols that identifies your product, service or company”.

A logo doesn’t need to capture absolutely every facet of what you do. A great logo should instead be a symbol for your offering rather than a kitchen sink of absolutely everything that you do.

In most instances the simpler the logo, the better.

When we design a logo at Emagine, we know that at some stage over the lifetime of the logo, someone, somewhere is going to try & squeeze it in where it won’t fit.

To ensure the consistency of the identity’s application we will provide alternative versions of the logo for use where the full version is not appropriate. This can be as simple as removing the words from a logo and just using the icon (look at our own twitter avatar for example). A useful treatment is to create different lockups - stacked, horizontal or vertical versions for specific instances where space is at a premium.


An alternate mark can also be a re-working of the core logo elements to fit a particular application - like we did recently for Waterford restaurant Burzza.

The Colour Palette

A great way to build recognition for an identity is to use strong, distinctive colours. Most identities will keep to a limited core colour palette.

To add flexibility we’ll develop a range of supporting colours that compliment the main identity. This helps keep marketing materials fresh and unique.

The Typography

A distinctive, legible and appropriate typeface should be the foundation of any great identity. Supporting brand typefaces need to compliment this and not compete, while providing consistency and hierarchy across different media. When creating a flexible identity system we always consider headlines, body text and display text and how these will interact on whatever marketing material they appear on, physical or digital.

The Extended Visual Language

In many instances this is enough to provide a client with all the tools to use their brand flexibly, but consistently in any application. Where appropriate, we also develop photography style guidelines and often shoot the images ourselves.


Custom icons and illustrations are a fantastic way to create lots of character and flexibility for an identity system. These elements can be used in isolation as part of larger campaigns, in social media posts or as mascots.


Creating a pattern from the logo itself, or an element or shape from within the logo will add a touch of versatility and become another crucial piece of a successful Flexible Identity System.


A great identity needs more than a single logo to be truly successful in todays multi-screen, multi application world. After all, the best way for a brand to differentiate itself is to be subtle, flexible, adaptive and consistent - and to have the tools from their design agency to be able to do that.

To talk to us about your logo design project and how we can help you, contact us today.