Who is your logo for?

It should be for you.

We hear a lot of talk about “target markets.” As in, “Our product appeals to married 30-somethings who earn over $60,000 per year and live in the suburbs.” This is nonsense.

I remember as a 14-year-old middle-schooler getting lumped into a category called “youth.” I hated that. I guess youth could be differentiated from child-rearing, car-driving, home-owning adults, but that’s it. I knew, and every kid in school knew, that we were all different. We had jocks and brains and frat types and musicians — those were the big categories — but even within those, our lives, our tastes, our experiences, our aspirations were as different then as they are now. Some of us were not into rock music. Some didn’t obsess over their hair. Some actually liked history and chemistry. We had funny kids and sassy kids and outgoing kids and quiet kids. Some were unbelievably smart and confident and driven; others were lost and broken and alone. No two were alike. Same as today.

The best logos that I can name were not designed for a “target market.” They were designed for the owner of the logo. Each was an expression of what he or she loved and valued. An enterprise is often, even usually, an expression of its founder’s vision and personality or an internal culture that it’s acquired over time. The logo, expressing the thing, is full of life.

On the other hand, a logo designed for a “target market” is an image without a soul. How could it be otherwise? A “market” has no face, no heart, no hands, no smile. It cannot buy your product or appreciate your art or contribute to your cause. It is a statistic, literally, dead as a rock. It is nothing.

Think about kids naming their new soccer team. Or your literary friend naming her new used-book store. They’ll pick names that they like. Before & After’s colorful logo wasn’t designed for a “target market.” I was looking for a way to express transformation, I liked the beauty of the color spectrum and the simplicity of kindergarten, so I combined all of it, designed it for myself, and others embraced it. I gladly welcomed as subscribers not a “target market” but all who were interested, and, to this day, a lot of my readers are not designers. Who could have known?

Shedding the target market straightjacket will liberate you. Color will return to your cheeks, warmth to your hands, and design will get fun again. You’ll be free to express what’s real and true. A design made for a client can express who they are — quirks, idiosyncrasies, and surprises included, and even better, celebrated! Because everyone is unique, the design will be unique in ways that target-market thinking could never see.

Imagine designing a wine-bottle label for a “target market” of “upscale” 50-somethings. Good luck with that. Now imagine making it for that white-bearded happy guy who whistles while he works and was crazy enough to start a winery at age 70, thinking that a boutique wine made from his special grapes could succeed in an already-crowded market.

He’s the one who will get the good label!

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Posted in Design, Logo design | 18 Comments