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3D Logos: Why, When & What For…

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3D Logos: Why, When & What For…

In recent months a successful brand that IMG created was tweaked by a US based branding consultancy. Although the logo wasn’t changed, what they did was create a new 3D version of it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing this on a mission to protect our work, however, it did raise an internal debate about the ‘whys’ and ‘why nots’ around creating 3D logos. Additionally, it has been something in the past that we have engaged in with different clients for different reasons. I therefore thought it would be a good blog subject and would welcome other opinions.

My personal thinking on the subject goes like this (feel free to disagree); 3D logos are fine, depending on a number of criteria – audience, application requirements, service etc. For example, there are many interesting brands out there that use 3D marks, and they work well. However, the ones that do work tend to have a logic behind them. If you take the Sony Ericsson logo, it is 3 dimensional, and why not, after-all it is a company that creates interesting 3 dimensional products. In fact product innovation is its forté, therefore living, tactile objects are what it’s about, Apple in recent years has started to use 3D logos, again, reflecting its product innovation and creation of real world objects that people interact with. Other more recent examples are AT&T, Barclaycard, Microsoft’s XBox, Skype, etc, etc all of which are good brands, look nice and in general have a purpose. Additionally that same logic can be extended to car logos: BMW, Mini etc. etc: again, real world tactile “objects”, applied 3D ‘badges’. Here, though, is the thing… ‘purpose’, i.e. if there is a logical reason to do it then fine, why not, but, and this is a big ‘BUT’, don’t do it on a whim. In fact I would suggest you think long and hard about this.

My reasons for this are as follows; as with one of our clients, turning 3D has its problems, and they are many. Firstly, think about application, sure, if you are a web or screen based brand, no problem, but if you have hundreds, or even thousands of high-street stores, outlets, think about application, how are you going to achieve consistency with facias or even livery? Remember that a 3D logo on paper is created with tones. With facias, you have the ability to extrude, backlight etc. but once you have a 3D (paper) logo it is almost impossible to re-create that in signage. The only way is to create films, placed over translucent perspex and hope that the end result looks OK, then pray that heat, weather etc. gives you enough time to make sure the client is happy enough to pay the bill before you lose the account.

Then there is cost – a strong 2 dimensional logo is cheap to produce, always consistent and will never be a headache. A 3D logo on the other hand can be a thorn in your side – various versions needed for different size applications, different coarse screens required depending on size, restricted backgrounds, it is likely to have to go onto a box to guarantee legibility. But the one thing that many clients will understand more than most is cost… a simple 2D logo is cheap to produce, a 3D logo will mostly need to be printed in 4 colours (minimum), limiting consistency in application and raising overall print costs.

So, when your thinking about creating a 3D logo, consider the following;

print costs – 4 colour plus specials = high print costs
consistent application – re producing it on different materials will be a headache
issues with signage – very difficult and expensive to produce well, or a weak and limited effect with films
issues with fax versions – rarely works with limited production technology
issues with embroidered versions – very weak results
engraved or embossed – very weak results at best, mostly impossible

Now I’m in danger here of sounding ‘anti’ 3D logos. I’m not. I just feel strongly that you need to consider carefully why you are doing it, sometimes it is exactly right, but all-too-often it is done with the mind-set of ‘everyone else is doing it’. And let’s face it, if everyone else is doing it there is a good reason right there to avoid it. And then let’s also remember some of the greatest brand marks that ever lived…. Nike, Coca Cola, Apple, BP…. are all strong 2D marks, occasionally seen in 3D, but rarely, and when they are they still retain an iconic, simple shape. So sure, 3D is the way things will possibly go in the future, but not for the sake of 3D, just a possibly application style.

So, if you are thinking of creating a 3D logo, sure, go for it, it can work and in many instances it will be perfect for the role, it would be great to see some strong 3D marks that don’t rely on a sphere. Just remember though, is it really required? Where will it be applied? Can I afford the extra print costs? Will it help me stand out from the crowd? Or will I be just another company investing in an expensive fad, meaning that I’ll have to change it back again!? Remember… Audience, Application, Service. If it fits, sure, but otherwise, steer clear.

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