We’ve all messed up telling a story before. Maybe you were too excited and ended up stumbling painfully through isolated story beats and irrelevant tangents while your audience watched with blank stares, silently urging you to land the plane. These moments remind us that a good idea always needs a good storyteller – someone who knows how to find the right details to paint and what information needs to be communicated or left out. A good storyteller knows how to handle the details and structure of the material and can integrate entire galaxies of culture and history into small, simple moments. While telling a story may not be easy, successfully doing so grips your audience’s attention and keeps them following along, engaged, and oftentimes, coming back for more. The same applies to branding.
What makes a story or brand engaging are its details and the weight behind each decision of the designer. Successful brands establish core principles and ideas and execute them through the logo, messaging, and culture. Branding isn’t just spending a few hours executing your first logo idea and calling it day. It requires hard work in development and a comprehensive, immersive consideration of the client’s identity, goals, and story. Oftentimes, successful brands and logos work on an established, internal logic or story that isn’t even public knowledge. But applying that type of consideration to a design will naturally create an elegant structure that makes it resonate deeply – even if the viewer isn’t fully aware of it.
Sports apparel brand Adidas boasts some of the most iconic and memorable logos in marketing. Their three-leaved trefoil logo is arguably their most well-known image, a classic and familiar design rooted in a global language. By breaking down the elements, the story of Adidas begins to materialize, and the time and care put into the design becomes clear. The three leaves embody three sections of the globe, and each leaf represents North America, Europe, and Asia – where Adidas was originally sold. Three lines run through the body in the lower half of the image; they physically connect the three international markets under one brand. Additionally, the lines represent a variety of Adidas products, and the logotype is set in lowercase to invoke a feeling of approachability and accessibility. It seems to proclaim: This is not a niche item for the wealthy but a quality product for the global community.
By the ‘70s and ‘80s, the logo reached new heights of cultural status with help from celebrities and musical artists such as hip-hop pioneers Run-DMC. Hip-hop rose in the working-class neighborhoods of the Bronx, and while Run-DMC sported large, gold chains, they balanced their appearance with sports apparel, particularly Adidas-brand clothing – a juxtaposition that served as a reminder of their working-class roots. Many people envisioned themselves as part of these celebrities’ stories and worlds, and their apparel played a large role in this. As a result, the brand evolved past being a sports brand and became a cultural symbol of originality, creativity, revolution, resistance, and expression.
In advertising, the most well-known and well-remembered commercials are the ones that pull at our heart strings, make us laugh, and leave lasting impressions. Even after their rebrand and introduction of the mountain icon, Adidas kept the trefoil logo under their “Originals” label as a reminder of their history as well as to maintain their connection to individuals seeking to stay true to themselves and their expressions of who they are.
Starting with an idea, an emotion you want to evoke, or even the faint gesture of an image in your mind is often the first step in any creative process. But how an audience reaches that moment or idea is what separates a story from an anecdote and a branding campaign from a simple font change. The more thought a designer puts into their design, the more likely the viewer will engage with it and find something to connect with. When a company’s story informs every decision – no matter how big or small – in the branding effort, it pays off. Stories and branding succeed when they are rich in detail and built from the ground up to support the weight of their intentions. The best of both often echo through generations and continue on, long after the creator is through.