Wednesday, January 26, 2022

2022 logo recap

 We've come to understand something important: we looooove doing logos! So, here is ANOTHER updated accounting of some of our work that actually seems like play in this arena and a short rant on the topic, to boot!!


More and more people are talking about "branding" these days and it's becoming increasingly apparent that what they're really talking about is a logo. Nothing more. It seems that, for many people, the idea of branding is kinda, well, superficial.

As long-time practitioners of what we used to call "positioning", this misperception irks us. Oh sure, maybe we shouldn't take it so personally, but we do. Which leads us to frequently say (or at least think) "harrumph!" and also leads us to frequently direct people to our most excellent and still-fun company white paper on branding. As we're doing right now: click here to read it.

But we've already written that paper. This one's on a different topic altogether: expressing the brand through the logo.


Oh, we love logos as expressions of a company's brand essence. Some of them are kinda literal in expressing it: think of the puma (symbol of speed and strength) for sportswear company Puma or the running greyhound (symbol of speed) for bus company Greyhound; others are a little more symbolically rich like the apple (symbol of knowledge ever since the garden of Eden) for computer company Apple. Others don't really reflect the brand essence but rather, the brand's name: the red target for big chain store Target, the red cross for the Red Cross, the aforementioned greyhound and the big yellow shell for the oil company named . . . anyone? Bueller? Still others really don't seem to relate to the brand name or the brand essence very much at all: the Nike swoosh, the Mercedes-Benz three pointed star and, say, the bat inside of a circle for Bacardi.

For us here at Woodstock Organic Concepts, however, the logos we like best actually have a meaningful connection to their brand's deliverables, if not the exact brand essence. Take a look through this random sampling of logos below and name the company they represent and what that company does.

Really, apart from that shell and the DHL logo, they all relate pretty closely to the goods or services they stand for.

So. So much for the classics made by other people. Some of them big famous hotshots. (We love that Westinghouse logo by Paul Rand and others, including Charles Eames.) What about the Woodstock Organic Concepts classics?

Well, there are some, and you're about to see them. Mostly, we do logos as part of an overall branding job, but sometimes we get a gig where the client understands their brand, already has a brand identity and simply wants a logo to express it. So, without further ado, here are are a few of our favorite logos from over the years and a short explanatory text (we'll try to keep it short, really we will) connecting the logo to the brand idea. Enjoy.

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The Woodstock Public Library was a great gig, we helped them identify what they should stand for: access. The client wanted an iconic logo to express that thought and we gave them this:

Here's the logo with the tag line:

For the entire library branding case study, including a lot on logo development, click here.


Nellie is a wedding planner and so we made an actual monogram and had it embroidered on an actual linen napkin. Pretty pleased with the conceptual strength of this logo icon and it turned out lovely, too!


Another of our favorite logos is for a company that helps buildings to become more green. We visually showed the transformation from dirty to clean by using color stripes that ran from black to white and muddy to pastel. Again, it's fairly iconic and ownable.


Next up is a logo we did for singer/songwriter and all-around amazingly creative super star Jill Sobule. She wanted to start a record company where the profits would be in the hands of the artists, not the management. Naturally, we called her a communist, which nicely reinforced one of her ideas for the label's name: Pinko records. Naturally, we thought of the Chinese flag, with one big star and a red background. In this case, we made the star out of a vinyl record, had an actual flag made up, ran it up the hill on a windy day and shot a photo of it. Bam! Instant logo. Jill has the flag now and trots it out for various events.

Jill also needed a logo for her traveling show with SNL alum Julia Sweeney, a mini case study of that logo can be read here, and the finished product is here below:


The logo below was done for a company that restores old tube amplifiers, stereo components. They specialize in MacIntosh amplifiers. We were messing around with the sound waves of oscilloscopes (a tool of his trade) and realized that the waves, if looked at just right made the letters of the company name, VVA, as well as representing the science behind the scene of the company's work.


We did a couple of swell logos for a pair of energy companies, here are the selected logo and the runner up just underneath for both bluefuel and gyr:

When the photographer Juliet Lofaro came to us, we did a whole branding study and what we came up with was twofold: 1) what she did most was what she wanted to do most: shooting portraits and 2) her brand essence is "connection". That's what she does, that's what makes her portraits sing. Connections with heart and head and hand. So a) we added the word "portrait" to her descriptor and b) we gave her a new logo that tried to embody what it is she does.


For travel and destination photographers, Preston Schlebusch, citizens of the world that they are, we decided they needed their own flag:

But not just a photoshopped flag created from their images, oh no, they needed an actual 3d physical object flag for them to take with them as they travel all over the world shooting their jobs. And so that's what we made 'em. 

Here are some of the pics so far...


One of our very favorite branding case-studies is for a nationally syndicated radio program, radioUnleashed. (read it here.) The logo that came out of the brand exploratory continues to delight and the tag line ain't half bad either.


For a new chain of Greek restaurants, here are some of the remaining contenders after a couple of rounds of a major logo exploratory. (Which will give a good glimpse into how we work!) (Kovo means "to slice" in Greek.)


For the 501(c)3 youth organization, we did a complete rebranding. It's now called Culture Connect and the new logo is this: 


Another hand-drawn logo for another music business, a small record label in NYC that was putting out funky and fun music:

For the 1/2 a percent for AIDS charity meme:

For our friend the reflexologist, kinda explaining the concept of what she does. (We love the fingerprint in the shape of a brain.)

For a now defunct organization that helped kids by helping them make movies and short films. You can also see a fine example of our original concept: the "dynamic tag line":

Patches for the Farber Brothers' sailboat for hire, Ophira. They already had the Farber brothers emblem.

For the green candidate who was not seen as the green candidate: (read the case study here.)

For two organizations that help those exposed to toxic dust during the 9/11 clean up:

For Samuel's, the best coffee in Rhinebeck, this little 'king of coffee' logo was designed to be used in conjunction with the pre-existing Samuel's logo (which we always wanted to update):

And finally, for our own little fun company, we use a fresh logo whenever we come up with one, but that little light bulb is really our fave for expressing our brand personality: fun, creative, unusual. Just what you want in an ad agency.

There you go. A little logo round up showing hopefully, how logos can really be a strong way to express a brand essence and brand personality. Logos are important tool in the big branding tool box. But they're certainly not the only tool. So please, from now on, remember: branding is not a logo . . . but a logo should definitely be branding.

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Tortoise and the Hare

The other day, we were hanging out around the water cooler, shooting the breeze and talking about branding, like we like to do, and the conversation turned to metaphors for branding, another thing we like to do, and someone from the typing pool piped up and said that they thought that branding was like Aesop's fables: a seemingly endless trove of tales, each one designed to illustrate a particular point.

They added that good branding is the tale that tells the truth of individual goods or services and that whereas Aesop's fables each have their individual moral (the tortoise and the hare, for example), each brand has their individual deep brand truth. Or brand essence, or brand DNA. Or whatever you wanna all it.

Well, we were liking this simile a lot when our chief, cook, and bottle washer (not to mention head of the typing pool), took it even further. (Background: Recently we had lost a pitch to a local logo mill and when fearless leader asked the once-prospective client if the logo mill was going to be doing any branding for her, she replied: "Oh, yes! They're going to make the logo AND the letterhead AND the website ALL have the SAME look!!" This did NOT make him happy, highlighting, as it did, his evident failure to make the client understand what branding actually is.) ANYWAY . . . he took the metaphor a little further and noted that if the moral of the Aesop's fable is the "brand essence" and the way the tale is told is the "brand personality", then perhaps the title of the tale is the name of the product and the illustrations are the symbolic equivalent of the logo. Each of them individually (and all of them collectively) reinforce the story, but none of them, on their own, is the whole story. Much less, the moral of the story.

Here below is a title of a story and a single illustration from that story. Pretend for a second that you don't already know the tale of the tortoise and the hare and ask yourself: from the title and an illustration (a logo and a look), how much of the story do you really get?

For us, the answer is clear: not enough. From just these two elements, you simply don't get enough information to truly understand the richness of the story that's behind them, and the moral of the story? Completely lost. And THAT'S the moral of THIS story!

Here at Woodstock Organic Concepts, we identify and leverage unique brand stories to help brands succeed in their competitive environments. A name, a URL, a logo and a letterhead are all part of it, as is a unified look and feel that extends to all media and expressions of the brand. But it's the gestalt of it all that can really help clients win the race. And that's where we come in, the tellers of tales and painters of pictures in the interest of our clients' success.

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And now, for your viewing pleasure, take a gander at how Walt Disney told the whole story and painted the whole picture in 1934: "The tortoise and the hare" Animated. Disney. 1934.

If you want even more, check out our story "What is branding? (Or: the lazy KY)"

Sunday, March 3, 2019

NYU's Institute of French Studies

Not too long ago, we got a call to do a poster for NYU's Institute of French Studies for their 40th anniversary programming. Well, it turned out they needed a logo too, so we did a little logo exploratory for them . . .

We started with the NYU logo, the torch inside of a purple square:

Played with that . . .

Played some more . . .

And, at some point, it dawned on us that the letters of their logo spelled out the word "ifs" (which seemed perfect for an organization of historians, who are always looking for fresh ways to make sense of the past) and we looked down that path to see what might be there:

But eventually, as often happens, a doodle on a piece of paper turned into the winning idea:

The red, white and blue of the French flag was quickly scuttled as being too nationalistic, and the natural substitution choice was NYU's purple:

And here below are some of the posters we did, our favorite at the bottom, picturing the French Marianne, symbol of liberty and reason and the Republic and our final logo.