Instead of writing about the logos and branding success or failure of others, this blog post takes a look at our own branding – ImageSmith’s history from a start in the 1980s to a brand that changes to keep looking forward. Our graphic development has sought to reflect the changes in our industry and the scope of our operation, as well as the progress in technology associated with graphic design and marketing communications. The company name combines three essential components of our business:
- the company owners and founders, Mary and David Smith;
- the word “image”, representing both the visual and graphic aspects of modern printing/marketing, and the idea of “image” as the overall impression a customer’s brand and marketing creates;
- the nature of print being a craft – just like the blacksmith or silversmith – who trains and hones his skills over time to become an expert in his field.
These three elements of ImageSmith branding have remained consistent through our development up to today. The look of our logo, however, has changed significantly.
Our earliest digital ImageSmith logo is seen above, circa the late 1980’s. This version definitely reflects the graphic sensibility of it’s day: the rainbow gradient central to the mark promoted full-color offset printing, something less common, more expensive and more time-consuming to produce that today’s quick, digital output. The fonts used look outdated today but reflect the quickly expanding availability of new, creative typefaces for desktop publishing in that era. Our tagline: “Full Service Printing Specialists.”
The second icarnation of the ImageSmith logo came in 1998. The printing industry was in a metamorphosis as the internet and print technology were bringing quick and unsettling change to the industry. The word image was streamlined to a sans serif font to modernize the appearance of the brand, and the drop shadow went from a hard vector shape to one with transparency – a nod to the technical advancements in prepress design with Adobe PageMaker, PhotoShop and Illustrator. This was one year before InDesign premiered and transparency moved from something that only lived within PhotoShop native layers. We changed our tagline from “Full Service Printing Specialists” to “Printing Your World on Paper” – an emphasis on the foundation of our company in offset printing and on the ability to graphically capture communication and marketing messages on paper. By 2002, the scope of our business had changed to where the emphasis on paper was less important than e-commerce, digital printing and file transmissions, and other technological advances. We changed our tagline to be the url of our newly expanding website.
By 2005, the evolution in print and marketing demanded a more drastic change to our brand. The current ImageSmith logo was designed to reflect these changes and to function in a much more versatile manner, just as our business has expanded to cover more versatile means of communication.
Our name itself changed to “ImageSmith Communications.” The logo evolved into a sleeker, more visually concise mark. Gone were the gradients, drop shadows and complex typefaces that had been significant in an earlier age of prepress technology, but merely givens today. The logo merged into a mirror-like image: the “i” and “m” of “image” with the “m” and “i” of “smith” – a subtle representation of the merging, fluid and integrated state of the technology and communication at which our business excels. We grew to offer much more than just offset printing – web development and e-commerce, design, digital printing, integrated marketing, mailing services, embroidery, signage, branded merchandise. In response, our logo needed to be much more versatile – to function equally well on a small embroidered patch as on a large format sign or website. In addition, our branding added our zebra Marty as a type of unifying “mascot” with the tagline “…earning our stripes, every day.”
Your brand and logo need to remain relevant – to proactively speak your message through changing times. If your look represents your beginnings, but not your evolution and promise, then you should put some creative thought into what changes are needed to your brand. Sometimes a refresh is appropriate, other times a major overhaul is needed. Making such design and marketing decisions is time-consuming for a small business owner. Turn to your printer for sound, experienced advice on where to begin the process. They should be able to provide you guidance and advice every step along the way from brainstorming ideas to final production of a new look. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!