The late Steve Jobs said, “You’ve baked a really lovely cake, but then you’ve used dog shit for frosting.”
The cake Steve referred to is your company, your organization, your event or your invention.
The “shit” Steve referred to is the minimal attention some businesses give to the outer layers — those first points of contact — of their businesses:
- Your Website
- Your packaging
- The language you use
- Your shipping materials (and last but certainly not least)
- Your logo
Why would Steve say such a thing? Because too many companies treat their identities (those outer layers) in the same way college athletes respect silence in the college library.
No Detail Is Too Small
Steve “loved doing things right. He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see.”
Well, if the stuff you can’t see is important enough to refine, what about the stuff people do see? Especially to people first encountering your company. Does that first impression:
- Convey authority?
- Reflect expertise?
- Relay an unswerving attention to detail?
- Mirror or exceed the expectations of your customer?
The Outer Layers
and That First Impression
One of the first items prospects will see, besides your name, is your logo. It’s one of the items that Steve called “the outer layers” mentioned at the close of this post.
This important outer layer will convey either “We’re the real deal” or “Hey — we’re amateurs and ask that you look beyond this crap to see our actual value once you scratch beneath surface.”
This important outer layer is not the place to skimp. It’s one of the parts of a brand I spend the most time on, so my clients do not come across looking like “dog shit.”
Here are 46 examples I have designed to help each client with that first impression on this most important first “outer layer.”
1. Simply Stuff, a gift gallery and pottery showroom located in a rustic, rural setting
2. Botanical Bakery, a Napa Valley-based gourmet confectioner
3. Coffee from New York City
4. City of Menomonie Tourism Logo
5. Charms With Benefits, a charm accessory company
6. R&R, a bed and breakfast
7. Art Deco, a typographic study
8. Tower Realty Trust, a real estate investment company
9. Palazzo, an Italian retail store chain
10. Coco Polo premium chocolate sweetened with Stevia
11. Joanna Vargas Skincare
12. Legacy Chocolates, artisanal chocolate company
13. Accessory Snobs, fashion accessories retail company
14. Enzacta, nutritional supplement sales company
15. City of Osceola brand identity
16. Charlie perfume by Revlon
17. Wheels and Wings Annual Event
18. Big Dot of Happiness, company specializing in women-centric events
19. Logo for Fast Company article on Kim Kardashian’s voluptuous empire
20. Very Moderne Furniture logo
21. Logo design for Fast Company article on a partnership between Google, YouTube and the Guggenheim
22. App Treasure Hunter, Website for apps for kids
23. Deli Patrol, slow-cooked artisan deli meats reviving the legendary tastes of New York
24. Secret Sauce campaign brand identity for Milestone Systems
25. 4ward Planning brand identity for a land use firm
26. box, a typographic study
27. The Cooked Egg logo
28. Insatiable Genius rebrand (transformed from Toon FX)
29. Robert Giede Design logo
30. KnowBe4.com brand identity for Security Training company
31. Joanna Vargas Salon brand identity
32. Fresh Face Russian skin care product
33. Palazzo, an Italian retail store chain
34-42. The Wedge food co-op series of logos (series of 8 logos)
Crap or Frosting?
I think Steve said it best here: “In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”
He redefined the standard of branding and detail as relates to a company’s success. He was most sensitive to these “outer layers’ — the exact outer layers that define your brand.
The final question is: How are your brand’s outer layers serving your brand and the message it conveys?