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Michael Buckingham


With the goal of making the church the most creative place on the planet, Michael founded Holy Cow Creative, the church’s creativity and design studio. He is also the creative director for the Center for Church Communication and Church Marketing Sucks. You can find him speaking at conferences such as HOW, Echo, and MinistryCOM. Check out his blog, Jesus Hates Papyrus, where he continues to help the church intentionally reflect Christ in how it communications.
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12 Responses to “Filling in the Gap: 4 Logo Lessons for Churches”

  • Cliff Seal
    October 12, 2010

    Agreed. I had a slightly different take on it: http://logos-creative.com/the-great-gap-logo-stunt-maybe


  • Jeremy Scheller
    October 12, 2010

    How about…
    The people who got you HERE, may not be the people to get you THERE…


    • Michael Buckingham
      October 12, 2010

      Jeremy – will you unpack that a bit more?

      Cliff – Interesting take, I hadn’t seen that spin. I have seen some who thought all the press was good for Gap which I disagree with. For me, it reaffirms Gap’s lack of style.


      • Cliff Seal
        October 12, 2010

        I agree with you personally, but if it was a PR stunt, and if it was directed at American Apparel customers, they certainly don’t appreciate style in advertising. Look at what AA has been throwing in ads for the last several years…tasteless.


  • @PaulSteinbrueck
    October 12, 2010

    A couple other things to keep in mind…

    – A lot of people hate change, even change for the better. Expect criticism any time you make a logo change.

    – The people who hate change the most, make the most noise. I haven’t been following the GAP debacle closely, but chances are it’s 0.01% of people making the most noise. Don’t jump to conclusions based on what a very small, vocal minority is saying.


  • Jeremy Scheller
    October 12, 2010

    from what I’d read before, that design firm had been with Gap for a generation. When you’re going to refresh your brand, it’s often a better approach to shop around, get an outsider’s perspective.

    The design firm that took this far (with your now slumping sales) may not be the design firm that is going to reinvigorate your brand and drive you into the future.

    I work with a lot of startups and small businesses. I know when to quit. If I think I’m at the end of the road with a client and they would benefit more by going with someone else, I step aside. You have to know when to take out your starting pitcher and get a fresh arm into the game…


  • Chris Syme
    October 12, 2010

    Your first point is the best point–logo change has to be facilitated by a “why?”. A few years back Wal Mart rolled out a new logo and people hit the roof, pronounced failure, etc. But truth was, Wal Mart was rolling out a new image at the same time and they (very) successfully went from being the place with the cheapest prices to the place that people could trust to outfit, feed and entertain their families for less. Wal Mart changed from showing us how cheap they were to how much we could do with less money. Don’t change logos to kick start your failure. Change logos to parallel a strategy of change in your identity. I think the reason Gap couldn’t “prime the pump” was that they weren’t intending to do anything new–just the same old water coming out of the old pump.


  • @stevefogg
    October 12, 2010

    Wow, you’ve written a really great post here Michael! I’ve seen time and time again new ministry leaders come in and want to change the name and logo – because they are new. They haven’t thought so much about the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. If we only spend more time on the why rather than the ‘how’ or the ‘what’ we would be streets ahead in ROI.

    In Australia we only just our 1st Gap store opening now so this issue isn’t really biting over here – GAP certainly isn’t a loved brand here, I’m not sure what people think of it in the U.S.? I also see parallel’s with Coke improved formula’ and the reaction to changing a the essence of brand that people are attached to.

    Having not seen the new logo, it does feel a bit corporate on first glance, but then I haven’t heard of any rationale why they did what they did.

    I’d also agree with Paul, sometimes the minority can be louder than the majority.


  • Bobby Minor
    October 13, 2010

    Honestly most church websites and logos are pretty bad and either communicate the wrong thing or don’t communicate anything at all. I was talking with the pastor of a fairly decent sized church last week and they’ve had the same logo for 25 years that was nothing more than clip art and had no tie in to what the church was about. With that being said he was getting push back from some members about changing it.

    Great post.


  • Brian Klassen
    November 17, 2010

    The logo game is often misunderstood. So many designers try and tell an entire story with one little mark (the illustration logo). This is sometimes directed by the client, but is often a combination of the client and designer trying to do to much with a tool that was meant for one purpose – memorability. Many start by trying to build in deep meaning, which normally leads to “complex/forgettable”. What you are really trying to create is ridiculous simplicity which allows for/invites brand impressions to be attached to it. I call it the “sticky factor”.

    In the case of changing an already established logo with a decent amount of awareness, it is usually better to tweak than start from scratch. (Coke is a great example of this). Don’t make your viewer start all over. Allow them to come on board and experience the journey (great point about preparing the viewers ahead of time).

    One last point. Even the worst of logos can do a great job if you have the dollars to build frequency. The problem for ministries/churches is that those types of dollars are usually not available and why we focus on simplicity and quality.

    Fantastic conversation.


  • Michael Buckingham
    November 18, 2010

    While I agree it certainly needs to be memorable, it does indeed need to show your personality and set the stage for your story. I see way to many designers that only focus on what looks good, and while things need to look nice they must say something other way people will forget them.

    Of course you’re right with enough money the worse logos become great, my personal favorite in this regard is Nike. “that logo only cost $35 and look how great it is…” goes the conversation, what we forget is it cost $35+millions of advertising, and it’s really not a great logo without that. I do think we too often look at large brands and try to apply what works with them to the church, it’s a different beast.


  • Sheila
    November 30, 2010

    Our church just changed it’s logo…again. Several years ago it had no logo, at least none that I was aware of. Then a new pastor came on and our logo became…yep, a stylized cross. Certainly not the most innovative design. But out rolled a bunch of literature, cards and so on with that design. Now less than 3 years later, for some unknown reason, the design has been altered. Grab your seats, they cleaned up the stylized cross, and put a church building in the background. Wow eh. Apparently we were a church without a building in the first logo and a church with a building in the second logo (despite the fact that we’ve always had a building….). The pastor spoke about the meaning behind the logo but the meaning is not self evident. Anyone who didn’t attend that service and hear the explanation is likely to never know what the logo means. And more importantly no one who sees our logo is likely to discern anything more than a cross and a building.

    It’s great to have meaning in one’s logo that the organization can orient itself to but it’s also important to convey some meaning to those outside of the organization.



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