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Branding Etiquette: Email Signatures and Logos

Monday, May 14, 2012 - 03:12

As a brand designer it is always somewhat flattering when a client wants to use their new identity as much as possible.  After all, the application of one’s logo is branding, and branding is good, right?  Well, not always.

Call it a pet peeve, but a great example of bad branding is the old “Putting your logo in the signature of your email” move.  I see it all the time where businesses don’t realize the faux pas they are committing in the interest of looking more professional.

Basically, emails with graphic signatures have a few problems.

  1. Mac users (at least) receive these emails as if they have an attachment because that is basically what it is.  So when viewed in the recipient’s inbox each email will have that paperclip icon associated with it – regardless of whether or not it possesses a proper attachment.  Kind of annoying.
  2. While Mac users are a growing segment of the population, an even larger group is the mobile user base.  Statistically speaking mobile use will overtake terrestrial consumption in 2013.  That means, smaller hard drives, data limits and in many cases a slow, 3G connection. In other words, these users don’t want to pay the price in time or money to wait for your logo to download.
  3. These attachments compound as messages go back and forth and signatures are repeated. Before you know it there can be several vapidly named attachments like image001.jpg, image002.jpg, image003.jpg and so on. 

Don’t even get me started on including social media icons.

Consider your signature a courtesy.  You are including a few extra lines in the body of your message to remind collaborators of how they can reach you.  As such it is my recommendation that they be branded natively through the use of color and typography. 

No one will call you out for putting your logo on the side of your building.  After all it is your building.  Emails however are different.  They live on the hard drives of others.  To include one’s logo over and over again is just plain bad swag.  Like a bumper sticker you put on someone else’s car.  

Remember, John Hancock signed his name on the Declaration of Independence.  He didn’t include his coat of arms.  Less can sometimes be more, especially when it is contextually appropriate.

John Gavula
Contributed By John Gavula

John is the creative director of Gavula Design. He has provided design and illustrator services for many of New York and the region's biggest brand consultancies. Leveraging this experience, and his multidisciplinary background he now works closely with Gavula Design’s clients as a trusted branding partner and steward.