Crafting the Perfect Identity (Crisis)

by Karrie Kohlhaas on March 24, 2009

in Logos,Marketing,Organization,Presentation,Recommended Reading,Taking Risks,Taxes

ThoughtShot Consulting LogoI’ve been rethinking some things about my business and identity is at the center of it.” I hate to say crisis, but Erik Erikson who coined the term pretty much describes this to a tee, with a few tweaks to make it all relevant to business.” A year or so ago I hired an excellent designer, Karen Chappell of Redfyve Design.” She spent a lot of time getting to know my business, really listening and trying to get to the essence of who I am as a business cultivator.

After several iterations of logo concepts, we landed on the one you see now. Like a good logo or business name, it has multiple meanings and offers several ways for people to connect with it—while the image itself remains simple.” It’s based on the image of a neuron firing, but not everyone sees that.

Some people see brain activity, the positive space of the image; others see breaking through and focus on the image as negative space.” Some describe a sense of high impact, and still others say it represents a reaching outward and the ever expanding nature of a business or an idea.” I also hear that it reminds people of pointed explosions of insight, a paint splash, a zap, and even energy pulling inward.” Then there are the people who just don’t connect with it or don’t like it—or for whom it elicits a negative visceral reaction!

I always tell my clients that it’s a bad idea to ask everyone you know what they think of your logo or business name–oh but this is hard to avoid.” If you give into this temptation, you will hear that some people adamantly hate it and some love it and would be disappointed if you strayed from it—no matter what the image, you will always find people in both camps.” It will simply confuse you.” There are better logos and better business names but none that will work for everyone.” So there is an element of letting go and knowing that it won’t speak to everyone and it won’t say everything, and that’s hard for some of us, myself included!

As an anthropologist, I look for meaning in everything.” As a consultant this can be very helpful as I unpack the layers of meaning and cultural connotations that clients often cannot see.” But for myself, this can be a bit debilitating.” It’s been so hard to really commit to one design because there are other aspects to what I do and who I am for my clients that were so well represented in the other image Karen worked up—a completely different feel, much more grounded, calming, balanced and sophisticated.

I know this type of identity crisis well through the eyes of the consultant.” I have helped so many people hone in on the essence of their business and then work with them to name the business, craft a tagline, develop a concept to take to a designer.” The message/image/name should resonate with their target market but I also want it to resonate with them.” When you really get engaged in the process, a logo can become highly personal and it can drive you a little nuts to make the final call.

Recently I spoke with Matt Krzycki, video producer and owner of Goodside Studio, about this very issue.” Matt has been a client and over time we’ve become colleagues and friends.” As someone who helps his clients craft a message and identity for video, he had some great input about logos…

“Sometimes logos become physical manifestations of how we see ourselves. The challenging thing is that we are multifaceted, ever changing and situational, but logos can’t be, so it locks us up. They’re expected to represent everything we are, but they can’t.”

Perfectly said.” With video you can show more of yourself, but with a static logo, you have to wrap it all up in a few lines, some color and a font, and bam, that’s who you are saying you are.” For anyone who takes this process on as a serious exploration of their business and not just a superficial necessity, it can be a very difficult process.” If you are going through this, I feel your pain.

© 2009 – 2010, Karrie Kohlhaas. All rights reserved.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt Lawrence March 25, 2009 at 8:04 am

Some of my favorite logos are the simplest designs. This is sort of the visual version of the idea while speaking, if every word is a quarter, then we would use them more sparingly.

If all else fails in your process do this:
Pick straws. And when you pick the straw that is going to be your logo, you will know if you are disappointed. If you are, use the one that lost.


Karrie Kohlhaas March 26, 2009 at 7:56 am

If every word were a quarter, I’d be in trouble.


Sacha Blue March 26, 2009 at 11:47 am

If there has even been a situation to make me feel like the most indecisive person on the planet it would be the entire logo creation process.

When I asked for opinions on my first round of logo concepts the answers left me more confused. Fifty opinions, all with good points, and nobody even liked the one that was my favorite. Ultimately I used those ideas for concept revisions and when the designer sent me the second round I had one I loved the most and picked it. Slept on it before committing to it but never asked another person for their thoughts. :) I do have three mini logos for different parts of my business but I know what you mean when you say it is so hard to show everything you do in one logo.

I think the thing is maybe a logo needs to sell you on a more basic level. Rather than trying to create a logo that sold me as fun, professional, edgy, untraditional, etc I went for something that I felt like sent out the message that this person is not old and stuffy and has her stuff together enough to have a modern logo. She must be fun/good at what she does.

You know how some businesses have logos that immediately say old/dated/homemade/etc? I didn’t want that. But I couldn’t have one logo that said sexy and childlike so it had to be a more basic concept that would fit my business as a whole. I guess really it came down to my gut saying “Oh I love that, it is exactly what I want” even when I was unable to articulate what I wanted.

I’m not sure I believe that a logo can really say some of the things people claim they do. Does a logo really scream edgy or creative or passionate or funny or reliable? I don’t think so. But I do think it helps establish you as someone to take seriously by giving a polished look to your image. (Yes, there are crappy companies with great logos and crappy logos with great companies…)

I don’t think the logo is the be all end all of marketing but I do think it is one more piece that can either add to or detract from your credibility/perceived value as a professional.

I say trust your gut and pick the one that resonates with you the most. Yes, it is good to resonate with your target market. The thing is if you don’t love it then it isn’t you. And if it isn’t you, what is the point?

~ Sacha


Karrie Kohlhaas March 27, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Well said, Sacha. Thanks for sharing this. Yes, there is that initial hit you get from a logo and while I agree that’s very important, I believe a good logo is also rich enough to continue to offer more meaning over time.

And you are so right about this: “there are crappy companies with great logos and crappy logos with great companies.” The logo cannot make your product or service better! But it could take away from it if people cannot take you seriously or if they get the wrong message from it.


Karrie Kohlhaas March 27, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Realized today that a logo is a lot like a haircut…people will tell you what they think even if you don’t ask. They don’t have to flat out say they like or dislike it:

“Oh, (startled look) you got a new haircut/logo. (pause) Do you like it?”


“OOH, you got a new haircut/logo!”


Carol Walter March 31, 2009 at 12:00 am


I love this discussion on logo choices and identity. As an Aromatherapist I guide my clients towards tapping into their deepest desires and experiencing joy through manifesting those desires.

As you said well, choosing a logo, means identifying just a small part of you that you want to display to represent the services that you offer. Whatever you choose will appeal to some and not others. Whatever you end up with, keep in mind that the logo was created out of inspiration and think about that moment of inspiration every time you look at it!

Just like a haircut that is striking, one will get reactions to their logo. If we can always remember our source of inspiration when we think of our logo or see it, it serves a good purpose for us. Others’ opinions can be weighed in on the next time we redesign.

For now, love your new logo, trust your creative process and feel the intended inspiration every time you see it!



Karrie Kohlhaas June 5, 2009 at 3:13 am


I like that idea of going back to the inspiration around the logo. After much toiling and thought, I decided to stay with the logo I was contemplating and really love the intention behind it.

A wonderful surprise is that I am starting a new business and the other logo we were looking at is PERFECT for it! So, viola, problem solved and no more design phases needed. I am sure Karen of Redfyve is relieved!

I’d love to hear more comments on this topic as I think it’s very important. The conversation about logos is still open for discussion!



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