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Resort Logo Rules & When to Rebrand: David Holm Interview

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To say David Holm knows a thing or two about branding and logos is like saying that getting kicked in the face by Chuck Norris might tickle. David knows his stuff and has spent his professional life working in the field on a variety of levels. After making contact with David a couple months back, and realizing he was now spending a little bit of time with Buck Hill Ski Area in Minnesota, I thought I’d pick his brain for some resort branding gems:

SlopeFillers: Dave, tell us a little bit about yourself. Your history as a designer,your involvement in skiing, etc.
David: After graduating from design school I started working at a promotional product firm in the Minneapolis area. During the 13 years that I worked there I also did a lot of freelance work with my main client being Buck Hill Ski Area. Not coincidentally, I have also worked at the same ski area for nearly 20 years. My graphic design work has focused on logo design and branding and I have had the privilege of working with many clients around the world, from Fortune Global 500 companies, to small mom-and-pop operations.
I love to ski and snowboard, and being involved in the ski industry as a designer is a great way to bridge two of my passions.

SlopeFillers: Dave, you’ve been working with logos and skiing for a long time. Out of all the resorts you’ve seen, what is your all time favorite resort logo?
David: If I had to choose only one favorite, it would be the Arapahoe Basin logo. There may be some personal bias here as A-Basin is one of my favorite ski areas, but I truly think that their logo is very successful in many areas. The logo is simple, just one color, and can’t be mistaken for anything else. It’s timeless.

SlopeFillers: You mentioned one reason you liked it was that it is one color. Why is that such so beneficial to A-Basin, but also other resorts with one-color logos?
David: A well designed logo should be successful without color or special effects. It should be simple enough to be used at very small sizes and printed on any medium. The main benefits of a simple logo are versatility, consistency, and ease of use.
I worked in the promotional product industry for over a decade. There were countless times when a client would bring us their new shiny logo with all kinds of colors and 3D effects and request it be printed on pens or key-chains at 3/4″ high. Many times it wouldn’t work without drastically modifying the design. To have a logo that is recognizable it needs to be used in a consistent manner. Having a logo that is simple enough to be used in the same consistent way across all mediums is a big part of developing the brand recognition that all businesses should strive for.

SlopeFillers: So, how imperative is good logo design for a resort? Is it going to make or break a brand or is it simply a helpful bonus?
David: A logo plays a very important part in any company’s branding. It is the foundation of the visual identity of your business, it is often times your company’s first impression.
However, a logo is not a brand, and your logo will not necessarily make or break your brand. Your brand is your complete business image, your brand is your customer’s perception of your business as a whole.
Logos usually become more important after your brand is established. When you think of famous ski resort logos, there are probably a few that come to mind right away. I think of resorts like Vail & Snowbird. These resorts have been using the same logos for as long as I can remember, I would assume from their beginning. They are simple logos that by themselves aren’t anything amazing, but when tied to the brands of Vail and Snowbird, these simple logos are priceless and a very important part of their respective brands.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that your logo should never change. For some resorts, rebranding may be a way to breathe some new life into your business.

SlopeFillers: So how does a resort know when they should think about rebranding themselves? Are there any resorts you’ve seen that have been successful in their rebranding efforts?
David: Rebranding is much more than just a fresh logo, but as a logo designer, that is where I will focus. A new identity is something to consider if your resort’s brand image is seriously outdated or no longer relevant. If your logo is unintentionally retro, it may time for a new look. If your business includes much more than skiing (snowboarding, tubing, mountain biking, etc), and your logo is ski-focused, it may time for a new identity.
Rebranding your business is a sign of change, and when your resort is going through big changes such as ownership changes, major expansions, or additional offerings, it is a perfect time to rebrand.
Mammoth refreshed their identity a couple years ago and as with most rebrands, not everyone was happy with the change. Some of Mammoth’s fans were quite vocal about the demise of “Wooly”, their old logo/mascot. However the new logo, in my opinion is a fantastic design, and much more versatile than the old cartoon mammoth.
Killington also has a new logo, and although I don’t know what Killington loyalists had to say about the new image, I can tell you that from a designer’s perspective, it is a great design. Their previous logo looked like it was stuck in the early 90’s. The new image is classic looking, yet modern. If you did not know the history of the logo, you might assume that it had looked like this all along.

SlopeFillers: Anything else that’s on your mind or advice/ideas for resorts about branding, and/or logo design?
David: Your brand says a lot about your business, and although your logo is not your brand, it is the glue that holds the visual elements of your brand together.
Logo design is often thought of as something simple, and although the end result may be a simple image, there is a lot more that goes into a successful logo design than meets the eye. Hire a professional, it’s not always as expensive as you may think.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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