We've all seen it. Pink, red, green, purple, circular, square, hexagonal, and more. Social media icons on the various websites we visit are all completely different and usually designed to match the site they're on; but are we doing it right?
One of the first websites I worked on in 2006 had a space on it for some client logos. Our client had sent through the logos which I had to put into the site, matching the design. One of these logos was a small pictographic, followed by the long double word of their brand name. This didn't fit into the available space very well, in its delivered size the writing was small and unreadable, so I set about chopping the writing into two lines. It looked much better in the space, everything readable, voila.
When the site went for design review one of the comments was that one of the logos used was wrong. I spoke with the designer and gave my reasons for altering it, before being correctly put into my place. You don't alter someone else's logo, unless their branding guidelines allow it. The logo went back to how it was, and remained unreadable on the site.
Fast-forward to the social media era. Almost every website I visit is using their own, custom versions of logos for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. And every one of those companies has branding guidelines that prohibit their alteration in colour and shape.
What does that mean for people who customise the logos? Well, usually not much. Unless you're a really big brand then the organisations involved are unlikely to ever notice. If they did notice you, you'd likely receive a cease and desist, a common sort of letter in business, requiring you to put right what's wrong, a bit like Sam Beckett. It's a possibility that your clients are brand savvy, and may find the alterations of another company's logo unprofessional and be put off. Certainly the most obvious cost is the cost to the client, who was billed for the designer's time to create something which shouldn't have been altered.
For your ease of access, here are the current web guidelines from the companies listed, and a relevant snippet from them that relates to this article.
Don't modify Facebook brand assets in any way, such as by changing the design or color
Only show the logo in Twitter blue or white.
Don't alter, rotate, or modify the logo.
Anyone using Instagram's assets should only use the logos and screenshots found on our Brand Resources site and follow these guidelines.
Modify our logo or your channel for use in your promotional material or ads. or
Modify the YouTube word mark through any other alterations including hyphenation, combination, abbreviation or acronyms (e.g. Tubing, Tuber, YT, You-Tube, YouTubed, etc.).
Create or use buttons not provided by Google.
No Modification: The LinkedIn Marks must be used as provided by LinkedIn with no modifications. Don't remove, distort or alter any element of the Marks, including changing any colors. Do not shorten, abbreviate, or create acronyms out of the Marks.
Use Outside the US: Trademark rights vary from country to country. Some countries have penalties for improper use of the registration symbol ®. If using the Marks on sites based outside the United States, use the ™ symbol unless otherwise noted in these Guidelines.