Internet surfers everywhere, at one point or another, have noticed that not all social media brand logos, badges and icons are uniform. It’s pretty hard to overlook the thousands of instances across the web in which social media brand identifiers have literally been modified beyond all recognition (MBARed).


Everyone wants to stand out and be unique, because it’s boring to look like everyone else, right?

Have you ever wondered though, whether any of those different brand representations are acceptable or technically legal? Unless you’re a brand manager, designer, or marketer, you probably don’t even give it a second thought, or maybe you do, but ultimately chalk it up to creative license and move on with your day.

Brand management in the digital age – to me – sometimes seems like a losing battle. I mean, how do you police hundreds of thousands of these posted all over the internet? Not saying they aren’t creative, but more than a few of these icons have been modified well beyond brand guide parameters. Even this hand-drawn set of SM icons appears to take brand standards a little seriously. Losing battle or not, brand assets are not public domain and are protected by intellectual property laws.

Most brands have an official logo, trademark, service mark, icon and/or badge set, as well as specific guidelines for the use of their brand assets. Designers have an obligation and responsibility to adhere to a brand’s standards and guidelines, but not every designer does, and while a significant number of ‘dabblers’ have access to imaging software like Photoshop, I’m guessing the general populace has no earthly idea what a Brand Standards Guide is, let alone what it might be useful for.


So where do we draw the line at what is acceptable creative adaptation, and what is copyright infringement (stealing intellectual property) in the digital age? There are differing opinions on the matter, of course.

In a recent post on FastCo Design, When Your Fans Hack Your Brand, Praise Them, William Allen of Behance makes the argument that “remixing a brand’s intellectual property for noncommercial use” should not be considered stealing or copyright infringement, but rather an homage and a compliment of the highest order – oh, and free advertising for the brand of course.

Brand owners see things differently. Reddit, for instance, takes the direct approach on their brand standards page, “We require a license to use these logos in anything outside reddit, both for free and for profit.”

Skype takes a more humorous approach in their request that you please not appropriate or modify their brand assets on page 29 of their Brandbook: “Our logo is our most valuable asset. We must treat it nicely. Never abuse our logo, it doesn’t have arms so it can’t fight back.”

Skype Global Directory


The  simple truth, whether we like it or not, is that brands spend a lot of time and money developing the products and brand image they want, and no one but them has the right to modify it or profit from it without their blessing, their permission and/or a licensing fee.

In tracking down links for this post, I (expectedly) read the brand standards and guidelines for many of these brands and interestingly it seems like most of them take the “soft-approach” where the internet is concerned, but media, merchandising, and promotional use off the interwebs are subject to more scrutiny up to and including a cease and desist (take-down) letter, or a knock at the door from the offended entity’s legal department; most require permission for use agreements and some require licensing agreements with a licensing fee in addition to full compliance of all brand guidelines. No two brands have the same standards or legal requirements and making assumptions to that effect might not be in your best interest.

So – below I’ve compiled a list of popular social media brands with links to their brand standards and download pages where you may purloin their official wares; logos, badges, icons and other stuff. See, they provide you with the the official stuff for free, because they want you to save your creative energy for other stuff that they haven’t already spent a ton of time and money creating.

Looking for assets and brand standards I don’t have links to here? Googling the brand name + one or more of the following search terms should net you what you’re looking for: Press Kit, Media Kit, Brand Standards, Brand Guidelines, trademark and content display policy, Brand Assets, Style Guide, Trademark Guidelines, Brand Manual, Brandbook


Side Note: If I can’t easily locate Brand Standards and access to official logos and icons on a company’s website , I assume a.) they don’t have any, because b.) they don’t care how people use their brand image, or c.) they don’t want people using them without express permission. A quick word search of their Terms and Conditions usually produces an answer leaning toward the former or the latter.


LinkedIn_iconLinkedIn
Dowload Official Logo files: http://press.linkedin.com/logo-images
Brand Guidelines: http://developer.linkedin.com/documents/branding-guidelines


Twitter_iconTwitter
Download Official Logo files and Brand Guidelines: https://twitter.com/logo


Facebook_iconFacebook
Download Official Logo files: https://www.facebookbrand.com/
Brand Guidelines: https://www.facebookbrand.com/dos-donts

(Facebook has an entirely separate site for brand standards, guidelines, and downloading assets.)


GooglePlus_iconGoogle +
Download Official Logo files and Brand Guidelines: https://developers.google.com/+/branding-guidelines


Pinterest_iconPinterest
Download Official Logo files and Brand Guidelines: http://business.pinterest.com/brand-guidelines/


Tumblr_icon

Tumblr
Brand Guidelines: http://www.tumblr.com/docs/en/trademark_guidelines


Behance_iconBehance
Download App Dev Logo files and Brand Guidelines: http://www.behance.net/dev/api/brand

(Predictably, a search for “Behance Brand Standards” netted page after Google page of creative portfolios containing Brand Guides, ironically the only brand standards for Behance I could find were only specifically for APP Developers.)


YouTube_iconYouTube
Download Official Logo files: http://www.youtube.com/yt/brand/downloads.html
Brand Guidelines: http://www.youtube.com/yt/brand/


Instagram_iconInstagram
Download Official Logo files: http://instagram.com/press/
Brand Guidelines: http://help.instagram.com/304689166306603


Prezi_iconPrezi
Download Official Logo files and Brand Guidelines: http://prezi.com/presskit/


Flickr_iconFlickr
Technically, you may not use the Flickr logo without express permission from Yahoo!, but they do provide official badges for web use at: http://www.flickr.com/about/goodies/


Skype_iconSkype
Download Official Logo files: http://about.skype.com/media-library/logos.html
Brand Guidelines: http://www.skype.com/en/legal/brand-guidelines/


digg_iconDigg
Download Official Logo files: http://logos.wikia.com/wiki/Digg
Brand Guidelines: None I could find


reddit-logoReddit
Download Official Logo files:  http://www.reddit.com/about/alien/
Brand Guidelines: “We require a license to use these logos in anything outside reddit, both for free and for profit.”


lastFM_iconLast.Fm
Download Official Logo files and Brand Guidelines: http://www.last.fm/resources


WordPress_iconWordPress
Download Official Logo files: http://wordpress.org/about/logos/
Brand Guidelines: http://wordpressfoundation.org/trademark-policy/

Fight the Fake Logo (Fauxgo)  Friends don’t let friends use the wrong WordPress logo. If you see one of these in the wild, please gun it down.


RSS_iconRSS
Download Official Logo files: http://www.feedicons.com/
Brand Guidelines: http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/foundation/feed-icon-guidelines/


StumbleUpon_iconStumbleUpon
Download Official Logo files: User account/login required to access/download
Brand Guidelines: http://help.stumbleupon.com/customer/portal/articles/665221-trademark-policy


Vimeo_iconVimeo
Download Official Logo files: http://vimeo.com/about/brand_guidelines
Brand Guidelines: http://vimeo.com/about/brand_guidelines


Additional References:

A beautiful and comprehensive chart of every current social media app./platform at Conversation Prism 4.0

For a glimpse into the world (and complexities) of global brand management, check out Essentials For Managing Global Brands In The 21st Century by Jose Ignacio Monrabal on the Branding Magazine blog.