Companies are investing in rebranding to make their logos effective.
Sometimes the people of an organization look at their logo and ask some tough questions. “Is this logo working anymore? Does this represent us anymore? Have modern design trends made our logo now look dated?”
These questions can lead them down a road that has them spending millions of dollars to rebrand. If they decide to rebrand, then they have to put up new signage, change all their packaging, retrain their staff on proper use, and communicate the change to their customers. It is an enormous undertaking, so there have to be good reasons why.
That is why we use the rebrandings of large organizations to give us “from-to’s” that point us in the direction of trends that will be shaping the designs of the future. If they have good reason to spend all that money and time, maybe there is something to be learned.
This year’s rebrandings and design trends have been making logos work better. They are more legible, more iconic and more own-able in the minds of the customers.
Follow the below guidance, and your logo will work better as well as be on trend for years to come.
You may recall from our list of trends last year that simplification was the significant trend. It was such a broad trend that it was a theme present in most of the other trends. This is not surprising because simplification is a trend created by new design considerations on mobile and social media. Those pressure have not changed. It is not a fad, and I believe we will see logos reducing elements for another seven to eight years.
When a logo is simpler, it is more effective. A simple logo is more iconic. A simple logo sticks in our mind more. A simple logo is more recognizable at a glance.
The executives and marketers at these large companies like NASCAR and Remax might just be asking: “is this the most effective design, or would it work better if it was simpler?”
No title case, part 1: all caps.
There is a shadow war that you never heard about but is happening in your city or town under your nose. That is the war against title case!
Title case is when the first letter of each word is capitalized (e.g., Brand Marketing Blog). It is the correct way to show that something is a title. For some reason, it has become taboo to use.
Instead, we are seeing most logos going to all caps. All caps logos have a lot of benefits: they are bold, easy to read, easy to align and work well when the logo has to be small. Therefore, we should not be surprised when companies like Calvin Klein and Lifetime ditch their title case logos in favor of all caps.
No title case, part 2: lowercase.
That war on title case cuts a different way as well: lowercase. The brands moving to lowercase are more the scrappy militia compared to the uppercase army. It is a minority of companies that are opting for lowercase.
There isn’t a right and a wrong way to go. Lowercase is fine if it expresses the character of the brand better. Uppercase can be assaulting to the eyes. Ever get an email in all caps? You imagine the sender as yelling, angrily. Lowercase wordmarks are perceived as softer, more serene, and youthful. It might just be the right choice for your brand, as it was for eharmony and the Amazon Prime sub-brand.
We see bit brands using more bold versions of fonts over the thin lettering that was all the rage in the mid-2000s. This is a style trend, but also has it’s function because the thicker lettering is more visible when the logo has to be small, such as in mobile and social media applications.
Covergirl and Chobani scrapped their thin lined logos in favor of bold type wordmarks so that they work better in small applications and are on trend.
Owning an icon.
We see more brands making their logo into a very simple icon.
This is a continuation of last years trend of “emblems that fit in a square.” Social media has forced brands into visually simple icons that read well as their profile images.
But icons have their utility beyond social media. If you are big enough to own an icon in the minds of people, as YouTube is to own a play button.
Chuck Anderson criticised Costa Coffee’s design in our recent roundup of holiday cups for not creating a design distinct enough to “own.” He is absolutely right. If your organization can be represented by a distinct but straightforward icon, you will be able to own it in your customer’s minds and use it to call up all of your brand associations with just a glance of it.
Now, this is getting serious. There are far less playfulness and whimsy in the logos that are coming out of million dollar rebranding processes these days. This is not the case in some categories like entertainment and toys, but companies that had visually fun flourishes in their designs are saying “no, just a stark symbol, please.”
This is a little sad, but every organization is entitled to represent themselves however they feel is best. Frank and straightforward icons are more effective than ones that trade simplicity for playfulness; simple logos stick in people’s minds. But creating an emotional connection through design also makes an emblem more sticky in peoples minds so these companies may not be better off.
But a more mature, adult lens on logo design is a trend, and you should be aware of it before you embark on your logo design project. Are you going to embrace the trend or buck it?
Formula 1 and Apple in their App Store icon have taken away logos with some fun flourishes, and replaced them with serious, to the point icons.
If you are reading this article, then you probably design logos or are a decision maker in logo design projects. One piece of feedback you always hear at some point in the project is: “it needs to pop more.”
An easy (and lazy) solution to that is to put a background object below the lettering. This practice is not necessarily bad, it has its place, but it does needlessly complicate the logo.
That is why we see some companies, like Hardee’s and Tyson, rebrand to remove that background, and instead make their logos “pop” by having two logos with the wordmark in either full black and full white, and then using the one that works best in context. The logo is still wholly recognizable even though it is sometimes seen in black and sometimes in white, and does not hurt the companies ability to accrue brand equity (link to: What is Brand Equity?).
Black and White.
For similar reasons to the trend of removing backgrounds, we see companies display their logos in merely white and black, whichever shows up better on a design’s background.
The logo is still wholly identifiable by customers even though it swaps from black to white. It does not hurt a company’s brand equity at all. Having the logo be either black or white also allows the designers of a print ad or a TV spot (etc.) to use whatever color scheme they want; they do not have to work in the color of the logo, which may affect their choices.
There is a downside. Having a unique color to your logo does make it more sticky in the minds of customers. I only think this strategy works if you are a well-known organization, and you have plans to use colors in other ways, as we have seen Bravo and Audi plans to.
We noticed that some big companies are using flat tones beside each other like a gradient. It is a nice looking effect, and we would love to see more of it.
There are some excellent reasons to do it. A bunch of shapes with flat colors will print and display more beautiful than a gradient evenly moving through the same colors. People are also used to seeing a lot of gradients on lower quality graphic designs, as it is something novice graphic designers use a little too much. And the stept gradient can just look super stylish.
Maybe this is just me, but there seems to be a return to a design style we haven’t seen since the 60s and 70s. A simplistic design language with no frills type and geometry.
Let me give you a quick history lesson in graphic design to illustrate the relationship between design style and technology. In the beginning, any graphic design was done by hand, and it was very stylized and artistic; think painted theatre posters and calligraphy. Then the early, simple printing presses came out, and design had to become very simple to accommodate them. Then the more advanced way of making printing plates came along and people used the increase in freedom to get back to stylish design, and we move through the Art Deco period. Then photostats take over design in the 60s and 70s, a technique where designers cut and laid out designs physically, and graphic design became very simple again. There was a short period in the 80s where design became a little more stylized, but it was back to simplicity as the first computer-aided design tools came out and the designers using them were constrained. As graphic design computer programs capabilities and the skills of the designers grew together, so did the stylistic and artistic-ness of the design style, until recently.
You can see that there is a pendulum motion between stylistic and straightforward, and the force that moves it is (usually) technology. But, I am seeing a design style now that reminds me of what I see in the history books in those early photostat days. Sure, there are pressures from both mobile and social to design with more simplicity, but I think designers and brand marketers are asking: “just because we can have more flourishes, should we?”
Thank you to Logopedia for making a great central location to do all of the research for this piece.
Colin Finkle is a brand marketer and designer with ten years of experience helping Fortune 500 companies tell their story at retail. You can see his work at Colin Finkle’s portfolio site. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter. He is also the author of the book series, the Neverborn Saga.
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