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Is Branding Becoming Bland? Pt.1


The Nike tick, the yellow arches of McDonald’s and the apple of... you guessed it, Apple, are just a few examples of famous logos that have come to transcend the company as a whole. These companies recognise that their branding is influential and provide their business more value by being so recognisable to consumers. The logo is the most significant element of branding, as it is for the most part, the face of the company. Due to this, an effective logo design should be powerful and easily memorable, making an impression on a person at first glance.


Daring to be different with your design also goes a long way in helping you stand out from the crowd and separating you from your competitors. Everything from the colour scheme, font, icons and more can help convey why your new bakery selling bread from around the world is better than the old-school bloke selling cobs and bloomers down the road. Branding your logo with a modern print featuring a loaf of bread and a globe communicates your company’s mission clearly helping to force poor Mr. X’s bakery out of business, and helping you start your own bread monopoly.


So if the key to good branding and a good logo is creating a symbol that is unusual and unique, why have Yves Saint Lauren become the latest on a long list of companies, decided to adopt a more minimalistic, uninspired design?


In the past 5 years Google and Ebay are just some of the big names to have made subtle changes to their logos, in an attempt to re-brand their image. Both companies started out with bright multi-coloured logos, with a fun and playful font, but suddenly shifted to a more pragmatic and geometric style. Many outsider suggested that these changes were influenced by a mini mid-life crisis and argued they were taking the personality out of the brand.


Professionals in the industry however know that this has always been best practice and that businesses have been doing this since the dark ages. Radically changing a logo to beyond recognition in one step is brand suicide, but by slowly flattening elements, reducing colours and increasing white space over time, companies can retain their allegiance to their customers.


The fashion industry is one of the guiltiest in terms of logo simplification. Luxury brands often stood apart from high-street retailers with their signature detailed motifs and illustrated emblems, but now look almost identical with their bold capitalised fonts. This trend is due to fashion brands relying on other exclusive aspects of their products to do the branding for them such as (patterns, materials influencers). It’s much easier nowadays for companies to celebrities as a branding tool and to be the face of their company rather than the logo itself.


It’s no coincidence that these alterations are happening more frequently now that digital has become so prominent and critical for all these businesses. Nick Koch, our Senior Digital Creative at Positive, echoes this sentiment:


“My perception is that a lot of companies are simplifying their logos for a digital first age. A lot of the old finer logos simply did not work on digital platforms, they lost their detail and finesse within a smaller retail space and didn’t adapt well in an increasing portrait viewing environment.”


In a multi-screen world, where people are using their mobiles more often than their computers, logos need to look crisper and sharper on smaller screens whilst also being scalable for the big screens. This just simply isn’t possible for detailed logos of the 90’s and 2000’s meaning simpler logos are much more suitable for this current environment than complex ones.


Complexity can be influential, but for the majority of companies, I think it’s safe to say that purposely inserting complexity in a logo is the exception, not the rule.