Logo_simplification_1As a designer, I enjoy watching logos change over time. And 2014 was a year of major brand changes.

I was immediately drawn in the by the number of brands that simplified their logos.

I don’t believe simplication was a coincidental trend. I think there are logical reasons to explain it.

1. Logos are more rapidly recognized at smaller sizes on digital formats.

Screen resolution affects the crispness of images, and some screens may not reproduce small details well at small sizes. For example, in a previous version of Absolut Vodka’s logo, the “Country of Sweden” text becomes illegible as the size of the logo decreases. In comparison, the new version remains more recognizable at smaller sizes.

absolut

2. A logo does not live in isolation—it lives within a larger brand world.

Brand agencies are not simply creating logos but entire brand worlds that include other visual systems and environments such as patterns, photos, illustrations and mobile, web, print, large format environments to advance their messages. Therefore, it is no longer necessary for a logo to represent every aspect of the brand. A simplified logo can be easier to repurpose in this dynamic world.

pizza_hut_logo

3. Well-established brands do not need as many visual cues to be recognized.

Take the Starbucks logo transformation as an example. It has been gradually simplified to a point where it no longer includes the name and just a single color. This shows confidence that the brand is ubiquitous to the point where reinforcement of the name is not necessary. Brands are choosing to do away with elements that no longer serve a purpose. 

starbucks_logo

4. Simplicity stands out. 

We absorb streams of images, videos, text and more daily. Smart brands don’t try to compete with this. Instead, they create messages that speak to their audiences using easily recognizable visuals and straightforward messages.

I see the process of simplification, coined more broadly as “Skeuomorphism,” as a necessary, natural evolution. It is about survival and adaptation in a world flooded with visuals and voices.

Some, like Neven Mrgan, entrepreneur and designer at Panic Inc., believe simplification gradually degrades the beauty of an object. But isn’t beauty subjective? Who is to say that the logos we see today won’t be beautiful in 10, 20 or 30 years?

How do you interpret brand simplification? How are brands remaining unique despite this trend? And can you see other forces or trends at play?


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Lee Milverton

Lee Milverton is a senior graphic designer on APCO's global Creative practice. Based in Washington, D.C., he helps transform the creativity and visual impact of global new business proposals and presentations. Read More