From the last few years the primary trend that has been going on in the design space is brands choosing to "debrand" themselves. What that means is, brands are choosing to tone down their logo to a more 2D first perspective, and reducing the amount of detail in their logo, to allow it to work better on all mediums both digital and print, while also bringing in a more cleaner look.
Having a simple and flat logo has a lot of advantages
Within this digital first world having a simpler logo allows for more easier and stronger usage on all digital needs, especially for space restricted needs like an app icon, social dp' and so on.
Even on the print end of the spectrum it makes a lot more sense to have a simple and flat logo, because then it's easier to capture your brand logo truly without sacrificing any detail because even in the smallest space
And lastly, having a simple and clean element allows for more brand recognisability and makes it easy for the consumer to remember the brand.
This brings me to my key point, with the thought of making the brand feel more modern, are some brands unknowingly loosing their core value and essence of the logo and just jumping on a bandwagon of looking minimal and futuristic.
The logo on the left was Kia's logo for almost 2 decades from 1994 to 2022 ( except for a small tweak in the middle ) and the one on the right is part of their larger rebranding activity that took place in 2022.
The rebranding was widely criticised for lack of clarity and complicated letters that looked more like 'K-N' and less like 'K-I-A'. While their move came from the intent of feeling and looking more futuristic and shifting their brand image from a mass car producer to being a future driven car manufacturer like Tesla or Rivian, the end translation of this idea never came to fruition . There is this phrase that I use for these type of logos "fancy for the sake of being fancy". This is what I believe the logo ended up being. It's not that the previous logo had anything strong in-terms of an identity or a hidden meaning that the brand lost during its rebranding. But when a brand changes their logo that they have had for almost 20 years, it is expected that it does so, with purpose and a clear vision. But the rebranding chose to move in the exact opposite direction; The rebranding focused on the idea of a calligraphic signature composing of the letters K-I-A. The signature is made up of parallel angular lines that symbolises 'Rising'. But what part of this is the problem? a signature is never meant to be easily understandable. A signature in its true form is an artist leaving a mark on their creation. But it is never the intent of an artist that everyone walking on the streets should recognise their mark, but rather only the ones that truly respect their work. But car manufacturers have a complete opposite intent. They want everyone walking on the street to be able to recognise their logo as their creation passes by. So when your intent is not to be niche, when your intent is to be easily recognisable, why try to make your logo a complex signature meant to be understood by only a few?
The logo on the left was Mahindra's logo-mark for almost 2 decades from 1992 to 2021 ( they did undergo a type mark change in 2012 ) and the one on the right is their rebranded element from 2021.
According to the brand, the intent of the rebranding came from the fact that Mahindra was making the cars of tomorrow and they wanted their logo to bring forth the same emotion. They wanted the new logo to denote 'Thrill, Power & Exploration' and with that in mind is how they came up with their new element 'The Twin Peaks'. The double 'M' formation denotes "building on the future with strong foundation of the past" while the 'X' in the middle denotes "the spirit of exploration". Now hear me out, independently, the logo is a sexy and futuristic looking element, but when you compare it to the original, it lacks heart. It is a pretty looking M that in no way stands up to the authentic and beautiful logo that the brand held onto for almost 20 years. The original logo not only strongly resonated with the idea of movement, automation, and moving forward, but also stood out very strongly on all their products. In my opinion, with a little treatment, the old logo would have made for a much more recognisable and meaningful logo for this new phase of the business. I fail to understand why the brand choose to let go of all its character for such a typical butterfly formation of a logo. And if the intent came from the fact that the logo was to represent the future of their automotive journey, why did they choose to make a entirely different logo for Mahindra EV ( which frankly to me looks like a variation of the meta logo ).
The logo on the left was Intels's logo-mark for almost since 2006 and the one on the right is their rebranded element from 2020.
Frankly, I didn't even know Intel rebranded, until I started researching for this blog. From the time I have been aware of Intel, I have seen it with those iconic swirls around its text. So, to see them drop them for this simple type-mark came as a big disappointment to me. While speaking in an Interview about the rebranding, the CMO of the brand said “We really felt our current brand kind of reinforced our current legacy versus our future. We seem to be looking backwards versus forwards.” But what I fail understand is, why would a brand try to shake off it's legacy. The idea of a rebrand is to take your legacy into the future. Legacy defines the brands identity, it is what brings consumers trust. Your past is what defines your future. Intel was the market leader in its domain for a really long run, and yes while its competitors like Apple and AMD did catch up, if its true intent was to establish itself as the leader, establish itself as still above the competition, the move should have never been to rebrand but rather to reinforce their core values and identity of to gain back their brand esteem. This would have been the best move for the brand especially considering both Apple and AMD, its biggest competitors, have had the same element for almost 50 years.
The logo on the left was Mahindra's logo-mark for almost 2 decades from 1992 to 2021 ( they did undergo a type mark change in 2012 ) and the one on the right is their rebranded element from 2021. Zoho is the latest brand to undergo a rebranding, and look, this one I agree with. The brand needed a rebranding to allow the brand to have a more simpler and flat logo that has a better digital and print use-case, but this was definitely not the ideal direction. The vibe of this new logo follows their internal redesign that has been ongoing since 2019. The idea follows what they call 'logolinism' which basically is them converting the logos of their product offerings into a unison of line based logos. You can check out their document on the same here. Now hear me out, if you see it from a synergy perspective, the logo strongly follows the rest of the internal brand logos and as a brand-tree it makes sense, but that's the only thing that it contributes. It almost feels like they redesigned the logo, just so it could look like the logos of it's product offerings, and not to convey the larger meaning of what the brand stands for and aims to be. The original brand colors and boxiness was already heavily inspired from Windows, so this rebranding should have been their opportunity to set themselves apart and use it as a metamorphosis engine of showing true growth and change, instead it now it looks like a logo which is somewhere between Olympics and Windows.
I think what brands fail to realise is that in trying to look cool and new, you don't need to sacrifice your authenticity, and rather try and achieve it by changing your design language and not your defining identity. One side of the spectrum is brands like McDonald's, Nike and Apple that are the best example of sticking to their identity. Through the years they have shifted their design, and in some form or capacity even changed their logo, but through all of that, have stuck to the core element of the logo that has now become their brand defining entity. And see I get it, you'll tell me that these brand got lucky, they cracked an element that they have been able to stick with, and it's not the same story with everyone.
I agree, but what I mean is, it's not about the shape or form of the element but the true defining symbol. That's where the second side of the spectrum comes by, brands like Starbucks, Burger King, Shell, Pringles, Mastercard are brands that have redesigned their element very strongly with each rebranding but again, they never changed its true meaning in an intent to look futuristic. You still remember the Starbucks logo as a mermaid lady, Mastercard as 2 circles converging, Pringles as the character with the moustache, Shell as a red and yellow shell and Burger King as the brand name between 2 buns. That's what debranding should truly mean, your intent and purpose should be to crack an element that through every design change and every design trend, is able to stick with the brand. If you are choosing to cut back on the detailing of your logo it should be to bring focus to the core element, not to 'look minimal'. The true problem with the above mentioned debrandings, is that some have sacrificed their authenticity to look futuristic, while some just joined on the current minimal design brand wagon, but none have tried to work towards a brand logo that could be truly timeless.
- Akbar Faisal