How (Not) To Redesign Your Brand Logo

by Simon Spring


Judging by the latest brand logo redesigns at USA Today, Microsoft, Yves Saint Laurent and eBay, it is clear that the trend towards simplification has never been more evident than now. But these changes make you wonder whether the integral characteristics of the trademark are still embodied in each of the new logos.

Simplification is an essential, if not a crucial, part of the design process. Avoiding decorative elements to focus on the core of the brand is important. But, lately, the impression is that a “less is more”  philosophy has begun to feel exhausting, and gimmicky.

Do recent changes within eBay, for example, warrant such major alterations to the brand logo? Besides the distinctive colour, nothing much is left of the original logo. Had the company deviated from internet and marketplace auctions to, for example, a music service provider, then the changes might be justified, but this was not the case.

Redesigning condenses the visual appearance of a brand logo or company to its main features and achievements. The more characteristics are changed over time, the greater the possibility that the re-design may fail. The slightest change to the spectrum could influence the design enormously, which may result in customers losing confidence, causing them to legitimately wonder why brand X, despite almost no changes, has a completely new look.

The bouncing letters in the original eBay logo, as well as the elegant, handwritten typeface of Yves Saint Laurent, convey the essential characteristics of each brand in a concise way.  Abandoning such characteristics, regardless of the quality of the new design, undercuts the confidence – and trust – placed in these brands. Good brand designs should be flexible enough to withstand changes in colour, or even slight font changes, without sacrificing character and impact.

Logos sometimes resemble people – only their “corners and edges” make them conspicuous, and their most subtle characteristics make them the “brand.” Aesthetics are often over-estimated, especially by designers. It is important to remember that memorable, relevant and emotionally resonant quirks are what give brand logos their staying power.

Simplification must never take place at the expense of sacrificing character and individuality.