Two Trends in Logo Design

by | Feb 7, 2017

By Scott Bessell, Idea Builder, Sonnhalter

There have been a couple of subtle changes (again) in the world of company/corporate identifiers—their logos.


One of the attempts at winning us over is the elimination of the company name from the logo itself. So, companies like Nike—the swoosh, McDonalds—the golden arches, Starbucks—that mermaid, Shell petroleum—a shell and a growing number of others are simplifying their logos. Those corporations have of course earned through time and billions of advertising this recognition. Joe’s Plumbing, with that flushing toilet logo will probably never obtain that same synchronicity (that immediate connection between you and the icon) the others have earned.

Experts state that the reason for the simplified logo trend is to counter the jaded consumer attitude about advertising in ways that weren’t as negative several decades ago. Companies have had to learn subtlety, so it is said. I know I hated it when Nike put their name under the “swoosh.” All kinds of horrible Indonesian sweat shop shoe factories would arise. Once they removed it, and all I saw was the symbol, all negative connotations were gone! Miraculous.

Remember some time ago, the late pop artist Prince decided that he wanted to be recognized as a symbol and not a name. Well, the symbol “brand” had not done the time—it was to be immediate. Nobody had time to get used to it, let alone digest it. The media handled it this way; instead of using this new icon, that methods of the day could not easily produce, they just referred to him as “The artist, formerly known as Prince.” And most people just laughed and saw it for what it was.

I grew up with Apple Computer. I’ve lived through variations of their logo over the years—the early amateurish font beneath the famous multi-colored apple—with the bite out of it. Then the classier Garamond condensed logotype. On now, just a subtle one color apple, still with a bite taken out of it (an icon within an icon). I can live with that. I know who they are. I’ve been along on the journey. I’ve suffered the insults from the pc crowd. I remember the times Bill Gates would actually outfox Steve Jobs and vice versa. Though you didn’t need a moniker to know which side you were on, bleeding those apple colors helped.


There has been another recent change to logos. This one bothers me. On one hand, they want you to embrace and love them, identify and abide by them. Great efforts, many banner ads and friendly requests to like (buy into) them has been made at great expense on their part—now, they’re messing with what you’ve come to know and (hopefully) love and/or like on Facebook or your chosen social media hall of fame.

MINIMALISM. That’s what I call it. I think the herd is now running toward the mantra “Detail sucks. Simplify!” If you will, here’s another tale. Three or so years ago, we won the business of a new client with initial design control coming out of Europe. We were told to use their current logo verbatim. This was welcome in that it was a good, sound, clear, good looking logo. It was rich color, had depth and “popped.” Also, it looked professional, conveyed quality and competence.

Late last year a big change edict came down to make the logo look, I think, simpler. Gone was the rich shading that gave it depth—and forget about it popping, it was now deflated and relegated to a flat, color background and name on top. Same shape, color, logotype…just simplified and plain. It still identifies the company to its loyal followers and new friends, but it’s designed to be different (than it was). I am not judging whether it is better or not, this article is to point out the changes in logos lately.

This second change has interesting roots. I give credit to the following: The Chief Design Officer, Apple Inc., Sir Jonathan Paul “Jony” Ive, KBE, British industrial designer. Jony has been behind the design of many of my favorite Apple products over the years. Remember the original Biondi colored iMac? Circa 1998, that was Jony. The iPod? Jony, the iPhone? Jony.

Anyway, a couple of years ago he decided that the iPhone GUI (graphical user interface) was, well, too graphical. All the fancy, unnecessary (to him) fake wood grains, and fake metal textures, shadows, patterns and fake anything had to go. So, he simplified…no longer would a clip board icon show yellow lined paper. Or a pencil icon show a used eraser top. Thin line outlines would do. Simplify. This new iOS has been in use with little if any protestation and obviously picked up by others. It’s migrating into our current visual culture. After all, Apple still innovates and the rest of the world copies. The herd has now taken its cue and moved to simpler, though less colorful pastures. This is where the idea to take a rich, deep logo and simplify it into a “simple” shape and color comes from.


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