Brand Logos Have Evolved Over Time – Are you Keeping Up?

Whether or not your company is going through a full brand redesign, it is always good practice to keep up with the latest design trends. Even when changes are slight, logos should be updated every few years to convey that the brand is willing to change with the times. All too often, brands leave their logos unchanged, which can date the company, potentially having an effect on their competitiveness in the marketplace.

The history of logo redesign coincides with the history of web development. In the early 2000s the World Wide Web underwent a drastic transformation. The birth of user-generated content and participatory culture (as opposed to passive, read-only websites) surfaced and became known as Web 2.0. Here are some examples of websites landing pages:

Web 1.0

Web 2.0

From Web 1.0 to 2.0 the improvement in interactivity, usability and graphic quality is quite apparent. By learning aspects of how the World Wide Web developed over time, we can start to better understand how transformations in technology directly influenced visual trends. In the example above, we see how Apple’s website was enhanced through an improved page layout, image quality, and website interactivity.

Likewise, logos also adapted in Web 2.0 with improved color, dimension, and quality graphics. Below, we see examples of recognizable brand logos from the early 2000’s. These logos share a common design element – a shiny or three-dimensional effect – consistent with most logos at the time. While these logos were made to stand out by fully showing off new Web 2.0 capabilities, they clearly look outdated by today’s standards.

Why? The 3-D appearance used in these examples is suggestive of a button that, when clicked, will lead you to another location on the website. This feature was important to convey at the time because Web 2.0 promoted user activity on websites. Users had more freedom to learn from the website by discovering pages on as they liked. The three-dimensional look of logos encouraged people to click and explore. While this was a revolutionary at the time, it is no longer considered an essential element of user experience. Modern users understand how to successfully navigate a website, making the three-dimensional button logos obsolete.

From 3-D to flat

Two major characteristics that differentiate three-dimensional effect and the current trend, simplistic design, are use of depth and color.

In the Microsoft logo above (on the left), depth is created by using gradients, highlights, and shadows. As web users have become more web savvy, they no longer need a three-dimensional logo to prompt them to click on it.

Another example of the flat logo trend is shown in Google’s logo. As you see in the examples below, Google didn’t waver much in the color choice, but over time you can see the reduction of highlighting and shadowing resulting in a clean, flat logo design.

In addition to the absence of gradients in current logos, color is used intentionally to create an overall more simplistic feel. Let’s look at Spotify as an example. In the past, Spotify has used multiple colors and shades of green to make their logo pop. Since then, they have simplified their logo to a single uniform shade, flattening the appearance for clean, uniform look.

Below are some other examples of this sort of adaptation.

Generally speaking, if you want a logo to feel relevant and current, it should adhere to these two guidelines. However, there are instances when adding depth to the logo might feel important. Here are a few ways to do this without reverting to outdated trends.

Subtle gradient 

Analogous Colors

Geometric Designs

One other design element pay attention to is the use of sans serif fonts. Each example shown uses san serif font; another factor of this simplistic trend. Look at how font made Google’s logo even more simple and clean without changing much else:

The main focus of the current graphic design movement is simply to catch the eye. We can understand why the use of 3D was once a trend, but as Web 2.0 has evolved, the more simplistic style conveys to consumers that companies are adapting to the changing times and are willing to do away with distractions to get to the core of what consumers really want.



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