According to Milton Glaser, the legendary designer of the iconic ‘I Love New York’ logo, the success of any logo is all about its simplicity. Given our own KISS mantra we’d tend to agree, but expressions of that vital simplicity are changing.
Historically there has always been three types of logo. The first is the workmark, or a device derived from the name of the brand itself, such as FedEx or Coca-Cola. The second is the pictoral device, used by brands such as Apple or WWF. The last is the abstract, often regarded as the most demanding, with Nike’s famous tick at the top of the recall list.
Up until recently, once a logotype had been signed off, it would be etched into stone and locked in an impenetrable vault. Biblical guidelines would be drawn up to ensure that even the slightest deviation from the approved mark would unleash hell from belligerent brand guardians. We’ve done our fair share of that.
Well that’s changing. Many brands now inhabit a variety of different spaces. The online world, where email signatures and Twitter avatars rule, has become the place where many brands now set up camp.
Many businesses are now recognising the value of turning their brands into conversations with their customers and not simply stamps of authority. The identity has become a carefully defined box into which many different communication elements can be brought to life in unlimited ways.
The most visible brand that has thrown out the old rule book has been Google. Its daily reincarnations show how a strong brand identity can retain its integrity, even when it’s wordmark has become virtually unrecognisable. This is no longer a logo, it’s a logo system. MTV has taken advantage of this line of thinking for years.
More recently, Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful campaign against Donald Trump was supported by a Michael Bierut identity full of creative engagement. But as always, it’s what lies behind the logo that will count.
So is this the end of the logo as we know it? I doubt it. But it does show how our relationships with many brands will change and how they will become more interactive. It also suggests that whilst beautifully simple designs will always stand out, there may be a few more iterations around.