Many brands like VW, facebook and Lufthansa recently published new logo designs and everyone talks about it. Facebook’s new corporate branding could help to differentiate the parent company from the social network, because facebook is no longer just a social network, but also an umbrella organization for Instagram, WhatsApp, etc. This made me think about the importance of logos and ask myself the questions: Why is it important to change logos from time to time? Why are logos being simplified? What makes a good logo? But first things first: let’s start at the very beginning and dig into history. Why do logos exist? What is their purpose?
A brief look back
People have always been interested in claiming ownership and „have been identifying themselves with an enormous variety of marks, signatures, and emblems for centuries“ (Dan Redding 2010: online). For example do we develop our own unique signature to protect our identity. Using marks started already as hieroglyphs. At this time, 300 AD, figurative icons were used mostly without any slogans. In 800 AD, the majority of population of medieval Europe was illiterate, therefore, marks had a fundamental role. A certain set of colors and shapes represented a certain noble family.
With the invention of the printing press in 1457 AD, printers started to mark their work.
A very interesting note: the first factory to produce Sèvres porcelain was founded in France in 1740. Twenty years later, the King of France was being assured of a monopoly on porcelain production. Every piece of porcelain was marked with the symbol of the factory and the succession of regimes caused the ongoing redesigning of the mark. This is very similar to the situation when a logo is being redesigned when a new CEO joins the company. During the 1800s, mass production of printed materials was enabled and chromolithography was invented, which made color printing possible. The Industrial Revolution increased the value of identification, multinational corporations began to utilize the logo as a tool to maintain a cohesive massage and there was a broader usage of the logo by a more diverse group of designers and advertising agencies. For example, the Coca-Cola logo was being designed by Frank Mason Robinson in 1885. It is among the most recognized brands in the world. This brief look back in history shows that the role of the logo has changed. Nowadays, a simple mark for identification like in earlier times is not enough anymore. A logo must speak to the external and internal audience.
What is a logo?
It’s difficult to put into words what a logo really is, because it has multiple meanings, for example: mark, trademark, signature, wordmark, symbol or monogram. It shows the ownership, the origin and the identity. Trying to put it simply: a logo is a unique symbol of a company, object, publication, person, service or idea. When we go further and think bigger, the identity is the combination of the logo, visual system (typeface, colors, imagery) and editorial tone that forms a unique message. But the identity is not a brand. The brand is the perception formed by the audience about the company. A designer can’t „make“ a brand, he can only make the logo and the identity system. To sum up, a logo is not a brand unless it’s on a cow.
Adams, Sean Morioka, Noreen Stone, Terry Lee (2006): Logo design workbook: a hands-on guide to creating logos. Gloucester: MA., Rockport.
Backovic, Lazar (2019): Rebranding. Was bringt ein neues Logo wirklich? Online: https://www.handelsblatt.com/unternehmen/management/rebranding-was-bringt-ein-neues-logo-wirklich/25197292.html?ticket=ST-88953331-wIbypmscpZO5GfeAakTg-ap1 (11.11.19).
Lant, Karla (2017): The history of logos. Online: https://en.99designs.at/blog/design-history-movements/the-history-of-logos/ (11.11.19).
Redding, Dan (2010): The History of Logos and Logo Design. Online: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/07/the-evolution-of-the-logo/ (11.11.19).
Schomer, Audrey (2019): Facebook’s rebrand is part of its effort to differentiate the parent company from the social network. Online: https://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-rebrand-aims-to-clarify-what-products-the-company-owns-2019-11?IR=T (11.11.19).