When Logos Go Bad

By November 15, 2015 Branding, Design, Logos

Google Banana Logos

Most mornings I’m reminded that bananas last about as long as a Twitter post. That got me thinking about how quickly logos are starting to look old these days.

The logo lifespan is getting shorter and shorter. We’re now rebranding companies and replacing logos we designed just 10 years ago. Back in the Sixties, logos were designed to last, and they did. Brandmarks by design greats like Paul Rand or Saul Bass were often in use for 30 years or more. But that was back when an apple was just a fruit that thankfully lasted longer than a banana.

The accelerating pace of technology is driving business change, and design along with it. Increasingly a logo needs to be simple and versatile to work down to mobile. An elaborate illustrative logo often won’t work in many digital environments. And sans serif has quickly become the logo typography of choice.

Separate from technology, other business forces are also driving change. Logos can go bad when companies merge or change business models, or competitors redefine a marketplace. That trendy 5-year-old logo can instantly look hopelessly outdated when a competitor rebrands and changes the rules.

Google, Twitter, Facebook et al have also contributed to a change in our attention spans. Now everything’s available 24/7 and we get bored fast. We want the new thing, now. If we’re looking for information or products, we find it ASAP on Google. No more making phone calls or driving around.

Google’s new brand identity is great, but you have to wonder what took them, of all companies, so long. They had their old spindly logo for 16 years. It feels like they got around to this redesign kind of late.

But it was worth waiting for. The new Google brand system is an ingeniously simple and flexible tool kit for managing one of the world’s biggest brands. It’s got three main parts: the Google logotype, the Google G monogram, and the four multicolor dots. All three elements share colors and branding duties. The full logotype leads, but you’ll see the G monogram in the browser bar or on your mobile device. During a search, the animated dots hover like the thinking process visualized and have a lovable personality all their own.

Those friendly dots might be the real stroke of genius: humanizing a hugely powerful company who, let’s face it, is not a nonprofit. Whatever the reason it took this long, they got the redesign right. That makes me think that Google, unlike Microsoft, will remain top banana.