Designers tell us how to modernise logos but keep authenticity

Last week, Instagram lost its iconic, vintage camera logo, replacing it with a much more minimal and modern flat graphic. Now, we ask designers about their favourite icon revolutions.

Emily Penny, brand consultant, Colourful Design Strategy

“With the ever-increasing simplification of icons and logos in pursuit of more effective digital experience, are we heading toward one universal visual language? A set of symbols all rendered in the same flat keyline? A new hieroglyphic alphabet? There is beauty in this functionality. But how, then, can brands stand out?

The answer would seem to be in the product and not its veneer – whether that is experiential or physical. There’s a trend in packaging right now for showing rather than covering the product.

And a transparency of sorts is evident in the recent Polo mint rebrand by Taxi Studio. The mint itself is now depicted even more plainly within the logo on the pack. But while it has been modernised, this is mainly by virtue of it simply rediscovering its flat design heritage. What’s important is that it’s unmistakeable who this icon belongs. Sometimes icons don’t need to be created. They are already there.”

Sean Thomas, creative director, jkr
Sean Thomas, creative director, jkr

“Progression doesn’t always have to mean stripped back and minimal. The recent Bacardi redesign put more detail and uniqueness into the design because over time, it had lost its charm.

Bacardi needed to credibly reconnect with its family heritage and it has done so brilliantly.

Ultimately the Instagram redesign will be judged on where the brand heads; the old logo told consumers that Instagram stood for square format, retro photography. If that’s no longer their aim, then change is right. Whether or not that’s fundamentally the correct thing for the brand to do however, remains to be seen.”

Matt Baxter
Matt Baxter, creative director, Baxter and Bailey

“A recent research trip to the Museum of Brands in Notting Hill made me realise that I admire longevity and consistency in iconic brands, rather than ‘modernisation’. One particularly ace section of the Museum shows how certain iconic pack designs have barely changed since Victorian times. The dogged consistency of an OXO or a Colman’s Mustard in the face of changing tastes, mergers and acquisitions is a joy to behold. This week’s redesign of the DC Comics roundel by Pentagram reinforced this view: nothing touches Milton Glaser’s bullet logo, right? 

I realise that all of the above makes me sound like a curmudgeon when it comes to modernisation. So just to prove that I do also love reinvention when the time is right, I’d like to nominate Anglepoise. This iconic, quintessentially British icon reinvented itself in order to shrug-off the duff 80s office associations and align itself with a timeless modernity. Helped in no small part by Studio Small’s beautiful work on brand identity and packaging, the brand now regularly collaborates with the likes of Margaret Howell and Paul Smith. It’s truly enlightening stuff.”

David Kimpton
David Kimpton, creative director, Kimpton Creative

“It’s easier to think of bad examples of icons being ‘modernised’, but in terms of good examples, I would say the one that sticks in my mind is the BP symbol created by Landor.

The previous symbol was a shield that had been italicised, presumably to indicate a more progressive BP than the previous upright version. Not much of a step change – but the helios was. It felt much more aligned with an oil company that cares about the environment.

The use of ‘beyond petroleum’ was clever too. That says a lot about their attitude. Little did we know what was to follow, however!”

Jack Renwick
Jack Renwick, owner/creative director, Jack Renwick Studio

“I love it when icons evolve but keep a close connection to the original brand. This doesn’t mean being scared of change, it means having an equity worth keeping.

Google ‘G’ – good, Starbucks mermaid – good, skinny Little Chef – good. Pepsi – fail.

The London Underground is a brilliant example of not only a beautifully simple evolved logo that keeps it’s heritage, but an icon that has managed to tie the entire London transport system together into an easily recognisable and useful piece of communication and navigation. I’m lucky I get to interact with and benefit from that every day.” 

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