Opinion – Is making small changes to a logo still effective?

Last week, Facebook revealed a minimal logo change that saw the kerning slightly altered and a new letter ‘a’. We ask a selection of designers: what’s the point of changing a logo design to such a small extent that people barely notice?

The old Facebook logo (top) and the new one (bottom)
The old Facebook logo (top) and the new one (bottom)

Mike Dempsey, founder, Studio Dempsey
Mike Dempsey, founder, Studio Dempsey

“There are numerous examples of brand logos being so-called ‘refreshed’. Sometimes it’s for very good reasons, e.g. to strengthen and simplify, which helps to make them more visible in an overly-graphic market. There have been many sensitive changes to great logos – Penguin, VW, Texaco, Bell, London Transport, and Coca-Cola are examples. What drives me insane is when perfectly good logos are changed when it is entirely unnecessary and, sadly, mostly for the worse – British Airways and BFI, to name just two. This normally happens when a new head honcho takes over and wants to signal their arrival, and changing the logo is the easiest way to do it.”


Michael_Smith_Cog (1)
Michael Smith, founder, Cog Design

“In the late 1980s, I interned at a huge London agency. They devoted an entire floor to Shell. I was only allowed in once, delivering top-secret dry-transfer lettering. A tiny team made incremental changes to the logo and identity. It then took a year for that work to pass along the huge conveyor belt of implementation people (all working on drawing boards), by which time the whole process had begun again. I doubt anyone noticed the incremental changes but that petrochemical giant thought it was worth the enormous investment to keep itself current. Whatever the budget, it was mind-numbingly boring work for a faceless corporation. That brief glimpse convinced me that I’d rather do almost anything than work there – I started Cog a year later.”


Jowey Roden, co-founder, Koto
Jowey Roden, co-founder, Koto

“Ultimately, as with most tech giants, Facebook’s lack of visual brand leads them down a path of iteration. Referring to these iterations as a ‘rebrand’ or ‘new logo’ is often what creates frustration and tension. Small refinements to iconography, colour, typography and logo marques are simple housekeeping. These tasks are valid. These changes, although small, are intended to constantly improve the product for a fast-moving world. Facebook isn’t changing who it is or what it does, its logo refinements reflect that. Same product, better drawn.”


Jack Renwick, founder, Jack Renwick Studio
Jack Renwick, founder, Jack Renwick Studio

“It always depends on what the reason for the change is. Is it to work better online? Is it to change perception? The degree of change is then dictated by the need. Most brands don’t want to make a song and dance about small evolutions, they’re just trying to stay contemporary and avoid finding themselves needing a huge shift in their identity 20 years later when they realise how dated they look. If it’s not to try and evolve perception, stay relevant, or is not necessary for a practical reason, then it comes down to common sense.”


Kate Marlow, creative partner, Here Design
Kate Marlow, creative partner, Here Design

“At Here, we share William Morris’ mantra of ‘have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’ – we’re motivated by both the desire to fulfil a function and to make something enduring and beautiful. To apply that logic, if a subtle tweak helps a logo express the brand more fully (in this case be more friendly) and makes it more beautiful (bad kerning is really horrid) then it is justified. Facebook’s tweak seems disproportionately humble for such an ambitious and all pervasive brand. But maybe that’s the point – maybe we’ll see a tweak a week until suddenly its evolved into Spencerian script.”


Paul Bailey, partner, 1977 Design
Paul Bailey, partner, 1977 Design

“Firstly, although the physical change may not be noticed consciously, even a small change might have the effect of unknowingly changing an audience’s perception of a brand. In the case of the Facebook logo, maybe only designers would notice the subtleties of the typographic re-crafting, but the communicative effect the change has had in ‘lightening’ the logo is surely clear to all.

Secondly, a logo does not exist in isolation. To fully consider a brand we must consider a small change as not the only change, but as one of a potential myriad of changes throughout the brand. When considered as one of a number of changes, it could have a huge effect.

Many small changes – even ‘just a tiny amount’ – can eventually create something fantastic.”

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