Think of Nike: the simple and smooth logo is the very first thing that you will picture in your head, the product itself or a specific campaign will come second.
Logos are the face of a business, be it a multinational company, the bakery at the corner or a major event. That’s why big companies would never disregard its importance or put their rebranding in inexperienced hands, they leave it in the hands of experts to make each logo unforgettable.
Nevertheless, not all the ideas that a logo conveys were meant to be included on purpose: even the most reputable and smart concepts can end in a rebranding failure. Sometimes oversights are so terrible that you freak out wondering whether the designer was on drugs.
We know the world is full of graphic designers who must design in the worst working conditions, and we are not here to blame them. This time we will focus on the big ones, those brands who have tried their best but have experienced unexpected rebranding failure.
A successful rebranding of famous logos is in fact one of the hardest tasks a designer can face: good rebranding should refresh the image according to the company specific goals, but cannot ignore the brand history and it should be consistent with the brand corporate identity.
Rebranding is a path full of obstacles and you easily run the risk of stumbling upon one. A bad logo can seriously put the brand reputation at stake and end up in a marketing disaster. To see is to believe it.
Undesired hinting at something
A graphic designer is certainly someone with an eye for detail. When you measure perfection by the pixel, you may sometimes forgive to look at the full picture from a longer distance. And that’s a terrible mistake.
Now that every single person is allowed to use social media to make a stand against almost anything in the world, double-checking and testing your work before ending a project is key to success.
If you ignore this step in the creative process, you will most certainly regret it….
After London, the Brazilian studio Tátil, in charge of designing the logo for Rio 2016 knew they were doomed to succeed: all eyes were on them.
It needs to be said that Rio 2016 logo has in many respects nothing to do with London’s: London 2012 logo was intentionally designed to spark debate, as the concept was consciously controversial and not in line with what one would expect from an Olympic logo.
With Rio 2016, creative brains tried to stick a bit more to expectations: the story and the concept behind are appealing to the general public, more immediate but smart at the same time (here you can learn more on the making of it).
It celebrates the culture, history and geography of Rio: 3 people holding hands represent an embrace of the city and the whole shape recalls the morphology of the territory. If you pay attention you will even identify the letters R, I and O within the logo itself. We may say that nothing was left to chance. Still…
Still the logo was conceived as a 3D item and there is something wrong in the 3D rendering. Some consider there is a striking vague resemblance between the logo and a multicolour chastity belt. Whether it’s true or not, once you see this resemblance you can’t unsee it.
If it weren’t enough, although many have praised the creativity of the Rio 2016 logo, allegations of plagiarism were made by the Telluride Foundation. But maybe the only real question is: “Who has copied who?”
Which leads us to the next point worth taking into account when designing a logo.
Take inspiration, don’t just copy a good logo
Copying is something many creative minds do, it’s human and even inevitable at times – we also explained why it can be the best thing to do. What you should copy though is an abstract idea, not really cut and paste a logo wittily designed by someone else.
The most recent example of this is the new ENEL logo. We agree that rebranding was definitely necessary, there are far too many new competitors that present themselves with a much fresher and modern look&feel. But they may have taken this change a bit too far by copying one of the most famous logos in the world, the Google logo. Similarities between the two logos are clear in term of spacing, kerning and even colours. If you don’t see it, it maybe clearer if you see the Google logo upside-down.
Do not sacrifice your brand identity
Each logo tells a story, but make sure it tells your story and not someone else’s.
Leaving your logo for a new one means writing a new chapter in the brand history, not rewriting it all from scratch (unless there is some very important reason like corporate mergers or in case you want to restore a tarnished image following a scandal).
A very good example of flawed rebranding is the one of AOL: born as a provider, Aol is today an American global digital media corporation. Due to the changing nature of its core business, AOL undergoes a rebranding process in 2009 and becomes Aol. The logo is composed of a very simple font on a background that is changed almost on a daily basis.
This is undoubtedly something that may be innovative, but it doesn’t really boosts the brand awareness, as the logo becomes less and less recognizable. You can easily verify that by googling “aol logo” on a search engine. The recent brand decline that has followed may have been influenced by some of these rebranding choices.
Do not ignore negative space
Some very creative logos have been praised for the incredibly clever use they make of negative space. Some others though have totally ignored it, making a terrible false step.
We said we wouldn’t have focused on mistakes made by small brands, but it needs to be said that this is normally a typical mistake small brands are more likely to make. Below is a very clear example of that, although we could have mentioned plenty of them that are even worse.
Big budget, very small changes
As we said, being true to your brand identity is of utmost importance: a logo you can recognize from a distance is a powerful branding weapon, it’s a signature you won’t be able to erase.
In any case, be aware that rebranding can also be a HUGE waste of money. Keeping your identity is not really making only minor and useless changes. When you change you need to know which is the message that you want to convey.
It may just be a personal opinion, but here you’ll see some famous recent rebranding cases that were costly and weak:
A logo is key to the success of your (re)branding campaign and it can’t be a random choice. If you have a recognizable and powerful logo, sometimes luck shows up to help you give you a fresher image. A very interesting case is the one of the DHL logo that the fashion house Vetements decided to use to design a high-fashion T-shirt. Vetements’ DHL T-shirt was first dispatched on to the Paris catwalk in 2015 and sold out in weeks despite costing £185. The hype quickly reached hysteria.
Jayden Smith’s model-girlfriend Sarah Snyder (and influencer with 750,000 Instagram followers) also showed off the t-shirt on two occasions last week, posing by a DHL delivery van for effect. And this is how a shipping company logo became a fashion icon. Miracles can happen.