What you can learn about logo design from Google and Airbnb?

A logo is the face of any brand. Good logos are a symbolic representation of an organization, while bad logos could lead to a branding disaster.

There has been lots of buzz and chatter about the recent image changes that major brands, such as Google, StubHub and Airbnb, have implemented to represent business shifts they are undertaking. What can marketers learn from these logo makeovers?

Good logos evolve with a business

Many brands change their logos in response to their branding evolution: their mission might change, services might expand, or they just to stay modern. For example, in September of this year, Google updated its identity after it restructured into a new holding company called Alphabet.

The new logo moved from a serif font to a sans-serif font and added a four-color “G.”

This past July, online ticketing platform StubHub removed the two tickets from the exclamation point in its old logo in order to fit the brand’s new strategy: moving from a ticket provider to an information provider.

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                         StubHub’s old (left) and new (right) logos

Facebook also modernized its logo to make the brand feel more friendly and approachable.

While the changes to Google, StubHub and Facebook were not too drastic, Airbnb pulled a 180 degree. In July of last year, Airbnb used a new logo, Bêlo, to show that the business was scaling.

The new symbol represents people, places and love. Airbnb wanted it to be recognized anywhere, in any language.

Although Bêlo has been criticized for its visual similarity to both male and female genitalia, Airbnb has kept the new logo to date, showing that the company is standing behind its rebranding over the long run.

Bad logos could hit a brand in the wallet

While Airbnb’s controversial logo is still on stage, complete rebranding doesn’t always work out. The most interesting case is perhaps Tropicana’s packaging redesign failure back in 2009.

In January, Pepsi changed the font and removed the orange on the Tropicana Pure Premium. Sales of the beverage line dropped 20 percent, roughly $33 million, between January 1 and February 22, while its competitors – Minute Maid, Florida’s Natural and Tree Rip – posted double-digit unit sales increases during the period.

Because of the sales blunder, Pepsi had to scrape the new logo less than two months after it was debuted.

tropicana-packaging-before-after

                Tropicana Pure Premium’s old (left) and new (right) logos

“[Pepsi] changed the logo, color schemes and worst of all, its product packaging. At the end of the day, its orange juice resembled a generic store brand,” says Joe Jensen, partner of Logo Design NYC.

Tropicana Pure Premium is not the only brand that has reverted to its original design. During Christmas season of 2010, Gap unveiled a new logo in a bold font and a square without any warning. Soon, the Internet was not happy with the redesign.

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                             Gap’s old (left) and new (right) logos

Gap responded positively, explaining that the redesign was the first stage of a crowdsourcing process that helped reinvent the company. Didn’t Gap have the budget for branding? Otherwise the company wouldn’t have crowdsourced an idea for free. A professional designer will add much more value to a brand.

How can you avoid a rebranding debacle?

No brands want their new logos to turn into a customer-relation fiasco. Essentially, companies have to consider the consumers when they are designing or redesigning their identity.

“It’s not what the business owner likes, but it is what appeals to their audience. Also, if the logo is not broken, don’t fix it too much. Otherwise you might break it,” says Jensen.

At the same time, brands should not crowdsource a design idea like Gap. Because crowdsourcing may cause confusion with too many perspectives from individuals or firms who don’t take the time to study the brand, its target audience and its industry. If a brand has got the money to spend, why not hire a professional?

“As a branding company, I can say that I am not a fan of crowdsourcing work. Most often, these designs are done overseas to reduce costs, and the client may never be able to have a face-to-face meeting with the designer. I feel this is important when creating a brand for someone,” Jensen says.

Remix Short Video.mp4 from Siri Lackovic on Vimeo.

Even Adobe doesn’t advocate crowdsourcing. The company actively curates and integrates the artists’ work into its PowerPoint templates, posters, business cards, environmental branding, and lately, its “A” logo, via the Adobe Remix project.

“We don’t crowdsource as we believe strongly that creatives deserve to be paid for their craft,” the company’s spokesperson says.

Take notes!

Branding or rebranding well-established companies is an exciting task for many design companies. But at the same time, it is a massive project that comes with many risks. A new image might be interpreted as a brand growing or evolving, or it could be something that makes a well-known brand hard to recognize.

If your logo is not broken, don’t change it too much. But if you want to give your logo a makeover, you may want to sit back and think what your consumers really want before you start.

Homepage image via Flickr

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