Brand New: Rethinking Best Practices in Logo Design
Six ways digital communication is changing the way we think about wordmarks, avatars, and icons.
Logo design has come a long way since brands began using standardized icons more than 200 years ago. From ornate Victorian symbology in the mid-1800s to the Late Modernism of the 1960s and ‘70s, the design industry has demonstrated an almost constant state of re-invention to keep up with changing visual trends and technologies of the times.
Today, as society continues to embrace a bold new era of digital communication, this dynamic nature is changing faster than ever. Below, we detail six recent trends in modern logo design and why they matter for constructing a contemporary, digital-first brand identity.
1. Flat Design
The late ’90s and early 2000’s may have given us some of our first glimpses into the possibilities of technology, but long gone are those early days of 3D, futuristic, and skeuomorphic graphic styles. It didn’t take long for 21st-century digital designers to realize that simple, 2D graphics scale better across platforms, look less dated, and tend to stand out in today’s increasingly complex digital landscape. The use of sans serif wordmarks and minimal logos are now the visual standard for most industries today — from lifestyle and technology brands, to broadcast and entertainment packages.
2. Letter Stacking
With today’s constantly-shrinking digital constraints, there is often no better solution for longer brand names than letter stacking. As the above examples demonstrate, letter-stacked logos are inherently interesting and visually-appealing when done correctly. Stacked logos also fit more easily into the square and circular profile shapes that many social media platforms demand. Strategic designers love them because they are able to play with line breaks and visual metaphors while creatively highlighting different parts of the brand name — all while keeping things simple, minimal and of course, digital-friendly.
3. Custom Typography
Deciding between a custom or a ready-made font for a brand identity is sort of like picking between bespoke and ready-to-wear clothing. The latter might work just fine in certain cases, but using a custom font in a brand logo can create an instantly ownable element for any brand. A custom font can be a great digital differentiator in the midst of all the Helvetica and Gotham on the Internet today. It can also be tailored to the precise tone you’d like your brand to convey and augmented to include special characters and language support when necessary. Oh, and another thing — it can also save global companies millions of dollars in licensing fees every year.
4. Scale Optimization
Thanks to digital technology, brands not only have to worry about whether or not their logo is aesthetically appealing — it also has to be easily scaled across digital and IRL media. Icons now must look just as good on the side of a building as they do in a 100px by 100px thumbnail. The industry term for this is “responsive design,” think layouts that adjust themselves depending on the size and shape of the screen a viewer is using. The same is now often true for logos. If it doesn’t fit everywhere, it might be time for a redesign.
5. Logo Simplification
Speaking of redesigns, one of the biggest things digital communication has changed about logo design has been the simplicity of logos themselves. This is particularly true for legacy brands dating back before the Internet and social media dominated all of our lives. Stripping down a logo or icon to its bare minimum allows it to look good across mediums, from branded collateral to websites, to mobile applications. What’s more, as brands get more famous, logos don’t necessarily have to do as much work for them, allowing them to veer toward a more simple, permanent design.
In case you haven’t been watching the fashion industry lately, statement logos are back. Today, monograms feel both trendy and timeless — serving as both a clever 2000’s throwback and a super digital-friendly way to drive instant brand recognition. Think of a smartphone screen: What stands out better at the size of a fingernail? A string of words, or an instantly recognizable symbol? Monograms can either stand alone or be developed independently as a distillation of a brand’s larger logo.
When it comes to the design industry, Trollback+Company has always stood by our Scandinavian mantra to “discard everything that means nothing.” It’s a good rule of thumb to create with, whether in logo design, animation, or brand strategy. We expect minimalism to only get more popular as digital communication and technology advances. It’s a trend that will never go out of style — and one that we intend to stick with for years to come.
This article is the first in a new monthly resource series we’re putting together for young, up-and-coming designers. Have an idea for next month’s list? Contact our editorial team at firstname.lastname@example.org