Winners and Losers: 5 Logo Redesigns

By Rob Johnson

04/04/16

“The principal role of a logo is to identify, and simplicity is its means… Its effectiveness depends on distinctiveness, visibility, adaptability, memorability, universality, and timelessness.” –Paul Rand, Design Form and Chaos 

Logos are tricky business. Trying to represent a product or service in a simple, forthright, and immediately connectible image/letterform is no easy task. There is no doubt why we all run across so many bad logos in our day-to-day lives—because it’s really hard to design a good one.

There might only be one thing tougher for any business owner, marketer, or designer than creating a logo—and that’s recreating a logo! Oh, the humanity.

Redesigning a logo can be a thankless job. More times than not, someone somewhere has an attachment to the original logo, or at least the company or brand it represents should hope they do. The closer one associates themselves with a brand the more negatively they react when something about that brand changes. That’s part of what makes a redesign so difficult.

We may want to give the new logo a look that represents the evolution of the company and brand without disregarding its history. Sometimes that change needs to be wholesale and sometimes it’s very subtle. Finding that perfect spot in your own logo’s transformation is certainly a large barometer to success or utter failure in the redesign.

So with a nod to just how difficult an undertaking redesigning a logo can be, we selected three logo redesigns from the last year or so that we think hit a home run, or at least a stand-up double, and two that whiffed big time.

Winners:

OPEN TABLE 

The world is indeed flat—that is, when it comes to the trend in logo design the last couple years. Logos being designed (or redesigned more specifically for the case of this blog) more often than not are going back to basics. Being a fan of more traditional and minimalist stylings myself, this pleases me from an aesthetic standpoint, but I believe the reasons are as much utilitarian as they are eye-catching.

As technology continuously evolves so do the avenues in which logos have an opportunity to engage consumers. Flat, instantly engaging icons and letterforms read better in print and online, and they register better and faster in whatever browsing environment you might view them in.

This trend paid off nicely for Open Table. Not only did they rid themselves of the tired, dated 3D effect but maintained the concept of the app in a more modern, flat representation and also a wider, more professional type treatment.

IHOP 

While I admittedly giggled a bit when I first saw IHOP’s redesign, this is one of the reasons it is a vast improvement from the previous 20-year-old design—it’s fun.

IHOP wanted to better convey its family friendly restaurant brand to its consumers. It looks just like the smiley face pancake my daughters order whenever we happen to visit one. They maintained the rounded, fluffy pancake type so that it is still unmistakably IHOP, but removed the more corporate box and shadows and turned the frown upside-down. Being free from the box also gives it a more airy and modern feel.

Groundbreaking? No. But a definite improvement and well-executed.

MORTON SALT 

The Morton Salt logo is that rare case where the logo is so iconic that too much of an overhaul could really ruin the nostalgic feel that makes it so compelling. Not to mention you are sure to piss off a multi-generational hoard of salt-loving consumers who for 100 years have used the product in everything from french fries to water softeners.

Subtlety was the name of the game here and the latest rendition of the “umbrella girl” with her lighter line work, more modern salt-dot pattern, and brighter appearance was perfectly executed. Removing the flares in the type and making them a more round sans-serif also helped give the type space and approachability.

Losers: 

LIFE IS GOOD

Like we stated earlier, designing a good logo is hard. Really, really hard.

The Life is Good brand identities prove this not once but twice. I never did care much for the original stick figure and wobbly type logo to begin with, but I did get the kind of free-spirited vibe the clothing manufacturer (who admirably gives 10 percent of its profits to children’s charities) was going for.

The redesigned logo decided to take away even that hippy dippy feel. Now we are left with just a wobbly circle, which I assume was an attempt to keep some recognition of the old type along with some new, much more boring type set in stark black on a yellow background.

Life doesn’t feel nearly as good as it did and I’m not sure it was great to begin with.

MERCK 

Would you believe these two logos even represented the same brand? Even more unbelievable is that Merck, the world’s oldest pharmaceutical company employing more than 40,000 people worldwide, would approve a redesign of its logo that is so off brand and frankly just strange.

If Merck was a new energy drink being sold at my local 7-Eleven I might kind of get it but no way in hell I want to see this logo on the side of anything being prescribed by my family doctor.