Who would want to be a brand?

20 February 2019
Thoughts

In an age when criticism can be faceless and plenty, it begs the question who would want to be a brand or even branding agency these days?

Branding and rebranding projects can be time consuming affairs, there should always be a driving force or an underlying problem that needs solving as to why they take place, which can usually be traced back to any one of the following:

– Business has outgrown its original proposition

– Looking to attract a new customer base 

– Legal issues

– Company mergers

– You’ve fallen behind the competition

– Your brand identity needs refreshing

In 2019 Slack were the first to kick the year off with the reveal of their new Ocotothorpe logo. The original hashtag design was created before the company launched back in 2013 and whilst it had become a familiar face with the public, there were major inconsistency issues for the brand.

Slack logo | Southampton graphic design by Faculty


"It was extremely easy to get wrong. It was 11 different colors — and if placed on any color other than white, or at the wrong angle (instead of the precisely prescribed 18º rotation), or with the colors tweaked wrong, it looked terrible – Slack team."

Slack brand identity | Southampton graphic design and Branding by Faculty

The Ocotothorpe was created using a pattern of speech bubbles and lozenge shapes, making it recognisable in one or several colours as well as across multiple platforms and sizes.

And yet on its release the feedback was mixed at best, being labelled everything from a "swastika" to a "penis".

A few weeks later, spanish retailer ZARA launched their new logo. A super tightly kerned logotype, attracting a storm of controversy online, mainly from typographers and designers. "kerned by a robot", "the worst piece of type they’ve seen in years" was just some of the subjective comments found online.

ZARA logo | southampton graphic design and branding by Faculty

Whilst elements of these designs may have their issues, neither in my opinion would alienate their existing customer base and I’d argue the additional press attention would highlight the brand to a audience who may have never heard or used  them previously.

"There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about – Oscar Wilde."

When new logos are being scrutinised online, what’s not being discussed however is the brand identity as a whole. In any branding project there should always be a supporting cast in the identity system, a toolkit of design elements that play alongside the logo which shows off the personality of the brand.


ZARA's brand identity has a feel of elegance and high fashion editorial about it, which now starts to make much more sense.

ZARA brand identity | Southampton graphic design and Branding by Faculty

If we go further back to 2012, who remembers the fall out from the London Olympics logo, arguably the most mocked of all time. Partly due to the bold design following no trends, partly because there were media restrictions placed on it and mostly because there was no context, we had no idea what world this logo would live in, how all the touch points would look and feel.

The Olympics 2012 logo | Southampton graphic design and Branding by Faculty

By the time the opening ceremony had started, the outrage had tapered back. We’d become accustomed to seeing the advertising, the ‘energy lines’ which were used to create the logo were now used to great effect to create dynamic shapes, icons, typefaces and layouts which gave the brand identity a tremendous sense of energy.

The Olympics 2012 brand identity | Southampton graphic design by Faculty

It’s hard not to look back and think of the Olympics branding as a success.

What these brands have in common is a conviction in their big idea, brought to life through thoughtful and expert design. Whilst it’s in our nature to resist change, the brands who dare to be brave will reap the rewards.

Faculty is a design agency that creates business branding, brand identity, brand strategy and graphic design for our clients. Get in touch to see how we can help your business communicate more effectively.


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