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I shot the serif. But I did not want homogeny.

published on
February 18, 2020

Now that we’re starting a new decade, maybe it’s time to give your brand identity that refresh you’ve been thinking about since there were only six "Star Wars" movies.

But if you’ve been paying attention for the past few years, you’re probably wondering why every major company seems to get its new logo from the same designer, and why that designer dislikes serifs so much.

How did we get here?

This trend seems to have started back in 2014, with Airbnb. Their logo evolved from a bubbly script to the now iconic “looping A” mark, coupled with a geometric sans serif wordmark. The change marked Airbnb’s ascension from a Silicon Valley startup to an undeniable force in worldwide travel. 

Then, in June 2015, Facebook introduced its first logo refresh, moving to a wider, more geometric sans serif. Two months later, Google dropped its shaded serif logo for a cleaner, simpler look. In short order many others followed suit: Spotify, PayPal, Lenovo, Motorola, Verizon, Mastercard, and Uber. Even legacy fashion brand logos became more utilitarian. It seemed the future of design was flat, friendly logos with sans serif wordmarks. Things approached what Rachel Hawley, Creative Lead at The Chicago Reader, has called “the corporate logo singularity.”

Of course every brand had its own rationale, but there were common threads. Sans serif fonts can provide more legibility across formats. Also, clarity is inviting in a customer environment with more visual noise than ever. And for many, simplicity implies trustworthiness and stability. Some brands, like Netflix and BBC, even created their own proprietary sans serif fonts, saving themselves millions in font licensing fees.

But it’s difficult to ignore the resulting sea of sameness. Which begs the question, where do we go from here?

 

The new avant garde 

To see where design trends are currently headed, Simon/Myers looks to brands like Chobani yogurt, Play makeup from Glossier, and cookware startup Great Jones. They’ve all moved away from geometric sans serif toward softer, rounded fonts with more character and humanity, a la the 1970’s.  

In the case of Chobani, the impact of their logo redesign has been substantial. They rebranded in 2017, during the height of “millennial minimalism.” It was a bold move that helped them reverse course, from a 4.4% sales dip in 2016 to their commanding 40% share of the U.S. Greek yogurt market today. Why was their logo refresh so successful? Because they changed their brand to meet strategic goals. These included: setting themselves apart from copycat brands, reminding customers the product is natural, and transitioning from a dairy brand to a wellness brand.

So what do we think of the move toward softer, rounded fonts? We feel it’s a breath of fresh air, which continues the de-cluttering of the utilitarian trend while restoring warmth, earnestness, and variety. 

However, if you want to refresh your brand identity with impact in 2020, you probably shouldn’t rely solely on trends—or on creative partners who simply share their tastes and opinions. Chobani, and brands like it, have proven how valuable strategy-first partnerships can be.

At Simon/Myers, we go into every brand identity assignment with the same attitude. No matter what our personal tastes are, or how they may change with the times, we strive to do what’s best for each brand. That means working from thorough research, an ownable strategy based on data from that research, and a laser-accurate creative brief that tells us where to focus our energy. 

In the end, the whims of trends and taste should only apply in as much as they support your strategic goals.

 

Resources

Why Google, Airbnb, and Spotify’s Logos Have Become So Similar by Ariela Gittlen
Why Do Google, Airbnb, And Pinterest All Have Such Similar Logos? by Katharine Schwab
Why Fashion Brands All Seem to Be Using the Same Font by Rob Walker
When Did Every Brand Start to Look the Same? by Henry Harris 
The Corporate Logo Singularity by Rachel Hawley
2019 Was the Year of the Serif by Erin DeJesus
8 Digital Brands that Designed Custom Typefaces to Save Millions by Miriam Harris
The Keys to a Great Rebrand: Advice From the Duo Who Revamped Chobani and Spotify by Matt McCue

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