Brand blasphemy: go on, mess with your logo

Resilience to tinkering is an underappreciated quality in a logo.

In the process of making a point about sustainability, designer Sylvain Boyer proved the resilience of several well known consumer brand logos. Boyer selectively whited out sections of the McDonald’s, Starbucks and Coca-Cola logos, among others, to create versions that use up as much as 38% less ink when printed on packaging.

What struck us about the project – besides the implications for the environment and the companies’ printing costs – was how little the redesign seems to affect these logos. In some, the change is only noticeable with the original logo alongside.

In context, out in the world, supported by the other elements of the brand – staff uniforms, packaging design, environment branding – we can imagine the change being imperceptible. A logo that can weather the loss of 38% of its bulk without losing any of what makes it recognisable? That’s the kind of resilience we aspire to.

In fact, there’s a clear parallel between Boyer’s project and the growing trend of brands stripping back their logo mark to its simplest form. You only have to look at the evolution of some of the world’s most beloved brands over the past ten years to see what we mean.

BMW, Instagram and Samsung (to name but a few) have all gradually been removing any and all fuss, excess colour and superfluous elements to make sure their their logos get across what makes them truly special, in a way that’s fit for today’s time-poor, digitally savvy, information overloaded consumer.

The logo is often the most heavily policed element of the brand, with pages of guidelines dedicated to examples of acceptable and unacceptable use. When the logo isn’t the be all and end all of your brand, it can survive much more tinkering and experimentation. And as long as it’s done with a precise understanding of what makes the brand recognisable, experimentation and creativity can only make the brand stronger.

When the logo isn’t the be all and end all, it can survive much more tinkering