Branding 101: Redesigning an Established Logo

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“We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better…stronger…faster.”

(Intro to The Six Million Dollar Man)

Redesigning a logo is tricky.  How much do you honor the original design? Do you throw it out completely? Or find a way to merge the old with the new?

Yahoo just went through a logo redesign, and a lot of the reaction wasn’t very positive.

For many companies, their logo is their legacy.  It’s how their customers know their brand.  When is it time for a change? How much do you change it?  Why does it need to be changed?

These are questions we found ourselves answering recently.

Standing Out…in the Wrong Way

One of the websites we are currently working on is for a light bulb distributor named Daycoa Lighting.  They needed an e-commerce site that was very elegant and sharp.

If you ask me, nothing screams elegant and sharp like some Helvetica Neue, so I had our designer go that direction.  Once the design was finished, we placed the client’s logo in the top left corner.

Unfortunately, as you can see below, the old school logo didn’t exactly mesh with our modern aesthetics.

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After sending the client the design, they agreed that we should update the logo to better match the direction of the site itself.  Logo updating was a service we recently began offering, so we set out to rebuild their brand.

Phase 1: Old Dogs and New Tricks

Our initial strategy was simply to swap out the font and smooth some edges, keeping the look of the logo very similar to the original.  We tried a few different colors schemes for variety.

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However, we couldn’t shake the feeling that the design still didn’t match the new branding.  The client gave us a little more freedom to shake things up.

Phase 2: A Little Further from Home

We kept the lightbulb in the logo, but this concept was quite a bit different from the previous.  All caps. A little more spacing in the lettering.  And the “Y” seemed a better fit for a lightbulb.

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While they didn’t end up going with this design, it opened their eyes to the possibility of a much different logo.  Keeping if the same idea, they asked if we could find a logo that was almost completely different, but held some connection to the original.

Phrase 3: There’s a Remnant

The lightbulb was going to stay.  In fact, we we’re going to add other lightbulbs.  Since they sell bulbs of all shapes and sizes, we incorporated the idea into the design.  Because this was essentially a brand new logo, we sent over a few different concepts.

Everyone likes variety.  Everyone wants choices.

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Though they agreed these logos fit what they had asked for, they came to a realization.  All of their competitors had bulbs in their logos.  It had become a cliche.  Even though the bulb had been in their branding for decades, Daycoa decided to remove bulbs altogether.

At this point, our instructions were basically “see what you can come up with”.  So we set out to create something from nothing.

Phase 4: Creatio ex Nihilo

This is where I let our designer get creative.  It needed to be blue and gold with no bulbs, and it needed to match our site design.

And with that, the designer went to work.

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Whenever we do a series of concepts like this, our staff always picks their personal favorites.  Generally, we don’t share that opinion unless we’re asked to.  It’s just fun to see if our favorite is the one chosen.  In this case, it was split between 2 and 4.

The client ended up liking concept 2.  But we we’re quite done.

Phase 5: Once More into the Fray

With a winning concept, all that was left were the final adjustments.  This is part of the standard logo design process.  We send multiple concepts.  The client picks one they like the most.  We edit that logo until it’s perfect.

Daycoa’s requests were simple.  They wanted to remove lighting, and they wanted more gold.  And so, we came up with this…

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With that, we had ourselves a finished product.

Post-Project Reflection

We shared this particular project for a number of reasons.

First, we find it very interesting how much a logo design can change from the start to the finish.  You’ll probably agree that the final logo looks absolutely nothing like the original concept.

Which brings us to our second point…

Updating a logo might require a complete overhaul.  Sometimes, you can simply switch up the font or flatten it like Google recently did.  Other times, you have to go back to the beginning.  If you’re willing and able to do that, you’ll find a lot of freedom.

But you also risk damaging your brand recognition.

It can be a tough call, and ultimately, it’s one that we leave in the hands of our clients.

Finally, we wanted to share this to simply show how committed we are to our design work.  When it comes to creating a logo for someone, we never want to settle for something they are unhappy with.

At the end of the day, our job is to create a logo that the client loves.  In this case, we did just that.  And we’re pretty proud of that.

Do you like the finished product?  What are your thoughts on companies redesigning established logos?

*photo credit: PurpleMattFish

Written by Timothy Snyder
on December 6, 2013