Times change. People change. And the identities of some organizations—although not all—change right along with them. Evolution can be a powerful ally for designers and brand builders. If a lolling brand needs to be re-energized, however, something more than the logo might need to change.
Certain graphic elements age better than others. Companies pin the fate of their illustrative logos on the longevity of the particular drawing style they chose. Typefaces are increasingly susceptible to looking dated, which may account for some degree of graphic identity reinvention. Like hairstyles and clothing, certain graphic embellishments go out of fashion as quickly as they come into favor.
Simple, bold, easily identifiable marks possess a timeless quality. What plausible reason could Volkswagen give for changing its classic logo? The company’s current mark could easily outlive the updated marks of AT&T and UPS. If it does, which will build the most equity in the mind of customers over time?
When developing a graphic identity, consider the lifecycle of the mark. Don’t let it paralyze decision making or push you toward solutions that may prove to be too conservative, but ask yourself: Is this a mark the client could live with for the next fifty years?
Planning for Change
Commitment to an identity program over a defined period of time makes sense, though identity programs are made for reinvention. Organizations often coordinate program changes with scheduled events: a product launch, a trade show, an advertising campaign. Built-in plans to evolve allow organizations to anticipate the next event with less internal heartburn over the changes.
Every opportunity to keep the identity program fresh and relevant also represents an opportunity to react to changing market conditions and shifting customer needs. Programs provide the necessary space for an identity to evolve, but change just for the sake of change doesn’t necessarily contribute to a better brand experience—just a different one. Designing dynamic programs requires knowing what should remain constant.
Some markets rely on a sense of stability and consistency. Others thrive on change. You might not expect a law firm or bank to change on a whim, but media companies or other organizations more closely tied to pop culture thrive on change. In the race for brand differentiation, however, the rules are loosening. Next-generation law firms are embracing the new, and bank brands once built on stability are eager to redefine themselves.
Brand identities reflect and evolve with customer needs. Foundational brand attributes form the character of an organization. These do not change; a sense of reliability and continuity depend on that. The evolution of a brand identity is usually the translation of baseline attributes for current conditions. Change is inevitable, but the rate of change for a brand needs to be a strategic choice.