A brand’s logo has a lot of heavy lifting to do. The logo should hint at the product type and ooze the brand’s spirit. It should be stylish yet timeless. And it should do all this without looking quite like anything else.
Yet a logo needs to be light as a feather. If the consumer needs to think about it, it’s dead in the water. A logo should be eloquent, effortless, effervescent.
When a graphic designer begins a new logo, they balance the need for originality against the need for instant recognition. Rather than choosing a graphic design style, they should wield adeep knowledge of the looks that have gone before and understand the connotations of those styles today.
A strong logo can undergo a revamp without losing its essence. But can it resist being dominated by one of graphic design’s cornerstone styles? To find out — and provide a graphic design style primer — the team at Kapwing, has recreated six iconic logos in these six essential styles:
- Art nouveau. An elegant, sinuous, romantic style from the turn of the 20th century.
- Bauhaus. An avant-garde design school that favored functionalism, geometrics, and space.
- Psychedelic. Acid-colored patterns and stream-of-conscious lines that have bedazzled beholders since the 1960s.
- Pop art. Kitsch, comic-style pop culture references channeling 1950s Americana through Andy Warhol’s eyes.
- Retro ’80s. The grids, vector curves, clipart, and blocky fonts of 1980s computer graphics sprinkled with that weird ’80s sense of glamor.
- 3D design. Playful renders popping out of the screen with more or less fidelity to realism.
Scroll on for a closer look at each brand logo.
The apple: so simple, you don’t even need typography. There are many theories for that bite, though. It could reference Alan Turing, the gay war hero who invented “the computer” and who ate an apple laced with poison after the feds chemically castrated him. Or it could reference the forbidden knowledge of actually opening up a Mac to see how it works. However, designer Touraj Saberivand explains: “to make it look more like an apple and not some other round fruit, I did what one does with an apple. I took a bite out of it.”
Our art nouveau take on the Apple logo is not far from the brand’s original 1976 artwork — a woodblock print of an apple gravitating towards Isaac Newton’s head with the words “Apple Computer Co.” wrapped around it. But the Bauhaus version most clearly articulates Steve Jobs’ vision: clear, artistic — a tool to amplify your abilities.
It’s hard to imagine McDonald’s without the golden arches. But when it was just the McDonald brothers in their shack with a fryer, they favored a jaunty comic script atop their then-mascot, the troubling burger chef, Speedee. Troubling because Speedee was both a burger and a chef.
The ghost of Speedee haunts the rock ‘n roll quiffed burger boy of our 1950s pop art style McD’s logo. But the versions that retain prominent arches demonstrate the power of a simple motif to conjure a brand’s aftertaste in your mouth. McDonald’s is going through a big identity crisis lately, not leastrebranding its Twitter handle in the style of South Korean boy band phenomenon BTS. Can the arches bear the strain?
Cole Rise threw the old Instagram logo together in under 45 minutes. Deadline met, he refined it over the next few months. The polished version represented the app for five years. Rise’s 2010 design followed the skeuomorphicdesign trend of the day, making the logo look like an actual Instamatic camera (actually a Bell & Howell).
When Instagram decided it was time to simplify and “flatten” its logo like everyone else, they asked every staff member to draw Rise’s logo from memory. “That gave us a sense of what was burned in,” said Ian Spalter, head of design. Our re-styled versions demonstrate just how hot the square-and-concentric-circles brand burns.
The Google brand has thrived on minimalism even as the company explores ever more diverse avenues (its next move is “Ikea meets Lego”). The uncluttered search page and no-frills logo are as much an element of Google’s early success as its algorithms. But the original logo featured an exclamation mark and a drop shadow that’ll make you cry. Not so much ‘simple’ as ‘basic.’
The simplicity of the post-exclamation, post-drop shadow logo has allowed for infinite variations via the regularly-changing Google Doodle. So, while none of our redesigns look implausible, the two that are most evocative are those that imagine Google in a realistic alternative timeline: either the vaporwave look of our dial-up era 1980s logo or the augmented-reality bubbles of the 3D version.
The NASA logo is pretty busy by today’s standards, but when your main beholders are space aliens, it makes sense to communicate your purpose in full. The planet-shaped, star-studded, red aeronautics-themed dash logo has a mundane nickname among Earth-dwellers, even at NASA: the meatball.
NASA already has a ‘1980s version’ of its logo. Their looping, red, text-only logoknown as the ‘worm’ did most of the work between 1975 — 1992 (and recently made another comeback). So our 1980s version imagines the best of both worlds: a meatball in the decade that gave us the bubblegum heroics of Explorers and Flight of the Navigator.
The choice of a panda for WWF’s icon is a masterstroke of clear thinking. The simplicity of a black and white design that works in silhouette; the precarity of the panda as symbolic of World Wildlife Fund’s efforts; and the cute factor that convinces supporters to part with their money. The panda design has prevailed almost unchanged since 1961 (thankfully the World Wrestling Federation didn’t choose a panda for its logo).
Our Bauhaus-style redesign of the WWF logo adds a splash of color while simplifying the form. And it maintains the cuteness without resorting to the child appeal of our 1980s version. Scientists say the power of cute can be used to ‘hijack our brains,’ which makes it a useful tool for marketing – but it’s essential not to compromise the seriousness of your brand.
When Chupa Chups needed a logo, the boss asked his friend Salvador Dali to sketch one on an old newspaper that was lying around. Yet a logo needn’t be high art. Right now, supermarket brands are giving normcore its post-modernistmoment, splashing their basic but powerful logos over nerdy knits to createhighly coveted, semi-ironic streetwear. They may be ugly, but they carry a lot of emotional baggage.
The lesson for logo designers? Draw inspiration from style movements but remain boldly true to the brand. It takes integrity and flair to create an icon that sears itself into the world’s retinas.
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