The Logo "Refresh"

Part One: Is it Ever OK to Change Your Brand?

A client recently came into our office and told us she was considering updating her logo, a logo we designed about a year ago. When asked why, she expressed that maybe it was just “time to change it up.” I’ve heard that statement quite a few times over the years, and it got me to thinking, is there ever a good time to change your logo?

Traditional branding theory says no. The entire point behind having a logo is to create brand recognition, and ultimately, customer loyalty. How do you create a strong brand? Clarity, consistency, and constancy. Changing a logo breaks all three of these rules.

And consider this. Scientists at the Baylor College of Medicine scanned the brains of volunteers as they drank samples of Coke and Pepsi. When the samples were not identified, the tasters showed no preference for either. When shown the Coca Cola logo, the volunteers’ brains expressed a huge preference for Coke irrespective of which cola they were actually drinking.

What scientists have found is the brain takes short cuts when it processes information. The more it recognizes a symbol with which it is comfortable, such as a logo, the quicker it makes a decision with less anxiety. Making changes disrupts our comfort zone. Observe the public outrage that occurred when Gap, Starbucks, and the University of California recently attempted to change their logos.

But on the other hand, some companies have had great success in giving their logos a new, more polished look. Take those of State Farm and the Harvard Library, both designed by the talented team at Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv. It’s hard to argue that the updated logos don’t create a stronger brand image.



So then, on some level and for certain reasons, it must be ok to update a logo. At SmallPond Studio, we prefer the term “logo refresh,” and these are seven reasons when we feel it’s acceptable.

1. A fundamental element of your company has changed.
You used to sell clothing, and now you make candles. Tahoe’s Best Cleaners no longer makes sense now that you’re based in Portland. Or your company merged with another.

2. Your existing logo has little, or no, brand recognition.
If nobody will notice that you’ve changed your logo, go ahead and update it to something that might start building customer recognition. Sometimes a business starts without a formal logo, and, over the years, it morphs into whatever sans serif is available when needed (on new checks, company trucks, the free ad you got for sponsoring Little League, for example). Even more importantly, if your logo looks different on those checks, trucks, and ad, it’s time to call a designer.

3. Your logo contains clip art.
If the central element of your logo was made from one of the “sample images” that came with your latest version of MS Publisher or from a Google search, ditch it. Maintain the general look of the logo, but have a designer create an original symbol for you. If nothing else, you will avoid potential copyright violations.

4. The typeface is outdated or hard to read.
While Papyrus may have seemed like a creative font choice when you designed your logo in 1992, switching to a cleaner, more modern typeface might be a good idea. A slight change in typography can update a logo, while still maintaining its integrity.

5. Your logo has reproducibility issues.
When you embroider your logo on a shirt, it turns into indecipherable and illegible tangle of stitches. Or imagine xeroxing your logo over and over in grayscale. Can you still tell what it is, or do all the lines and colors blend into one big mess? We call this the “blob factor,” and not only does it mean your logo reproduces poorly, it’s a good indicator that your logo needs some simplification.

6. Your logo doesn’t exist in any usable file format.
You break into a cold sweat when asked to provide your logo as a JPG, or worse, a vector EPS. Those designers, printers, and embroiderers aren’t trying to impress you with their fancy vocabulary. It’s a fact that in our modern world you need a logo that can be used across media – from your website to your business cards to billboards to TV – and if you can’t provide your logo in the format needed, it’s going to be tough. Don’t scrap your logo, just ask a designer to recreate it as a vector image that can go anywhere.

7. The brand is damaged.
After the Florida Everglades plane crash ValueJet became AirTran. Although, if you are dealing with a PR nightmare like this, you probably have more to worry about than your logo. Let’s move on.

Still not convinced? Stay tuned for The Logo “Refresh” Part Two: Examples of How an Update Can Strengthen Your Brand and decide for yourself.