Why are Brands Simplifying their Logos?

Since 2010, the concept of ‘less is more’ has been embraced by many brand-builders when considering the development of their visual identity. And now, two more high profile names can be added to the list - both Microsoft and eBay have recently announced changes to their visual identity.

But why are brands simplifying their logos? Let’s take a brief look at the changes proposed by these two megabrands.

Microsoft: Unified Branding

In August, Microsoft announced its intention to refresh its somewhat dated visual identity to accompany the much anticipated launch of the Windows 8 operating system. The iconic window waves have been dropped in favour of a straighter outline while the new design incorporates lighter colours (curiously similar to eBay below). The square boxes echo the overall design of the Windows 8 user interface, giving Microsoft more freedom to incorporate it into the design of sub-brands (like the new Office 2013).

While the simplified logo has been criticised by some for lacking dynamism and being too generic, it appears to me to be designed to help Microsoft establish and maintain more consistency in their identity across products and brands.

eBay: the clean, contemporary marketplace

Also announcing a change in September was eBay, the consumer-to-consumer retail facilitator. It’s refreshing its logo by ditching the floating letters that overlapped to signify a sense of community for a simpler, more traditional font to create a cleaner typeface while retaining its familiar colour pallete. After 17 years, eBay says it wants to offer “a cleaner, more contemporary and consistent experience”.

I don’t think this is the whole story though. A 'new eBay' is surely on the way - expect to see some major changes/new features to the site soon. Presumably they'll be making eBay more like a store front rather than an auction site (most of its sales these days are through the ‘Buy it Now’ button). A high profile ad campaign will keep us informed, no doubt.

Key Takeaways

For organisations, simplifying their visual identity can support either unification or diversification efforts. It can also herald a change in strategy or simply be a mechanism for freshening up the constellation of values that surround the brand name. A simplified logo also allows greater versatility in application, especially important today with disruptive technologies putting the communication environment in a constant state of flux (now its mobile’s turn). However, brands that take this route are usually those which already enjoy high levels of brand awareness. The rules are different for new brands though, they often have to take a more literal approach to visual identity development because they lack familiarity and urgently need to build relevance among their target audience.

In the modern world, I think a strong overall design concept which is applied consistently matters much more than the logo itself (look at Google - they change their logo every day and it works for them!). But logo’s still matter, since they frame the way the broader visual identity is created. I'm just wondering who'll be next on the path to simplicity?