Bad logos and poor rebranding efforts exist everywhere you look—for both national and local brands. But rather than focusing on these branding flops, let’s take some time to appreciate the brands that have successfully and tastefully evolved their brand to still stand the test of time.
To be honest, there really are so many great logos out there—it would be impossible for me to list all of my favorites in one blog post. Let’s take a peek at just a few of my favorites, from brands that everyone should (hopefully) be familiar.
Girl Scouts: 1978–2010
Designer: Saul Bass
A beautiful execution of molding two symbols, the Girl Scouts original trefoil (four leaf clover pin), designed by Saul Bass, depicts the silhouettes of a group of girls. This brand mark is simple enough to be recognizable at small sizes or long distances, yet complex enough to be forever memorable. The Girl Scouts logo definitely serves as one of the best non-profit marks that I’ve ever seen.
The original logo was tastefully revamped by design firm Original Champions of Design (shown below) in 2010. They were wise enough to know it would be foolish to navigate away from Saul Bass’s original concept.
As you can see, Original Champions of Design made only subtle changes to the trefoil in their redesign, like reshaping the girls’ noses, adjustments to spacing, and adding a pointed tip to the bottom of the trefoil. These subtle changes gave the logo a timely refresh while still maintaining the integrity of Saul Bass’s original design—a tough balance to achieve that was met, in this case.
IBM (8-bar version): 1972
Designer: Paul Rand
As a graphic designer, I love my MacBook (Apple also has a timeless logo), but when it comes to business computing branding, one cannot look past IBM and Paul Rand. Like many companies, IBM shortened their name from “International Business Machines” to just “IBM” in 1947. Less than 10 years later, a new logo emerged. In the same way, the logo—which started out as a 13-bar version—was simplified by Rand to the 8-bar version we know so well today.
While Apple has a mark that says beauty and wit, IBM has a letterform that says speed and efficiency—and hopefully always will.
The Sydney Opera House (2016)
Designers: Interbrand, Collider & Studio Laurenz Brunner
The Sydney Opera House, designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, is one of the most iconic buildings in the world. The Opera House’s one-of-a-kind façade inspired the logo mark designed by Interbrand‘s Sydney branch, in collaboration with Collider for the motion work and Studio Laurenz Brunner (who also designed the fonts Akkurat and Circular) for the typography.
This was obviously a collaborative project from the architecture’s form done in 1973 to the assets and concept created in 2016. The 2016 design team process that helped form the animation assets was amazing, plus the application of brand-to-material was well done on so many levels.
The building’s curves, which provide amazing acoustics, are also beautiful aesthetics to the brand. The building’s curves are subtly applied to each piece from 2016 and are a great conceptual foundation for SOH to build upon for years to come.
No matter how quickly you may need (or want) your brand mark to be finalized, it’s always worthwhile to take the time to thoughtfully design a logo that will remain relevant and timeless. Check out this step-by-step process to see what this looks like. In need of a timeless logo for your brand? Contact TIS to get started!
*Update: After recently watching the Netflix documentary, Abstract: The Art of Design, as a team, we have made some updates to this post. Read on below.
Our feelings on what constitutes a great, timeless logo haven’t changed much. But we’d like to add more to it than simply calling out some of our favorite logos that stand the test of time (which, all of the above still do, frankly!)
Just as your brand has to be authentic, your logo has to be authentic, too.
We’ve said this time and time again: your brand isn’t how you perceive yourself, it’s how your customers and the general public perceive you. And the more authentic your brand and logo are, the more “timeless” you may be seen. Rather than changing with whatever design trend is currently in fashion, remaining true to your brand’s values and message will allow you to stand the test of time and remain relevant.
Successful logos are simple, yet have other stand-out qualities.
Great logos like Girl Scouts, IBM, The Sydney Opera House, as well as Coca Cola, Mercedes and Apple are all simple, yet have an additional component to them that sets them apart. For example, Mercedes and Apple have an air of luxury to them, which is fitting, since their products can be considered luxury items, as well. Additionally, logos like Girl Scouts and Playstation have some abstraction to them that draws interest and creates an “a-ha moment” for the viewer once they uncover the logo’s deeper meaning.
Strong brands have timeless logos but run creative campaigns.
This point goes back to the idea of staying true to your authentic brand by sticking with a timeless logo design rather than falling into the allure of whatever’s currently trending. There are a time and a place to experiment with your brand and explore new trends in marketing, design and advertising, like creative campaigns. Companies like Apple, Nike, McDonald’s and Doritos are well-known for taking this approach: maintaining brand standards while still having fun with new campaign concepts and execution.
Just as a musician, an athlete, an actor must practice often, challenging their skillset and approach in their free time. Mockup work for an imaginary client, a dream client or even for yourself. Practice even when you don’t want to, and even for as little as 10 minutes a day. Just keep practicing!