Is It Time to Refresh Your Logo?

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Seven ways to breathe new life into a tired logo without losing what still works

Over time, logos can get stale, like dad jokes and last week’s muffins. The good news is that it’s possible to freshen up a logo that has passed its sell-by date without going to the expense of scrapping it altogether and starting from scratch. Consider these tips:

  1. Recognize the signs of an outdated logo. Ideally, a logo should have a shelf life of at least 10 years, and some of the best-known have remained largely unchanged for much longer. That said, logos often have a way of prematurely outliving their relevance. Perhaps your company has expanded, contracted or otherwise changed, but your logo is the same as it’s always been. If so, it may need to do a better job of reflecting where you are today vis-á-vis your brand, mission, value proposition, offerings, markets, competitive environment and audience demographics.
  2. Don’t be a slave to fashion—but don’t disdain it either. Like clothes and kitchen decor, logo styles change. While it’s important to establish and stay true to your own distinctive look, a logo that was ahead of the curve back in the 20th century may begin to show its age in the 21st. Fatigue can set in: Customers may tire of seeing the same logo every day, wherever they look. Again, that doesn’t mean a total reboot is indicated: Subtle adjustments to the typography, color palette or other design elements may be all it takes to bring the look of a past-its-prime logo up to date. In 2015, Google swapped out its serifed wordmark, which had existed in various forms since forever, for the more contemporary-looking sans serif model in place today.
  3. Get input from your stakeholders. A logo is more than a pretty face and should never be tweaked in a vacuum or in isolation from your overall positioning and brand. Any changes should be based on a probing analysis of your business, including conversations with customers, employees and other stakeholders.
  4. Loop in your customers. Loyal customers don’t like surprises. If you’re planning on making even minor alterations to your logo, give them a heads up. Focus groups, surveys and testing can be invaluable in eliciting their views and learning whether you’re on the right track. Don’t spring the new look on them after the fact. When Gap redid its logo without a word of warning during the 2010 Christmas shopping season, its customers hated it and the media ridiculed it. Less than a week later, a chastened company reversed course and went back to its original logo.
  5. KISS. This is an old naval acronym for “Keep it simple, stupid” and it applies equally to torpedo guidance systems and logo design. In almost every case, smart logo refinements will result in a cleaner, less busy look. The company formerly known as Federal Express is now universally recognized as FedEx; PriceWaterhouseCoopers retains its name, but its logo is a simple PWC. Shell, Starbucks, MasterCard and Target stripped out the text from their logos altogether, leaving a word-free—and instantly recognizable—iconic symbol.
  6. Design for all channels. Your existing logo may have been designed for a limited number of channels—print, out-of-home, broadcast. Now it has to work seamlessly across a much wider range of settings—smartphone, tablet, social media, banner ads etc. This can be a challenge, since every design element, including typography and color palette, will be affected. A logo that looks great on paper may fizzle on your website because the font doesn’t scale well, the colors are inconsistent, or the mark just looks wrong when it’s scaled down for a mobile device.
  7. Build on what you have. While a logo may lose some of the spring in its step over time, it can often be rejuvenated without being replaced. Know what’s working and what isn’t, and don’t kick brand recognition to the curb. Retain the parts of your logo that are recognizable and relevant and that continue to resonate with your customers—a symbol, color, image, font or shape. Change only what needs to be changed.

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