by Jincy IypeMay 13, 2023
We are witnessing an almost frenzied frequency of logo rehauls and brands refreshing their identities in the last year which has contributed to the increasingly crowded landscape of branding, for better or for worse. Some reject the hyper minimal while others embrace it wholeheartedly. While most go for makeovers that are ‘energising,’ ‘youthful,’ ‘dynamic,’ ‘about movement’, ‘sustainability’, ‘vibrancy,’ and ‘growth,’ others try to uphold their history in some ways, albeit in abstracted silos. Some make sense while others just don’t. A few are received lovingly while a lot many get rough reviews (We’re looking at you, WB, and I ‘heart’ NY). The running theme underscoring most remains that of being ‘relevant’ across the physical and virtual realms, considering how audiences remain faithful to these brands across the rapidly developing ‘phygital’ and purely digital worlds. Does this exercise of rebranding attest to the evolution of brands in the long run?
When one designs a brand’s visual identity, it is crucial to study, research, and comprehend the factors that work in this largely untapped hybrid space. It is not often that an established company changes its identity—most stick to theirs for at least a decade, otherwise they face the perils of losing out on visual recall that is integral to the brand's credibility, acceleration, and outreach. Throw in the interventions or intrusions of augmented reality and artificial intelligence, and we are at the behest of a confusing geography of advertising and consumerism.
So, what are brands focusing on while they reinvent themselves for their consumers? Across a chorus of animated graphics and typeface lookalikes that are hell-bent on coming across as ‘unique,’ making statements to attract attention, what really stands apart? We unpack five of the most talked about rebrands in the last few months, from Amazon Prime Video’s ultra-animated identity to Nokia’s transformed and angular persona, and more, where each tries to strike a balance between the tangible physical presence of the brand and its growth and presence in the booming digital space.
Once in the pockets of billions of people, Finnish telecoms firm Nokia has released its first major rebrand in nearly six decades, inching closer to its identity as a relevant business technology company presently. Created by American design consultancy Lippincott, Nokia’s new logo design, visual identity and wider rebranding strategy seek to signal change, and help its customers view the brand in a new light, to reflect itself as ‘a B2B technology innovation leader realising the potential of digital in every industry,’ to change its dated perception of just manufacturing sturdy mobile phones. “Today we share our updated company and technology strategy with a focus on unleashing the exponential potential of networks—pioneering a future where networks meet cloud. To signal this ambition, we are refreshing our brand to reflect who we are today—a B2B technology innovation leader. This is Nokia, but not as the world has seen us before,” said Pekka Lundmark, President and CEO of Nokia.
Optimised for motion, the new ‘digital-first identity’ features the revised logo in plain white (opposed to the previous deep blue letterform against a plain white backdrop) against a kaleidoscopic colour palette and bold imagery, slicing through the industry’s ‘sea of sameness’, allowing its dynamism to seem digital-friendly. Within the new logo, the N, O and K letterforms have been repurposed as bolder, sharper, and simplified graphics, reducing the weight of the original lettering.
"We built the identity to echo Nokia’s rich heritage as the inventor of essential technologies while giving it a fresh, contemporary, dynamic feel to represent the Nokia of today. This meant simplifying the geometry of the original logo and striking the right degree of visual evolution so the iconic logo, unchanged for more than half a century, was still instantly recognisable. And, to visually represent Nokia’s purpose, the logo’s individual letters were abstracted so they only read as ‘Nokia’ when they act together,” explains Lippincott.
"After 150+ years of innovation, it is time to reframe how our customers and partners view us: a B2B technology innovation leader. The classic logo is a good fit with consumer devices given our heritage in the device space. The new design is an evolution of the classic Nokia logotype which has remained largely unchanged since the 1960s. The distinctive geometry of the original has been refined and simplified, transforming its heavy industrial feel into a contemporary design icon with a digital aesthetic,” shared Stacey Brierley, VP of Brand at Nokia, in an exclusive interview with STIR.
“The new logo also brings new meaning. It has been designed as a symbol of collaboration, which Nokia believes to be critical for realising the full potential of digital. Each letter of Nokia’s name has been abstracted and simplified so that when they act together, they read as ‘Nokia’. It is a visual representation of our purpose: At Nokia, we create technology that helps the world act together,” Brierley added.
American multinational food, snack, and beverage corporation PepsiCo's 7UP got an energised, ‘punchy,’ and ‘citrusy’ makeover that is all about adding ‘moments of UPliftment,’ positivity, and surprise to the mundanities of everyday life. The change marks the first major overhaul in the brand's visual identity system in over seven years, including its Zero Sugar variant, with the familiar green colourway and number ‘seven’ enduring as visual protagonists. “We evolved the logo and created a visual identity system that aligns with 7UP’s international brand positioning, which is to add moments of ‘UPliftment’ to the everyday,” Mauro Porcini, SVP and Chief Design Officer of PepsiCo relayed to STIR. “7UP is an established and well-loved brand, but we wanted to connect with modern soda drinkers with a refreshing new design that elevates every moment, every meal, and every connection. We were strongly influenced by the concept of UP, and this is present throughout the visual identity system in our choices of colours, shapes, lines and more. Our vibrant, modern design pays homage to 7UP’s beloved flavour while elevating the look of the iconic brand,” he continues.
The new brand identity was introduced with the expression, ‘New Get Up, Same 7UP’, with an aim to remain a part of pop culture, much like the recent rebranding of Pepsi. The lively graphic design retains 7UP’s instantly recognisable, signature green colouring, which according to the brand, “the world knows and loves.” The punchy green was retained in a brighter hue and accompanied with a neon green, while the combination was reversed for 7Up Zero. With ‘zesty’ citrus tones, the intervention relays a vibrant, refreshing appeal to the graphic and communication design that will be seen across the 7UP and 7UP Sugar bottles, cans, and other merchandise. “(This) will be activated through a multi-touchpoint 'comedy-centric' campaign across static, motion and digital assets,” relays the American brand of lemon-lime-flavoured non-caffeinated soft drink.
“There is an energy that this new visual identity projects. You’ll notice throughout the brand identity that there are distinct high-contrast lines that portray a feeling of ‘upward energy.’ The number seven is dynamic and tridimensional, and the red dot becomes more prominent and projects the word ‘UP,’ front and forward. The ‘UP’ of ‘UPliftment’ signifies where we want to take every moment, every meal, and every connection, of the people enjoying our brand. And then there is the green colour, a colour that is not easy to manage. As a brand, green has always been a part of our DNA and is instantly recognised by soda fans. We didn’t want to shy away from that. The new 7UP look features our signature punchy green, but we added citrus hues throughout the brand identity for bursts of zest, mimicking 7UP’s fresh taste and making the brand more vibrant than ever,” Porcini shares with STIR.
Designed to feel ‘charmingly nerdy,’ Amazon’s Prime Video, one of the world’s most popular streaming services with original shows and films such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Sound of Metal, welcomes a brand refresh that “uses the dimple of the iconic Amazon smile as a catalyst to move viewers through an infinite ripple of their favourite content,” relays the brand. Globally acclaimed design firm Pentagram’s Emily Oberman and team developed the refreshed brand strategy for Prime Video, envisioning the platform as a ‘rabbit hole’ of entertainment, where its 200+ million subscribers can get lost in its infinite sea of content choices. “The personality of the brand is fun, witty and smart, guiding viewers through the extraordinary range of shows and movies as they follow their personal interests and fandoms—which Prime Video understands because they’re fans too,” shares Pentagram.
“Viewers today are faced with countless streaming options from major services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and AppleTV+, as well as smaller genre-based platforms. Prime Video sought a cohesive brand identity that would stand out in this increasingly crowded landscape, highlight what makes the streamer different from all the rest, and help its original programming shine. The framework had to be flexible so it could be modulated for different types of content, from action to drama to comedy to sports, and adapt to cultural nuances in various global markets. And most importantly, it had to be related to the Prime parent brand, while feeling distinctly Prime Video,” relays the brand, about the foremost challenge faced while conceiving the visual design rehaul.
The identity features familiar brand elements in ‘fun and surprising ways’ including recasting the detectable ‘dimple-arrow’ of the American multinational technology company’s smile logo, into an ownable shape conveying ‘movement, momentum, and energy.’ “The curved form can be cropped into characteristic sections or used as a frame/window for imagery. The visuals are big and bold and burst through the dimple form, breaking the fourth wall in a way that interacts with the audience. The brand colour is a brilliant and contemporary ‘Prime Blue’ taken from the Prime palette,” they continue.
Pentagram also created a bold new ‘proprietary typeface’ in collaboration with Lucas Sharp of Sharp Type—this customised version of Sharp Grotesk in multiple weights, called Prime Video Sharp, is ‘strong and friendly,’ fitting right in with the Prime family, supporting the ‘exuberant’ tone of the messaging. The type design accompanies dozens of playful symbols dubbed ‘Iconics,' that represent various genres, or create a ‘rebus-like shorthand’—the fangs of a vampire, the rings of Middle Earth, a zombie hand, a football, a ghost, and so on. “Created by the illustrators at Patswerk, the icons also animate to interact with the typography and offer yet another inside wink and nod for fans,” said Pentagram.
The branding is also conceived to adapt to larger tonal shifts catering to the wide array of entertainment options on Prime Video—two distinct visual modes, or ‘tunnels’ were developed for various types of content—bold and bright in Prime Video’s signature blue for a pop culture feel, and a darker, more cinematic one ‘for when things get a little more serious, sophisticated and dramatic.’ The rebrand scales across everything from billboards, and social media to motion graphics, TV spots and the GUI (graphical user interface) of the Prime Video player itself. “Two textural animations—a cinematic 3D version by FutureDeluxe that opens original series and films, and another by Pentagram that starts and ends each promo—transform the dimple into a dimensional portal, showing viewers the endless ripple effect their journey into the world of Prime Video can have on their viewing experience. They serve as a reminder that all you have to do is dive in and see where it takes you,” the designers add.
Nordoff and Robbins
Pentagram’s brand strategy and new identity for the UK’s largest music therapy charity (that considers the wider social value of music) touches upon the widely accepted adage of when words fail, music speaks—denoting soundwaves and music notations, Pentagram sought to incorporate ‘non-traditional’ music cues through a hand-drawn logotype with an abstract ampersand that visually recalls musical note symbols. “The charity has music in its DNA, and they use music to break through barriers, creating space for people to express themselves and find connections in society,” shares Pentagram.
The charity was founded in 1959 by American composer and pianist Paul Nordoff and special education teacher Clive Robbins, who developed a new form of collaborative music-making to engage vulnerable and isolated children, cemented by their belief that music therapy truly helps with children's concentration, self-control and increased social and self-awareness. “Its aim is to create a world where, through music therapy, human potential is recognised regardless of profound disability, illness, or social exclusion. These can all lead to isolation, but music therapy can be a powerful tool, helping people to connect and communicate,” the creators relay.
The charity aimed to increase its brand awareness and re-engage with the music industry, and approached Pentagram to create its new visual identity, to reposition it ‘as a champion for the social value of music and raise awareness of music therapy in society overall.’ 'Break through with music’ was the proposed central concept, which led to the brand questioning whether they should change their name—Pentagram recommended building on the established moniker but augmenting it with a friendly ‘twist,’ by changing it to ‘Nordoff and Robbins,’ employing an ampersand in the logo design. “The ampersand works as a bridge and reflects the strong connection between the therapists and their clients. The symbol reflects both the freedom of expression that music gives and the connections found through music therapy,” the design team at Pentagram shares.
The new logo thus comprises a symbol and wordmark inspired by visualisations of sound waves which connect the two free-flowing letterforms, reflecting the ‘freedom of expression that music gives, and the connections found through music therapy,’ stressing the synergy between the client and the therapist much like the unconventional ways in which music impacts and heals us.
Pentagram chose Silka, a modern geometric sans serif for the rebrand’s primary typeface, which allows for clear and accessible communication design when put beside the minimal contrast of strokes and simple geometric shapes of the graphics. According to the design team, colour (was) central to the new brand identity, which led to them choosing a carefully curated palette of vibrant yet naturally muted colours which come alive as part of the conceived graphic language, consisting of wave-like abstract patterns—a graphic wave crop, a series of abstract patterns and a series of sound waves become friends with a family of bespoke icons that visualise some of the integral parts of Nordoff and Robbins’ work.
After announcing itself as a streaming first platform last year, Disney’s young adult division Freeform found a ‘perspective’-led, modern, and limitless brand rehaul by Collins, a true witness to the evolving nature of contemporary design as well as the young audience the platform caters to. What was the challenge according to the brand? To “help a new generation of storytellers get discovered by a new generation of viewers.” The new logo and brand identity play around with two F’s in its moniker—the one in Free and the other in Form—wiggling around playfully to exert its animated presence. The new look revisits their constantly evolving, young audience—when moving, the logo is transformative and cements itself in the brand’s belief of never being static, of always existing in the mindset of movement and growth.
According to the transformation consultancy based in New York and San Francisco in the United States, the cable channel that has gone through multiple design eras since rebranding from ABC Family to Freeform in 2016, backs young adult stories that challenge mundane tropes and conventional scripts, centring 'othered stories and giving narratives that are usually on the periphery a platform.' Their brief to Collins was to realise a visual language that galvanised this content-led future that they are currently crafting as their purpose, and so, their story and brand voice needed to transform as well. “From channel to creator. From on Freeform to Made by Freeform. Through this lens, we worked with the leaders at Freeform to create a brand that saw who they served not as an age, but as a stage. Not an audience, but a community. A tribe of people united by a mindset. The key insight? They are not coming-of-age, but in a constant state of becoming—and want shows that help them expand their world, not escape from it,” Collins shares.
This articulated Freeform’s new promise of ‘pushing new perspectives,’ of defining what made them different and attractive to young audiences—"deep stories told from emerging perspectives that helped people see and shape their place in the world for the better. Like any great story—Freeform twists and turns. Always in a state of becoming, like their audience. With a limitless capacity to reinvent itself through colour, shape, and movement,” they elaborate.
Freeform literally speaks, through an iconic modernist typeface that never looks resolved and is always being turned on its head, according to the graphic designers. Across the rebranding, these letterforms (where the two F’s swivel, curve, and twist) remain in motion through subtle animation but continue to suggest movement even while inert. “Taking the original cut of Helvetica, Neue Haas Grotesk (designed in 1957-1961 by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffman), we transformed it in collaboration with Monotype. Giving Freeform a voice that invites you to look again and again. Freeform is now a beacon for the creative adventurousness of the voices that make it up. And the new audience that streams it,” they share.
- Colour Palette
- Communication Design
- Contemporary Design
- Digital Design
- Digital Space
- Digital World
- Graphic and Communication Design
- Graphic Design
- Graphic Designer
- Logo Design
- Mauro Porcini
- Packaging Design
- Pop Culture
- Type Design
- United Kingdom
- United States
- Visual Design