This is an interesting article by Ben Schott of Bloomberg talking about how “debranding is the new branding.” In it he argues that for reasons of fashion, tech, and other factors, many or perhaps most brands seem to be shedding detail and depth in their brands/logos and moving toward simplicity and flatness. He calls this debranding (which doesn’t quite feel like the right word to me.)
Countless examples are provided ranging from Burger King and KFC to Saint Laurent Paris and Diane Von Furstenberg. In all cases, their logos and lockups went from elaborate to minimal. And in some cases, names were deliberately shortened. Kentucky Friend Chicken, as you all know, became KFC, largely because “fried” was becoming an undesirable reference.
The same is also true for newer brands that have no history of elaborate logos. As I was reading through the article, I started thinking about some of the project brands that we have created over the years. Here is our logo for Junction House (crafted by Vanderbrand):
Some of this is certainly about fashion. At this point, overly detailed logos feel a bit cartoonish and antiquated. Clean and minimal is pretty much what you want today. Slate’s logo went through a similar transformation over the years and is now, as many of you know, a black box with white text.
Another part of this is that logos and brands now need to live in so many different locations from favicons and mobile apps to business cards and social media profile photos. Sometimes you just don’t have enough real estate to show a lot of detail.
Simplicity can also signal strength. Starbucks is perhaps a good example of this. Initially their logo spelled out Starbucks Coffee. But now we all associate their green nautical-inspired sea lady with Starbucks Coffee and so those words are no longer necessary. This kind of brand equity, of course, takes time to build.
Fashion label Off-White is another interesting case study that I wrote about a few years ago, over here. What they have managed to do is take simple and mundane things like quotation marks and really own them as part of their brand. Put any word in quotation marks on a t-shirt and you’ll have me thinking it’s a $315 Off-White tee.
That’s pretty powerful when you think of it.