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Taking a Risk on a Logo
By: Kaitlin T. Gallucci
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Sometimes a logo redesign goes virtually unnoticed, but not usually in the case of a major brand. These brands’ logos are iconic, instantly recognizable, and synonymous with the brand they represent. Sometimes a logo redesign incites criticism and outcry from consumers, or possibly compliments and praise. What makes or breaks a logo redesign?

Back in October, Gap unveiled a new logo that was unforgettable, but unfortunately not in a good way. The Internet-based backlash that occurred as a result was unparalleled, and 86% of consumers described the new logo as “terrible.” After failed damage control in the form of a crowd-sourcing attempt, Gap reverted to its previous logo, the timeless Blue Box, stating: “We’ve heard loud and clear that you don’t like the new logo. We’ve learned a lot from the feedback. We only want what’s best for the brand and our customers.”

Gap logos

At least they listened and responded to their consumer base, but this was still a failure if you consider how much time, energy, and money likely went into the redesign of the logo, only for it to be discarded. Of course, the design will continue to live on in infamy.

More recently, within the past couple of weeks, Starbucks revealed their new logo to a quite different response—no backlash, no outrage, and plenty of support from designers and consumers alike. What makes this one different?

Starbucks logos

The updated Gap logo was a stark change from its previous one. The color was similar, and the original “box” shape was included in a way, but the font and the entire style of the logo was changed. It was unrecognizable. The new Starbucks logo, on the other hand, maintained its most significant elements. The color, shape, style, and Siren imagery were all maintained. This may have made all the difference. When you look at the Starbucks logo updates over the past 40 years, they’ve all remained recognizable, incorporating improvements to their original branding. As Starbucks explained, “we wanted to recognize and honor the important equities of the iconic Starbucks logo.” The Gap logo, however, seemed to represent an entirely new brand, one that customers were not familiar with.

While these two cases provide insight as to how to successfully redesign a logo for a major brand, there is certainly no black-and-white answer. Both logos utilized simplicity and intended to improve upon their previous logos, but one failed. The fact that one incorporated a drastic change while the other utilized minor changes is significant, but it may not work in every case. Just look at the changes to the now iconic Pepsi logo: if online social media existed in 1962, do you think the logo would have been criticized and then banished as Gap’s was? The logo was completely changed, maintaining no elements of its 1951 predecessor (except for some red).

Pepsi logos

The bottom line is that a logo redesign is always a risk. There’s no way to know how consumers will respond, and opinions could go both ways. Sometimes, however, in many ways, the risk pays off.

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About the Author
Kaitlin T. Gallucci is a New York based direct and digital marketing strategist. She tweets here.
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