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Brands renewed

Previous variations of Tate’s logo, versus the singular version that replaced it in 2016.
Previous variations of Tate’s logo, versus the singular version that replaced it in 2016.

Under Consideration’s Brand New is a blog that critiques corporate and brand identity work. Over the years that I’ve been reading its reviews, I’ve noticed that the work I tend to appreciate most is that which seeks to refine an existing identity rather than reinvent it wholesale. While a logo may still receive a few nips and tucks, much of the work is instead focused on updating the accompanying design language, weeding out those areas where inconsistencies have crept in. Here are a few recent examples:

  • On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of its crane symbol, Lufthansa undertook the subtlest of brand refinements. Alongside a tweak to this symbol and review of its type system, emphasis would now be given to a darker and more elegant blue, with its distinctive yellow demoted to that of a more functional accent.

  • Stockholm Design Lab tweaked Ericsson’s ‘econ’ icon to the nth degree – 18.435° to be precise – so that it would align smoothly with the pixel grid and appear sharper on screen. The change was accompanied by the introduction of a new brand typeface Hilda, also optimised for digital environments.

  • Pentagram’s identity refresh for American Express again saw practically indistinguishable logo tweaks, but they also introduced a shorthand version to be used in situations where space is at a premium.

  • When North was asked to review Tate’s visual identity, rather than replace the dynamic logo designed by Wolff Olins in 2000, they instead opted to refocus and refine it:

    For us to propose getting rid of the identity system entirely would be irresponsible and a selfish act as designers. Instead, we built on the existing brand equity, refreshed and strengthened what was working well.

I wish more designers would take such a selfless approach. While I could spend hours studying such refinements, I have nothing but admiration for the team at INSTID that created this new identity for Irkutsk, a Russian city in southeastern Siberia:

Irkutsk identity presentation

Possibly inappropriate, undoubtedly nonconformist and certifiably bonkers, part of me wishes I could dream up something as loose and unrestrained. This project confirms my suspicion that objectively, good design is about a consistency of execution, and somewhere within the madness of this identity, there is an element of coherence. Similarly, maintaining a degree of consistency is the reason why many established and trusted organisations will choose to refine their identities rather than replace them.