Why To Avoid Trends in Logo Design

Posted On: August 06, 2011


Trends by definition are “the popular taste at a given time”, (wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn), meaning they are often short lived and predestined to quickly become passé. When we think of trends, the word trendy often comes to mind, with its buoyancy and connotation of fashion design. However, when it comes down to the business of trendy logo design, is trendy really what we should be striving for?


When a designer is hired to create a logo design, it is vital to capture that company’s image and essence in a small iconographic/pictogram, or well crafted typographical solution appropriate for the client. Keeping this goal in mind, what purpose are trendy logos serving for contemporary logo design, except for dating them and breaking the basic rules of design and objectives of sustainable?


Recent trends range from 3D logo design, folding paper, origami, transparency, multiply effects, gradient, overly complex imagery, photographic elements, texture effects, overly complex color palettes, and the list continues. I can’t help but wonder, why the recent flood of logos being designed in this manner, such as students who have recently discover a new Photoshop filter and use it on everything. If it is the client’s request then perhaps, but the job of a designer is also to educate clients on what has longevity and what can withstand the test of time. Not only do trendy logos get stale-dated but they also may appear unprofessional and amateur in their execution.


Traditionally most designers were taught that logos needed to work in black and white. Then usually after color was added or replaced the negative and positive forms, it seems somewhere along the way this became muddled to simply overlapping color, or adding an embossing effect and transparency or glow. However, even if clients do insist on having a “trendy” logo, it should still be translatable into black and white without losing any of its purposefulness and legibility. A trend can be applied later if absolutely necessary.


It seems many in the graphic design community, particularly in North America, have become enveloped in this fad of trendy logos (two words which shouldn’t even be put side by side).


“Come see the new trendy logos for this fall - with new fall colors!” We are not the fashion community. We strive for timelessness as opposed to what is seasonally in vogue. We can still be contemporary and modern yet adhere to the basic principals of good design practices without falling victim to a fad. A good logo should be simple, recognizable, and relevant for at least a decade with perhaps small alternations made in the future.


What if some of the world best logo designers relied on trends? I wonder if Paul Rand’s UPS logo would have had the same compelling longevity had it an embossed effect and drop shadow? You get what I am getting at here… The new UPS logo with its trendy gradients falls victim to this fad craze, and has been criticized by the graphic design community at large. This is old news, what isn’t is the continuation of this practice among logo designers.


The masters in logo design understood the fundamental basics of a well crafted, articulately contrived, suitable, and sustainable logo. Many of the greatest logos can easily surpass the bar today and be utilized in current day logo design.


Here are a few great logo designers to check out: Paul Rand, Alan Fletcher, Sagi Haviv, Herb Lubalin. You will notice that the vast majority of logos, even though they are coloured they still function as silhouettes. I have to say, I am still impressed with many of their thoughtful solutions. I think one of the best examples of effective logo design has to be Herb Lublin’s 1980, Family logo. It’s so simple yet clever - it gets me every time. What makes this logo so successful is the following:


A Good Logo Should Be:

  1. Be simple and thoughtful
  2. Have a clever and concise concept
  3. Appropriate typeface selection
  4. Appropriate for the client
  5. Employs fundamental design principles


You Have a Trendy Logo When:

  1. It is solely colour based solution,
  2. It can’t be reproduced using solely black and white
  3. It relies on an effect such as transparency, gradients and multiply effects
  4. Incorporates a photo in the logo design