Why Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are leading a digital design revolution

Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Twitter are among the digital giants to have recently reworked their brand identities.

  • Bing's old logo

    Bing's old logo

  • Bing's new logo

    Bing's new logo

  • Google's old logo

    Google's old logo

  • Google's new logo

    Google's new logo

  • Yahoo's old logo

    Yahoo's old logo

  • Yahoo's new logo

    Yahoo's new logo

  • YouTube's old logo

    YouTube's old logo

  • YouTube's new logo

    YouTube's new logo

of

For a sector that has hitherto demonstrated a static approach to its logo design, this surge in activity begs the questions: why bother, and why now?

"A brand's identity is the most powerful, defining and fundamental statement it can make," says Jonathan Ford, founding partner and chief creative officer at design agency Pearlfisher.

"As a very influential group, digital brands are realising that they can't sit still and that they need to creatively evolve to secure a complete and future-facing connection with their consumers."

This month (September) alone, Yahoo, Bing and Google unveiled new-look corporate identities.

For a sector that has hitherto demonstrated a static approach to its logo design, this surge in activity begs the questions: why bother, and why now?

Google of course is no stranger to tweaking its visual identity, via its Doodles, which have seen it change the logo on its homepage more than 1,000 times since 1998, to mark the anniversaries of the likes of famous artists, pioneers and scientists.

Recent examples include the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, which saw Google spelled out in the iconic coloured lines of London’s Tube map.

More recently Google made a more permanent change, retouching its brand ID, throwing out the 3D effect used on the letters of its name and introducing a flatter and cleaner version.

Elsewhere, Microsoft’s Bing unveiled a visual identity overhaul, swapping its old lettering to use a customised version of Microsoft’s Segoe corporate font as part of plans to reposition the company as more than just a search engine.

"More than in other areas, digital is a ‘live’ medium and arguably the most youth-focused," says Silas Amos, creative director at JKR. "As such it pays to stay on-trend as well as on-brand."

Design possibilities

There can be more fundamental reasons for changing a logo design. Yahoo ditched its 18-year-old logo with a new-look brand, marking the climax of a month that saw 30 different design possibilities go live each day.

The redesign was part of an overhaul of the brand under chief executive Marissa Mayer.

"Yahoo wants to be reappraised and to leave the old Yahoo behind," says Kevin Johnson, Seymourpowell’s creative director. "They don’t have a physical product on the market so they have to have something that shows the company is different from before."

Companies that were wet behind the ears, the start-ups, are now maturing and demanding better design.

But design experts are quick to point out that there are pitfalls on the path from fledgling, ingenuous brand to sophisticated player.

"There are some brands in people’s consciousness, so you’ve got to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater," says Johnson.

"eBay is a good example of a brand logo that’s thrown away part of what made it special. It’s kept the same colours, but it’s lost its distinctive shape."

Until recently, online brands had favoured simpler branding, notes Pearlfisher’s Ford: "There seems to have been a recent default setting for neutral identities and logo design - probably inspired by the single-mindedness of the Apple brand identity aesthetic -  and creating a host of brands that all look the same."

But the medium’s evolution will be mirrored by a change in that aesthetic, insist designers. "A celebration of originality and personal style statements should be as true for digital brand design as it is for fashion retail and indeed packaged brands," Ford says.

Better design

His point is echoed by JKR’s Amos. "Companies that were wet behind the ears, the start-ups, are now maturing and demanding better design," he says.

"At a more exciting level, digital brands are operating in a relatively new medium and are just beginning to create the rules of the road for themselves. Why wouldn’t they want to keep things fresh?"

As digital brands become bigger and more sophisticated, many of them will no longer solely exist in the virtual realm. Google is a case in point, with its brand appearing on physical products such as the Chromebook laptop.

"I think the two worlds are converging more and more," says Johnson. "It’s not new what digital brands are going through. You see it in retail brands when you look down the high street. It’s a busy environment and certain shops stick out. The high street is no different from web browsers."

Discussion

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now

Latest

Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer
Mumsnet admits users' emails and passwords accessed via Heartbleed bug