A company logo was once a static mark that bore the standard for the design and branding across all levels of service and product, that rarely, if ever, changed format. Now, some of the most powerful logos in the world change design about once a week.
Uber is the latest brand to join the club. Last week, they announced a new brand design and an unusual strategy to launch not one new logo, but 68 logos. In theory, there could be as many logos as countries in the world.
The Australian surf wear brand Billabong was the first to adapt a dynamic logo identity. In 1973, they turned their logo into more of an art form, changing the design from season to season. In later years, they expanded this process, creating a design every time a new fashion would leave the factory.
The dynamic logo phenomena only really took shape with the advent of technology. Google was an early adopter, creating the Google Doodle team, with 10 full-time employees headed by Ryan Germick. But where Billabong was one dynamic, yet global design, Google is a mixture of global and local, allowing countries to celebrate and feature localized doodles that relate to country celebrations, including elections, iconic birthdays and national holidays.
The fact is that you can’t look anywhere these days without your eyes meeting a screen, creating two new dimensions that have been infused into the concept of a logo, all based on change. Logos now need to be dynamic, moving with the region, the context or even the time of day, and need to have the ability to be animated. While there’s only a few examples right now of animated logos, you can be sure that this will change in the future. This only makes sense, as we, as people with personal brands, are animated, so why not animate your brand’s logo?
With the arrival of the new Uber logo, the company is taking the phenomena even further with their 100% localized logo format, transforming the general app icon to one dedicated to the country’s user. Based on interviews conducted with Uber staff across the globe, the company extracted symbolic colors and patterns from each country and converted them into icons – or logos. Icons are so important to brands, as those app symbols are becoming logos. It’s the first thing most consumers will see when they use the app and, thus, the symbol they’re likely to link with the brand in the future.
I call this logo design approach “Smashable.” It’s a term inspired by the Coca-Cola Company, which asked its bottle manufacturer to create a design so clever that if you were to throw the bottle on the floor and smash it into thousands of pieces – you’d still be able to pick up one piece of glass and recognize the brand.
A Smashable can be anything: a shape (think the Beetle or Chanel bottle,) a color (Tiffany’s,) a pattern (Burberry,) a smell (PlayDoh,) or a sound (think Intel.) In fact, a Smashable is characterized by a dynamic symbol representing the brand, that always appears in a relevant context rather than in a fixed format. The more Smashables you establish, the more powerful your brand is. Let’s look at Apple. They own 21 Smashables (everything from their shape to the swipe ritual to their startup sound.) Or consider the Olympic games, with their iconic circles. Even the little Lego man is a Smashable.
As the world becomes more dynamic, thanks to the little screens plastered all over, feeding our unstoppable hunger for visual stimulation, the days of having one logo are numbered. In the future, every company will own tens, if not hundreds, of logos, or Smashables. They will be contextual and take shape based on who is watching, when they’re watching and where they’re watching. And, yes, they’ll all be animated.
This trend is unavoidable, and it leaves a challenge to all the brands out there, stuck in the past with one static logo. When everyone around you is moving, and you’re not, there’s a pretty high risk that you’ll be perceived as falling behind.
My question to you — is your brand and identity standing still in a dynamic world?