Times change and so do brands

When big, beloved brands change their visual identity, there is always the risk that it might’ve been a step in the wrong direction. There is certainly no guarantee for how the public will react to changes, no matter how long the research phase was, how many experts got involved or how much money was spent on a project.

There have been two examples earlier this year that have caused quite the stir, not only in the design community, but also in the realms of social media.

The one that hit the fan(s)

We all know that football fans are quite a passionate bunch, but when Leeds United F.C. proudly unveiled their new badge in January this year, they weren’t quite prepared for what came next. Within minutes of uploading the new logo a petition to scrap it has been launched, gaining more and more signatures by the minute. And it was successful. Only a week after the release, the football club announced they will review the design – this time taking fan’s opinions into consideration.

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But let’s have a look – is it really that bad? The short answer is, yes. The long answer however requires a bit more insight. Widely known as the club’s signature gesture, the “Leeds salute”, the clenched fist is shown on a torso in the club’s colours yellow and blue. Gone are the times of the recognisable Yorkshire rose and this might’ve been the fatal flaw in the design. There is a certain nostalgia and history behind the rose and even though the salute is incorporated, the absence of the rose makes the fans feel completely disconnected from the crest.

This just goes to show that even though they have consulted over 10,000 people in 6 months of research, that they haven’t actual looked closely enough at their target audience – the football fans, who will ultimately want to proudly wear merchandise with the new crest. An important lesson is to be learnt from this: it doesn’t matter how many experts you get involved, if you don’t understand your own core values, you’re doomed to fail.

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The one that won the vote

Refreshing your brand is one thing, but when you are part of the Government and your funds are paid for by tax payers it becomes a whole different story. The budget plans are detailed to the letter and you will need to justify every penny that went out of the nation’s wallet. However, making public services more accessible and easy to understand, especially in the light of the digital revolution, might save money in the long run.

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Earlier this year SomeOne (www.someoneinlondon.com) took it upon themselves to give the Houses of Parliament, or now known as UK Parliament, a make-over. Even though the mainstream media labelled the re-design as “a £50,000 logo project”, we had a closer look at the whole project, which includes guidelines, typefaces and icon suites, and hailed it a roaring success.

The main goal for the project was to lead the UK Parliament’s brand into the digital age. The crowned portcullis has been simplified and cleaned up and three different variation have been created to suit the platform it will be displayed on: it has been optimised to work on small, medium and larger applications. The new colour scheme of dark blue and mint green gives the new accompanying stationery a fresh look, while the contrast between the two ensures clear differences between the importance of information. Strict guidelines and templates have been created to ensure everything is coherent, no matter where the branding appears.

In addition to this well-thought out design system, they created a whole new icon suite to visually support the new brand and connect the digital world with the offline market. They have recognised the need to have a brand that works across all platforms, be it in the digital world or in printed marketing materials, to appeal especially to the younger generation.

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Being on target

Both examples show the importance of engaging with your target audience early in the research phase. If you don’t hit the nail on the head knowing who you want to address your brand to, everything that comes after will be a waste of time and money.