What can we learn from famous logo evolutions?

Your logo, as a part of your whole brand, is not a static thing. It’s meant to evolve along with your business as your products and services change, or even if your mission as a company evolves. Modifications made to your logo to support these changes are referred to as a logo evolution, and even the biggest brands in the world have gone through them. In fact, you can argue that a successful brand must evolve and make changes to compete, remain relevant, and continue to win over customers.

What makes for a successful logo evolution? While this process often involves changing a color, refreshing a typeface, or reimagining an icon or other design element (called a logo refresh), it goes beyond simply making changes and showing them to the world. Changes to your logo take thought, planning, and purpose. You’ll see here how eight of the world’s most famous brands have successfully — or unsuccessfully — navigated their logo evolutions. 

What makes a successful logo evolution?

Before considering changes to your logo, it’s important to understand what makes some efforts more successful than others. That’s due to these three major factors:

  • The changes were made with good reason. Customers will want to know the “why” behind your changes. Marking a new period of transition, celebrating a milestone, offering new services: No matter the reason for a logo evolution, make it a good one.
  • The brand retains some familiar element(s) of the old logo. Complete, 180-degree transformations are not always received well by consumers, as you’ll read later in this blog. That’s because customers are used to seeing your logo, knowing immediately what it represents, and in some cases, having established emotional attachments to it. Whether that’s keeping a color, a symbol, or a typeface, the most successful evolutions have retained some familiar element.
  • The change looks current and modern, but not too trendy. As you’ll read later, some logo refresh projects were spurred by logos that were too attached to a certain design trend or era. While it’s not quite expected that all design trends should be avoided, leaning away from that and embracing a more classic look means that the new logo is more likely to stand the test of time.

What makes a logo evolution unsuccessful?

On the flipside, you want to make sure that you’re not falling short as you plan the next iteration of your logo. Some ways your logo evolution may be unsuccessful are:

  • The changes are not based on a convincing story. Changes that happen “just because” for no good reason ring hollow to customers who have built a relationship with your company. Authenticity is your friend here, and if your changes are not authentic, that may end up being the dominating theme of your logo refresh.
  • The changes are drastic or unexpected. As mentioned earlier, some consumers build strong emotional attachments to a brand. Changing that brand’s look and feel can be too jolting or sudden to those who are loyal to your product or service.

8 famous logo evolutions examples

You’ve likely noticed examples of logo evolution without even knowing it. That’s because many of the biggest brands out there — brands you interact with every day — regularly make noticeable and notable changes to their logos, whether that’s to better reflect a shifting brand mission, showcase their main services, or mark a new chapter. Here’s how eight famous brands evolved their logos, and why these examples are ones to note.

Uber

  • What changed? Since its founding, Uber was synonymous with a big and blocky typeface and a large “U” that left its mark across all its products. The brand made a major overhaul in 2016 under the supervision of its co-founder and then-CEO, Travis Kalanick — an effort widely considered to be unsuccessful due to its drastic switch to colors and patterns under the guise of being a global app in many cities. The most recent iteration of the logo, unveiled in 2018, retained some of that “classic” black and white Uber feel that app users knew well.
  • Why it’s notable: Uber’s most recent logo evolution followed the hiring of its then-new and current CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi. The rebranding quite literally marked the transition away from Kalanick, marking a clear break from the controversy the app had generated under his leadership. It’s a powerful example of how a logo evolution can be used to mark moments of significant change, whether that’s to core product and service offerings or to who’s at the helm.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Apple

  • What changed? Apple boasts one of the most recognizable logos in the world, taking its place alongside giants like the Nike swoosh. But it wasn’t always like that: The very first Apple logo depicted Isaac Newton underneath an apple tree, invoking the discovery of gravity as core to the computer brand’s history of innovation. Since adopting the now-iconic apple with the bite out of its right side in 1976, the only thing that’s changed is the color scheme. (The bite mark is both to make clear that the apple is indeed an apple, and a cheeky reference to a “byte” of data.)
  • Why it’s notable: Apple’s color change was not just an aesthetic request from its founder, the late Steve Jobs: It was a matter of practicality, too. Adding a rainbow logo to products known for sleek design would look childish. A monochromatic apple would better fit the product’s aesthetic. This is a great illustration of logo evolution that fits the needs of the company without abandoning the powerful brand symbol and well-established associations.

Photo by Alex Kalinin on Unsplash

Levi’s

Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

Gap

  • What changed? Gap’s iconic monogram logo, black lettering on a blue square background, was a stalwart of the American mall for decades. Unsurprisingly, shoppers grew attached to the brand and the clothing it stood for. A shakeup to the logo in 2010, though, triggered serious controversy: Backlash was so strong that the company abandoned the idea altogether in around a week.
  • Why it’s notable: When the company unveiled the infamous logo in 2010, Gap executives said that the logo represented “just one of the things [they were] changing.” But that’s precisely the problem: Change for the sake of change does not speak to brand values or an evolving identity. Shoppers were familiar with the iconic logo and were not ready to go along with this change. This underscores the importance of having a solid, well-thought-out story to tell about how and why a major visual change is occurring.

Photo by Anton Darius on Unsplash

Instagram

  • What changed? Instagram’s original, camera-shaped logo clearly and succinctly summed up the app’s purpose: photo sharing. Tapping into minimalistic graphic design and trendy gradient colors, Instagram unveiled a much more simplistic icon and logo in 2016. The icon looked completely different, but the brand kept the core purpose — taking and sharing photographs — at its heart.
  • Why it’s notable: The outcry from Instagram users was strong and loud when the switch was made. That’s mainly due to the drastic departure from the Polaroid camera-inspired icon that users identified with the app for many years. However, unlike the Gap icon controversy mentioned above, Instagram stuck with their new design, correctly predicting that Instagrammers would come around to the new look. Importantly, Instagram’s change emphasizes just how deep a consumer’s attachment to a brand can go.

Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

NBC

  • What changed? The National Broadcasting Company has gone through multiple revisions in its storied history. Originally a radio station, NBC did not adopt a logo until moving into the television industry. One of the earliest changes, embracing a vibrant and multicolored peacock, was designed to showcase the color televisions sold by the station’s parent company, TV manufacturer RCA. The modern peacock known to viewers today has been in use since 1986, with some small modifications.
  • Why it’s notable: NBC’s logo reflected the major changes made to the company’s core offerings and industry — markedly, from radio to television. Early iterations of the logo prominently featured a microphone, but the move to TV shed that visual representation and embraced the move to on-screen programming. The peacock is now an inseparable part of NBC’s identity, but it all started with changing the logo to showcase a major change in core products and services.

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

Google

  • What changed? The Internet powerhouse has gone through several iterations since its mid-90s launch. None of these versions changed the Google name, nor did they drastically change the icon’s colors. According to its blog, Google’s most recent logo iteration keeps the brand “simple, friendly, and approachable,” while implementing dynamic branded elements that move with the user, like four moving dots in the Google color scheme while a product is loading. It’s a logo quite literally in motion, just like Google as a brand.
  • Why it’s notable: Each iteration of the Google logo did not stray from its core. Every refresh kept the word Google front and center, while preserving its distinctive use of multiple colors that don’t naturally go together (although the precise colors changed over time). Small changes, such as the removal of the magnifying glass in its second “O,” hint at the company’s transformation from a search engine to a tech powerhouse. All the while, though, the brand retains its central messaging and purpose.

Photo by Shiwa ID on Unsplash

Burger King

  • What changed? The fast food company made waves in 2021 when it fully embraced a retro revival look. The company, which had not touched its logo for 20 years prior, turned to the menu to draw inspiration in fluffy buns and char-broiled meat, emphasizing freshness, taste, and to an extent, health. Notably, Burger King migrated away from sans serif fonts and developed a typeface, appropriately called “flame,” that exudes friendliness and relatability.
  • Why it’s notable: To go forward, Burger King went back. Creating a custom font and condiment-inspired ‘70s colors, the lead designers on the rebrand have said that they wanted to turn away from the “artificial” feelings the old logo’s blue swish evoked, instead highlighting Burger King’s commitment to quality, natural ingredients. Additionally, designers who worked on the rebrand say that the elements were made to better reflect a digital world, using flat elements that make the brand easier to stand out online. It’s an excellent example of adapting an internationally renowned brand to the 21st century without losing identity or personality in the process.

Photo by Ismail Hadine on Unsplash

Is it time for your own logo evolution?

If reading about these logo evolution examples inspired you to think about your own “refresh,” that’s great! There’s no better time than now to be proactive about your business’s public perception.

If you’re still undecided about whether it’s time for a logo evolution, ask yourself these questions:

  • Has my business’s core product or service changed over the last few years?
  • Has there been a major change at my business, such as a merger or acquisition?
  • Does my company serve a different audience than it did several years ago?
  • Does my logo look more like an ‘80s throwback than a forward-thinking success?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” it may be time to think about the next stage in your own logo evolution. Whether a total brand redesign is in order or you simply want to play with some colors and logo shapes, tweaking your logo can help ensure that your company and your brand identity are still strongly tied.

Namecheap’s all-in-one logo generator is just the tool you need to create your next logo. Our free tool lets you make unlimited revisions to your newly refreshed logo, so you can give your business a “facelift” without worrying about revision rounds or other contract limitations that you may have with a designer. This tool helps you select icons, fonts, and color schemes that best represent your brand’s next chapter, and you export your creation in the file type you need for your website, logo printing needs, social media, or any other purpose.

And once it’s time to reveal your creation to the world, the other tools under the Namecheap Visual umbrella can help you share it. The Namecheap Card Maker lets you create business cards with your refreshed logo, while Site Maker offers the all-in-one tools needed to build, host, and manage your company’s website. Logo Maker allows you to port your new logo directly into both tools. Check out the entire suite of Visual tools from Namecheap to get started now


Nick Allen

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is a writer, photographer, and content marketer. He’s also the founder of BrainBoost Media, a boutique content and operations studio. With a wide range of interests, he enjoys reading and writing about sports, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.
More articles written by Nick.

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