A strong visual language is the best way to establish brand recognition among your audience, and your logo is the foundation of that visual identity. A well-designed logo complements a brand, oftentimes taking on a life of its own and effectively settling into the cultural consciousness. Not only that, the best logos serve as both a template and a guide as a brand evolves.
Some of the world’s most iconic logos have been refined—though never redesigned—because their design was such an accurate reflection of the brand. Here are 4 classic logos that have been successfully updated for the modern era yet pay homage to their original good design.
Designer: Saul Bass, king of corporate logos (including United Airlines, Quaker Oats, Minolta, United Way and Wienerschnitzel)
Bass’ original AT&T logo from 1983 (nicknamed the “Death Star”) has been updated twice. In 1999 it went from its original 12 lines to a shaded version with 8 lines. In 2005 Interbrand reworked those lines into a 3D transparent “marble.” With each incarnation, Bass’ original design has remained solidly intact, while the current aesthetic communicates the company’s notable expansion into modern technologies.
Takeaway: A successful logo update preserves a brand’s well-established identity while communicating new brand evolutions.
Designer: Saul Bass
Credit: Just Creative
Bass’ 1978 logo for the Girl Scouts is a brilliant use of negative space. It was reworked in 2010 by Original Champions of Design, receiving a few marked improvements without losing any of the original’s appeal. Most notable: The addition of bangs on the first figure, which creates a sense of age progression as the figures move right, and the refinement of the pointed trefoil shape, which pays homage to the original logo but provides a unified shape for future branding.
Takeaway: A well-designed logo allows for intentional refinements to increase its meaning and impact.
Designer: Paul Rand, design legend and creator of logos for IBM, ABC, Enron and NeXT computers
Credit: Logo Design Love
Rand’s design for UPS was instantly recognizable, even in 1961. His work refined the existing corporate shield for the modern era. The 2003 update by FutureBrand retained the iconic shape of the logo but ditched the bow-tied package to reflect the company’s shift toward new supply chain services.
Takeaway: An iconic logo can be simplified to streamline a brand’s message.
The Starbucks logo has seen several iterations since its introduction in 1971. Heckler added the iconic green ring around it in 1987, then an internal team of Starbucks designers created the contemporary mermaid in 1992. In the latest iteration, launched in 2011, the company made a bold move: removing the ring and leaving just the mermaid on her own. With the removal of “coffee,” the logo becomes symbolic of a lifestyle brand.
Takeaway: A well-designed logo is flexible, able to evolve with a brand’s vision.
The Keys to a Successful Logo
The world’s biggest brands have uniquely recognizable logos. But these logos do share certain similarities. We analyzed the logos of Interbrand’s Top 100 Brands of 2013 to find out what they have in common.
Most Common Colors Used
Number of Colors Used
Company Name Only vs. No Company Name
Whether you’re redesigning a logo or an internal report, preserving and promoting your brand’s visual language should always be a design priority.