Bland brand design trend

For 25 years, logo design has consistently trended toward flexibility, precision and clarity. A logo that works in any context: across social media, mobile apps, websites, print materials, video, signage, and merch. A logo that is elegant in its simplicity, never getting in the way of the story around it. This has resulted in what many have called a trend towards a more milquetoast, uninspired ecosystem of homogenized brand design. 

This observation has once again been reinvigorated, making its rounds across design twitter and creative feeds the past week (just like it did in 2019 and 2018 and every year I can remember since I got into this industry).

What I don’t see discussed quite as much are the deeper philosophical questions that underlie the trend. 

At the intersection of capitalism and technology has consistently been the loss of humanity. This logo design trend parallels what we see in music: auto-tuned, pitch perfect vocals over machine-generated instrumentation copy, pasted, and quantized across the grid so no note is out of place, no semblance of a human hand can be felt. Technology empowers us to achieve a perfection that on the surface seems like a beneficial pursuit, but on an emotional level feels every bit as mechanical to us as it is.

There’s certainly a counter trend at play. Just like for every precise pop album produced there’s more soulful experimentation by artists chasing a signature sound that hearkens back to the days of vinyl, we now have brands like Burger King and Pizza Hut embracing slightly refreshed versions of their old logos, also from the days of vinyl. An attempt to evoke nostalgia and channel it toward positive brand affinity; a very human feeling indeed and a smart way to contrast from the more dominant players in the space who proudly embrace being “technology” brands.

I wonder if there’s not a desire for more imperfection from our logos. Do we want to feel the humans behind them? Maybe injecting more humanity into the tactile touch points with brands can remind us to not lose sight of the fact that a brand is just a way to identify a collection of real people making real stuff. And maybe there's a reason why it seems like this is the subtext to nearly every creative conversation we have anymore.

Humanity is once again trying to find its place in the marketplace; that's the trend I care about.

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