In a world saturated by endless choice and comparable products, branding has become - often more so than the products - what allows for differentiation. When two goods are created equal, it’s the perceived value, social and cultural components, that often sways the consumer.
Recently, a design-related phenomenon labelled ‘blanding’ became a norm of sorts. The point is no longer for logos to stand out as unique and original, but to blend in favour of a standardized use and recognition. In short, design became efficiently simplified at the cost of creative expression and personality.
Initially, a design trend that became prevalent in the tech industry by the likes of Apple, Google, Amazon and Uber, has continued to gain momentum across industries. The fashion sphere, traditionally known for its timeless logos, hasn’t been exempt from this development. Adjusting to a rapidly changing generational and international landscape, some of fashion’s most established brands, namely Balmain and Coach, have been tinkering with their identities in an attempt to convey progress, modernity, newness and, most importantly, youthfulness.
Hedi Slimane, shortly after being appointed as Céline’s head designer, was among the first in the fashion industry to be widely criticised for‘blanding’. Changing the name of the 73-year-old label to plain Celine, the spacing of the wordmark was adjusted, the letters were shrunk and the logo was made more compact to “enable a simplified and more balanced proportion.” The business decision would, presumably, allow the brand to be easily and cleanly rendered on everything from the side of a bus or a bag to Instagram and billboards.
Social media’s reaction to Slimane’s creative decisions at Celine had hardly dwindled down when Burberry presented British designer Peter Saville’s controversial redesign of its logo; part of the brand’s makeover initiated by its Chief Creative Officer, Riccardo Tisci. As a nod to its founder Thomas Burberry, the new monogram features interlocking ‘Ts’ and ‘Bs’, the brand’s wordmark was reduced to a neutral type, doing away with all previous decorative (and more importantly, defining and meaningful, elements.
Tisci’s decision to step away from Burberry’s famed camel check prints – while also veering the company away from its classic British style and full steam toward bolder, edgier, more contemporary cuts – is a tactic that has been observed as both risky and warranted. The new design, part of the company’s gamble to elevate the brand further upmarket in view of increasing margins, has proven successful thus far.
Placed on everything from hoodies to high heels and handbags, the new motif has already become covetable, slowly catching up with the cachet of exemplary luxury competitors such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Interestingly, both high-end brands have been capitalizing on their unmodified monogram designs for decades, consistently marketing items baring their brand's logo. And yet, it seems even Gucci tested those rebranding waters. Although no official communication has yet to surface, the Italian luxury house recently updated a new logo design on its social media outlets. A surprising move given the brand’s continued growth since 2015 (don’t fix what’s not broken right?) but one that took place nonetheless, surfacing on the brand’s WeChat and Weibo channels.
This rebranding revolution doesn’t seem to be slowing down just yet. Last summer, Spanish retailer Zara changed up its brand identity as well, revealing a cleaner and curvier logo on social media and its website. Designed by the French agency, Baron & Baron to "create a sense of minimalism," the updated wordmark was quickly met with extensive criticism, including a public statement by renowned German typographer Erik Spiekermann who, addressing the logo's simplicity, suggested it might have been "designed by those new robots that will replace humans." Earlier this month, LVMH-owned Kenzo also presented a new logo, coinciding with the appointment of the brand's new Creative Director, Felipe Oliveira Baptista. In a short statement, the updated design was described as a “new graphic, contributing to the very signature of each collection” with the aim of “breathing fresh energy into Kenzo’s legacy.” Best known for successfully performing the same role at Lacoste until 2018, the Portuguese designer will feature Kenzo’s new logo in his first collection for the brand, which will be presented during women’s fashion week in Paris.