About a year ago I noticed a car with a logo I didn’t recognize. Could there be a new car company making a push into this competitive industry?
Then I discovered it was a rebrand for the Korean car company Kia. I, along with many others, didn’t see the word Kia in the new logo. After doing a little research, I discovered that at least 30,000 people a month search for the “KN car.”
I have a keen interest in logo design because back when I was operating my marketing consultancy at full speed, creating logos for clients was one of my favorite projects. It blended a deep understanding of a brand and its goals with imagination and creativity.
Rebranding is often a positive force. It’s typically done when there is a shift in business strategy, the target customer changes, or it’s time to update and refresh a faded and monotonous brand image.
For my taste, the new Kia logo is a failure. You might say that such an abstract text treatment got people wondering and talking about the brand. But I’d hesitate to buy a car from a company that thinks that logo is a great market play. I’m puzzled that corporate executives and the heads of a major creative agency, all of whom know a lot more than me, gave that graphic the green light.
The Kia logo made me wonder what other recent logo redesigns have come to market. I soon discovered that extremely abstract and difficult-to-decipher letterforms are a logo trend.
The Finnish giant Nokia Corporation wanted to shake its image as a phone maker and reincarnate as a telecommunications and information technology company. That required a Kia-like obfuscation of the letters in its name. The new N is missing a full ascender in the same way the Kia A is missing its identifying crossbar. I don’t mind the stroke missing from the K, but it creates an arrow shape that points backward, which is often interpreted as negative. Overall, I like the effect and the weight of the letters, and the color.
Here’s a before and after logo for the technology news website, The Verge. Admittedly, the old logo was stale, and it didn’t shout technology or news, but the new logo absolutely shouts: “Chaos!” Or maybe it’s just me that’s confused. Those are hieroglyphic letterforms with seriously weird negative space. I found out that the new logo design was created in-house. The old adage applies: you get what you pay for.
CNET is a media website that publishes reviews, news, articles, blogs, podcasts, and videos on technology and consumer electronics globally. Like its buddy, The Verge, CNET had a dated logo and wanted to get in on the cool and crazy fonts. This one is readable, and I like the pronounced serifs on the letters, but that C is borderline not a C.
The pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline changed their name and their logo. Now they’re GSK. I don’t find acronyms compelling or creative as names, but the likes of IBM and MIT have managed just fine. It works better if the acronym can be pronounced as a word itself., like GEICO or FEMA. Again, we see the cutting-edge letterforms, or in this case the letterforms with cute cutouts. This logo is a positive change, but I don’t love the orange-to-yellow ombre. That kind of shading disappears at small sizes and doesn’t transfer well to grayscale. Sooner or later, all logos appear in tiny sizes and in black and white, so you need to account for those factors at the beginning of the design process. They must have, right?
Bonus Logo Disaster
The Indian fashion firm Myntra made perhaps the biggest logo blunder in the past year. It was so bad that the police were getting calls about its obscenity. How could Myntra not have seen this? Once again, executives, creative consultants, artists, marketers—no one noticed the spread legs and vagina? After the logo was launched, a change arrived within a few weeks.
When we designed the logo for Klein Marketing several decades ago, we pulled one of those letter tricks by combining the L and the E. It made sense to move those letters closer together and it added visual interest. As far as I know, people could read the name easily. The use of color balances the design. The font is blocky and may be dated, but this branding is going the distance.