Mastery in the tricky task of Brand Identity Design Update
“When do I update my brand identity?” is one of the toughest questions for market leaders in managing their brand’s visual assets. This is often followed by the second toughest question; “OK, so how much do I change it?” Facebook’s recent brand mark update is a great case study in both the ‘why’ and ‘how much’.
For most brands the question of updating brand identity comes with an imperative such as declining market share, merging of brands or new competition entering the market – each of these events triggering the need to change tack with brand strategy and the visual brand language that communicates proposition and positioning to the market. But what if you are the market leader, constantly innovating and keeping ahead of the pack?
Which is precisely the challenge facebook identified for themselves this year. It was only a couple of years ago global fashion retailer GAP faced a similar scenario and misshandled it so poorly they ended-up back-flipping to the original brand mark, leaving themselves between a rock and a hard place with a brand mark they can’t change that is progressively pulling the brand’s identity out of date.
So is the change to the facebook brand mark a case of In House designers getting bored, or a well considered piece of brand design strategy?
All categories are in a constant state of flux. Technology, innovative competitors, changing consumer trends and tastes all play-out without pause, demanding brands to constantly stay plugged-in to what’s happening around them and shift accordingly. Possibly no category reflects this more than social media. It seems every month there’s a new, bright kid on the block promising to be the next huge social media channel, but with the exception of facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, the rest seem to come and go, even those like My Space which seemed to have gathered the required momentum and mass.
Surrounded by so much change, facebook must spend a considerable amount of focus and energy on remaining relevant. To cool their heels for any length of time has the potential to court disconnection or irrelevance. With that in mind the brand must constantly stay connected to their community and seek to identify areas to improve their intuitive product and brand without risking changing something that might create a greater dissonance than leaving it be.
Designed ten years ago in 2005 by Joe Kral and Cuban Council, the brand mark was definitely at risk of starting to look dated. The weight of the type and letterforms of Type Foundry’s Klavika might feel current for now (just), but in my view the typography is very close to it’s use-by date and likely to soon feel jaded. The timing for this facebook brand identity change is almost perfect, with too many brands waiting until their identity is seriously dated and reflecting a lack of progressive professionalism to the market (often for years) before contemplating change.
The new brand mark retains the iconic ‘facebook blue’ – always a wise brand strategy when updating a brand identity that has a well established primary brand colour. The new wordmark – designed in collaboration between facebook’s in-house design team and Eric Olson of Process Type Foundry – utilizes a customized and crafted evolution of the original typeface. The result is a well balanced update that looks and feels very similar, but has quietly ‘face-lifted’ the typographic elements that were at risking of dating the whole brand.
Updating brand identity is a critical part of managing a business’s image and maintaining the value of the brand’s visual assets. The timing and manner in which facebook have taken-on this challenge will prove in time to be masterful. But we should not be surprised that one of the few brands with the skill and foresight to remain relevant in the ultra-fickle category of social media has demonstrated such a sophisticated ability to manage the tricky task of a brand identity design update.