Brand Playbook looks at the do’s and don’ts of changing your logo

When Sears redesigned its logo late last month, it was intended to signal a new brand positioning, an attempt at freshening its image and a Hail Mary to connect with customers. The new design—a combination of a home and heart, with the new slogan “Making Moments Matter”—got a reaction out of people, but not the one Sears had hoped for. Roundly panned, armchair critics on social media mocked the new look as resembling Airbnb’s logo, the Bélo (which itself was widely mocked upon its debut for looking too, well, vaginal).

Sears presents us with just the latest cautionary tale in logo redesign. Also last month, Staples revealed new branding that included a straightened-out “L” in the brand’s name with the staple (or is it a desk?) plonked alongside the company name.

A brand’s logo is core to a its identity, an instantly recognizable visual representation of what it stands for. In recent years, a brand’s stamp has taken on additional importance as more of our time is spent staring at little screens. Logos are no longer just slapped on packaging or tacked onto the end of a TV spot—they need to pop in a confined space, cut through the clutter of social media and work as an app icon on a crowded phone screen.

As a result, more brands are redesigning their logos, says Armin Vit, a co-founder of the graphic design firm UnderConsideration and its brand design blog, Brand New. “When we started Brand New in 2006, we would have enough logo changes for two or three posts a week. These days … I have at least five to seven logos I can include a day across our different categories, and this is sustainable year-round.”

Before rethinking your brand’s visual identity, consider this:

Have a reason for change
Don’t start by asking an agency if you need a new look. “Asking a brand identity firm if you need a new logo is like asking a barber if you need a new haircut,” says Brian Collins, chief creative officer of Collins, the strategy and brand experience company that bears his name. A brand shouldn’t change its identity “unless it’s limiting you from realizing the next phase in your evolution,” he says.

The best time for a logo overhaul is when a brand has gone through its own changes and prior imagery doesn’t do enough to represent what it offers.

“Don’t do it because you’re the new brand manager or because there’s a new leadership team in place,” says Joan Chow, who joined the Greater Chicago Food Depository as chief marketing officer in 2016. “Do it because you’ve done the research and the brand isn’t where you need it to be.”