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The top 10 most successful logo redesigns of 2013

Chris Dickman Tue, 12/31/2013 - 06:05

Last week we shared a list of our picks for the ten least successful logo redesigns of the year. Now it's time to end the year on a positive note by rounding up our pick for those that were the most successful — ones that lived up to the possibilities at hand. Not necessarily the coolest or even the flattest, with that being the pseudo-design trend of the year. Instead, ones that somehow simply worked, that felt inevitable. Click on the titles for more information on each logo.

This was the year that several Internet-centric firms chose to tidy up the script-based logo they'd launched with to reflect a new-found seriousness (often reflected in a mind-boggling valuation). The MailChimp email newsletter service did a good job of this but Instagram nailed its update by transforming an awkward set of unconnected letters into a cohesive entity with just enough personality to set it apart while remaining recognizable.

The redesign of the Firefox logo we're told was "created specifically with mobile in mind" but that thankfully didn't mean that all the life was sucked out of it in a maniacal quest for flatness. Instead, the makeover intelligently tweaked it here and there to simplify the overall effect and make it more harmonious, while keeping the blends that give the design its character.

Royal Philips
Philips has come a long was since its origins as a lightbulb manufacturer and today would have us think of it as a leader primarily in the healthcare and consumer lifestyle sectors, with lighting coming in third. Shifting brand perception in this direction, while also creating a mark that would work better in a digital environment, all while preserving design elements going back almost one hundred years, could easily have resulted in a redesign train wreck. However, the result was quite the opposite, with the addition of curves, a touch of swelling here and there, and the use of slightly fattened white type on a more solid blue ground resulting in a logo that should stand the test of time.

Mall of America
Design firm Duffy & Partners did the right thing by retaining the central star motif and ribbon effect but moving the treatment away from an old-fashioned patriotic look into a fluid, multi-colored environment. The ribbons are given different color combinations, such as pink for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, silver and gold for the holiday season, and red, white and blue for Independence Day. The ribbons are also used as a recurrent motif throughout the mall's digital and physical presences, resulting in a well-considered redesign with a slick execution and consistent deployment.

American Airlines
Designers tend to freak out when a long-standing logo by a big-name designer gets tossed and is replaced with a radically new look. Thus it was when FutureBrand dropped all design references to the existing Massimo Vignelli-created American Airlines logo from the 1960s, retaining just an eagle head and the colors of the flag. One can bemoan the trend to design airline identities that have little ambition beyond fitting on the tail of a plane (Iberia made it to our "least successful" list partly for this) but I guess we should get over it. And so what if the old logo was the work of Vignelli? Frankly, it was more than a little tired after four decades in the air. In fact, the more you look at it, the more you just might think that the new American Airlines logo is actually very successful.

This was the year a number of restaurant chains chose to remake their brand identity, typically to accompany the launch of outlets with a new look. Wendy's succeeded in the tricky task of retaining the perky image of the founder's daughter, while giving her a fresher, simpler treatment. Say goodbye to the corny nineteenth-century type and claustrophobic box. And say hello to a deceptively simple wordmark that seems as if it was written by Wendy herself. It all adds up to a winning refresh, although some saw a subliminal message in the new design.

Sometimes a successful logo redesign is one that you might not even notice. That was probably the case for more than a few Google users, who didn't detect the flattening that enabled the ubiquitous logo to function more effectively in mobile environments, which is where Google increasingly finds itself. One has to wonder why Yahoo went the other way and added bevels to its redesigned logo. Bevels!

After more than 30 years, the smart guys in upper management at the Arby's restaurant chain decided that a logo refresh was in order. So in 2012 they presided over the creation of a bizarre 3D effort with a sans serif face and one of the craziest apostrophes on record. What is that thing, anyway? Happily they soon came to their senses and released yet another redesign, this one succeeding where the earlier one failed. Gone is the 3D look, with a more compact hat employing less cramped lines. The face is back to a serif echo of the original and is also less stretched, with the resulting overall square proportions being much more satisfying. And of course better adopted to mobile.

American Standard
Known primarily for its faucets, sinks and fixtures, American Standard has expanded over almost a century and a half to the point where it refers to its products as "wellness products for the bath and kitchen." The existing script logo didn't exactly exude a warm and fuzzy feeling but moving to a sterile sans serif treatment wouldn't have helped. Instead, design firm Sterling Brands took just the right approach: “We opted to celebrate the original identity, while infusing within it a certain modernity and ‘evidence of hand’ that would prompt it to connect meaningfully with our targets. Given the evolutionary nature of the wordmark, we felt it critical to implement it in a way that felt fresh and clearly signaled change.”

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
This arrived in mid-December and was a pleasant surprise, given that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a track record of graphic design mediocrity. In contrast, this logo does a great job of encapsulating the essence of the Oscars by making the statuette an integral part of the capital A, which itself becomes a golden spotlight. Even better is that the logo's usage in a variety of media seems to have been solidly thought through by design firm 180LA.

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