The 2014 Logo Trend Report
Dazzle, Waves, Wires And So Much More
BY BILL GARDNER
If home is our first place, and work is our second place, then mobile screens have definitely become our third place. Smart phone use has increased from 21 percent in 2010 to more than 63 percent today, and with 83 percent of all Americans online regularly, that percentage of mobile users is bound to keep edging up.
The fact that so many people now view the world through a window the size of a business card has spelled an inevitable change in logo design. It used to be that minute favicons had to be kept extremely simple: Now, as a rule, logos must be as well &8210; but that doesn’t mean boring. Designers continue to push back and evolve the meaning of “simple.”
That logos have to be scalable has always been understood. But our perception of “small” has changed &8210; in some cases “tiny” is being rather generous. Dimension and detail are necessarily removed so that these logos read properly on mobile screens. Designs have become more and more flat. Surfaces are plain and defined by mono-weight lines.
Of course, there’s a limit to this flattening out and removal of information. Designers and audiences alike need an escape from all things digital. They need a chance to decompress and take a deep breath in a place that provides shelter from information’s frantic pace. Everyone needs to step outside and bask in sunlight, not screen light. And so the pendulum starts to swing back.
People seem to be more and more drawn back to what is real, whether that is perusing handmade hats on Pinterest, exploring other cultures or our own family histories, or reconnecting with stories from mythology or our childhoods. By bringing back what is human-made, we gain a sense of control over the digital tide that threatens to overtake us.
Designers have responded to the mobile screen’s harsh requisites in a variety of ways, many of which are detailed in this year’s Trend Report. Artisan crafting is ever more important as evidenced by the “Hand Type” solution in abundance this year. Colors are brighter and lighter. Typographic solutions, which can be absorbed immediately with no symbolic interpretation, are ever more important.
Designers also have found ingenious creative workarounds, such as introducing long shadows to very flat designs, suggesting that dimension is still there. Logo designs may be reduced to line work (see the “Geo Wires” trend below), but now every facet of the design is visible. These designs are simpler, but now somehow more complex. In other designs, like this year’s “Pompons,” solutions are less reliant on exact, specific shapes, instead communicating with energy and emotion.
As with all things, it’s about balance. When anything pushes people too far one way, the natural reaction is to push back. Perceptive designers will always be able learn from watching the pendulum as it swings between people’s wants and needs, and technology’s gifts and demands. As Proctor & Gamble’s global marketing and brand building officer Marc Pritchard said, “Creativity without insight is worthless.” Today, insight means learning how to move design forward by turning digital limitations into communication advantages.
We also saw plenty of:
- Mountains, both representing geographic entities as well as a metaphor for achieving great heights or reaching a summit of success.
- Acorns a plenty, as a return to nature and the promise of potential and greatness from an auspicious beginning. These demonstrated planning for the future and as a reminder, the best time to plant a tree was yesterday.
- Bees in every form, and a few hives as well. A versatile symbol of fertility, industry, dedication and teamwork. All the critical ingredients for a sticky reward delivered without a sting.
- Digital controllers, whether for a game or otherwise, seem to symbolize the ability to manage any challenge at the push of a button or flick of the wrist.
- Symbols are being adopted by consumers at an extraordinary pace, and many of these from digital devices or associations with that industry. Clouds, Wi-Fi® waves, loading wheels and a rush of icons from our mobile devices are providing the analogies for the next generation of logos.
- Faceting cannot be stopped as it continues to evolve. Since it first hit the scene in 2010 it has sprouted more offshoots than a hydra at a knife fight.
- Flat, overly simple logos are giving realism a breather. Skeumorphic design is so yesterday. Unfortunately designers are breaking the surface tension by letting long shadows creep onto the faces of their work. So if we’re living in flat world, what’s casting the shadow?