Innovation Driven by Technology and Tools
By Bill Gardner, Founder + President, logolounge.com
As with every logo trend report I write, I look to the past before looking ahead. You can’t tell where something is going if you don’t know where it’s been. There’s always a reason something goes viral or takes off ‒ something set it in motion, good or bad. So let’s start by addressing the white elephant on the planet: COVID-19.
Crises often accelerate trends in society and design. It’s very reactive and rushed ‒ i.e. if there were a ten-step program that we typically follow to get from point A to point B, we skipped steps six through nine to get there during a crisis. Next year, we’re probably going to see a lot of logos that came as a result ‒ some will be brilliant, while many more probably won’t. No matter what, I believe the design industry is going to come out of this better than we were. Some firms will not recover. It’s going to be survival of the fittest, but having said that, we’ll see an emergence of little start-ups and uncover some talent we’ve never seen before. People will regroup, find their niche and come out of this with a new resilience.
We’re going to see a new way of working and doing business. While working remotely, we’ve also come together and grown closer with a new kind of face-to-face ‒ something we probably weren’t doing anyway. Just because people work in close proximity, doesn’t mean they’re connecting or talking. Zoom and Facetime have become the new norm in business as companies work with offsite pods of people with different skillsets. We’re talking to each other more now than before.
Another offshoot of this, is that we’re seeing the big telecom and technology companies step up and lead, offering expanded services to help students with e-learning, keep remote workers working and provide more entertainment options than ever before. Sometimes the price of doing business means being a good citizen. This is a shared generational experience that we’ll never forget and hopefully, we’ll all learn from. Next year’s batch of logos will surely reflect this!
As for this year’s trends, we’re seeing some intriguing clusters of design innovation driven by technology and tools. For instance, there are a lot of logos this year that employ variable fonts and effects filters, maybe for no other reason than we have the capabilities to do it. As designers, when new tools are introduced, we start with the obvious effects and objectify the coolness (which gets tired after a while). Fortunately, there were many great examples by designers who took these tools to the next level, exploiting their capabilities and creating new logo experiences that we’ve never seen before.
We’re also seeing two opposite trends that hearken back to the best of the 1970s. Wordmarks with big fat fonts came out roaring this year (think bell bottoms and afros), perhaps as a counter to the minimalist sans serif aesthetic we’ve gotten used to the last five or six years. At the same time, there are a lot of ultraminimalist vector images with clean positive/negative fields that may have resulted from a desire to return to clarity and simplicity, ala Saul Bass and Paul Rand ‒ the pendulum swings both ways.
There’s also a tendency toward minimalist effects using transparencies, where one surface hovers closely to another. It’s getting tiresome and I see a movement away from this. On the other hand, we have what I like to call “Potter Pics,” which reference the little animated movements in some logos, like the wink of an eye. They’re subtle and clever.
Hand-drawn naïve symbols that are more crude are emerging. They’re kind of a New Age throwback. In a similar vein, there are logos with flowers and leaves referencing organics and natural products. Expect to see more of this as the cannabis market expands in the next few years.
Bolts and Twinkles have reached a place of critical mass this year and they are far-reaching. The mystical and lighthearted applications have a level of charm that can be seen in conservative business to business brands as well as little boutiques ‒ ie They are equally at home in the boardroom as they are on the boardwalk, and that’s not something you can say about a lot of things!
Gradient solutions are rampant, but it’s taken on a new level and being applied in novel ways. The simple ways of washing green to blue or red to orange are tired, so now there are more fashionable applications. For instance, there are waves of purple to pink, then zooming into a blackhole or interacting with colors that aren’t necessarily adjacent to each other on the color wheel. It’s quick and busy and interactive.
And, of course, in the opposite corner there is a trend toward intricate linework that is so fine it’s taking on a halftone effect by default when it’s scaled down.
Things that have gone rampant include kettle weights, anvils, Legos and animals like foxes and tigers ‒ but not Tiger Kings. Wait ’til next year! There are also a lot of logos with a third eye thrown in. The third eye is supposed to indicate self-actualization, but I don’t think that was taken into consideration so much on a lot of these. It just felt like a weird element that was added as an after-thought.
I never grow tired of reviewing the thousands of logos we receive every year. It’s always a fascinating study of creativity and innovation. These trends come and go and then come back again. I’m grateful to the logo design community for bringing their best to LogoLounge each year. This report is an observation on the logo industry and isn’t meant as a guide for best practices. Trends are trajectories that will evolve and modify over time, not a passing fad. Use the ideas here to push your design skills to the next level and keep the trajectory moving to the next iteration.
About the 2020 Logo Trend Report
2020 marks the 18th year of this one-of-a-kind report. Each year, it offers the opportunity to literally review thousands upon thousands of logos one at a time, looking for nuances and artifacts of emerging trends. As we acknowledge that each design represents hours and hours of thought and struggle from designers around the world, we are as humbled and awed as ever by their dedication to the craft and grateful for the important role they play in helping us create these reports. So thank you to all of the designers who have and will contribute to the Trend Reports then, now, and for years to come.
For an even deeper look at this year’s trends, visit our course on LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com).
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Through the line of LogoLounge books (currently published in volumes 1 through 11, with the 12th soon to come) designers can gain even more insights from a collection of the smartest logo designs submitted to LogoLounge from all over the world, which are hand-selected by a preeminent panel of some of the most respected names in the industry.
For more information on membership and identity design news, visit LogoLounge.com.
About Bill Gardner
Bill Gardner is the president of Gardner Design and founder of LogoLounge.com, a repository site where, in real time, members can post their logo design work and search the works of others by keyword, designer’s name, client type, and more. The site also offers news curated expressly for logo designers as well as unlimited entries for consideration in the bestselling LogoLounge book series. Bill can be contacted at email@example.com