Context Is The Core Of Meaning
By Bill Gardner, Founder + President, logolounge.com
I was recently asked to reflect back on the past 20 years of the LogoLounge Trend Report. How has it shaped the way I design? What has the impact been on me personally? What came to mind was a phrase I often use, but that others seldom understand: “It’s more important to know how you got there than to know where you are.”
Clearly, it IS important to know where you are. I’m not suggesting everyone wander around lost (although that’s sometimes a necessary part of the creative process). What I am saying is that two decades and 380,000 logos later, it’s still just as important as ever to do. the. work. A great logo transcends the trends. And I’m talking about the core definition, the Latin roots: trans (across) + scandere (climb).
As trends build momentum, swing from one extreme to the other, they leave a mark. A tangible foothold. A place to grab onto and navigate as you climb. And when you reach the summit, the beautiful views of a place where you’ve nailed the design, it’s breathtaking. When I look at a logo, I know when a designer came up with it because they did the research and foundation work — and when someone just copied something they thought was cool.
So why even gather all of these logos into one collective if pure imitation is something we dissuade? Because context is core to meaning. The best ideas never come “out of thin air.” It’s not possible for a thought to enter your mind without being preceded by another thought. And one before that. (Unless they’ve invented some new psychedelic I’m unaware of.) We’ve never had so much information yet so little context. It’s not hard to jump online and summon a certain logo or a specific designer or topic you have in mind. But what you’re “fed” (that’s why they call it a feed, you know), is more than likely in a closed loop of things you’re already familiar with. And conversely, when you try to intentionally jump out of your bubble you find yourself swimming in such a random pool that you could drown just filtering it down to anything that resonates.
The reason the LogoLounge Trend Report has become so valuable to the design community is that it opens our minds to possibilities that are relevant, real, and grounded in our collective psyche. It is the place where that sea of content has been filtered down and given context. Savvy designers have a voracious appetite to see what’s influencing our field and this report has become their pilgrimage not because they’ll agree or even like everything they see. But because it’s an unvarnished forecast that is based on reality and delivered with context.
Each Spring for the past 20 years, I’ve sat down with submissions and started combing through the specimens– much like a scientist doing field research. For this report alone we scrutinized more than 35,000 logos submitted to LogoLounge.com from more than 200 countries and considered every significant rebrand or monumental launch internationally.
LogoLounge members gain access to more than 380,000 exceptional logos, all highly contextualized and searchable, where you can explore for inspiration and take an even deeper dive into your own trend discovery. You can look back on two decades of these reports and start to identify design trajectory and evolutionary clues of your own –- places to reach for and explore as you climb ever closer to your design destination.
Only when you grasp the trends … can you transcend.
For the 2022 report, we saw much consideration of wordmarks and typography playing a more important role — all recognizing the need to build some ownership of visual memorability into an otherwise anonymous solution. Reverse contrast (or reverse stress) catches people off guard, and looping letters and flat elongations of horizontals in traditional letter forms are also trying to force a unique foothold into bland brand sans serif wordmarks. Excessive ink traps in sans serif and serif fonts also shook things up, as well as heavy condensing of fonts — some very tall.
And while there are still corporate-looking marks being crafted there is a stronger effort to find ways to identify products that are artisanal and handcrafted. We crave human touch, and humans are, after all, flawed. Things like mugs, rugs, and cookies are good for handmade marks — chainsaws and wiper blades not so much. Hand crafted pattern, naive badges, and hand-drawn type and symbols all have a place and more one-of-a-kind products want this.
There’s much effort still being made to stay biofriendly and eco-sensitive in symbolism and materials being used. Trellis with dappled use of flora is one approach, and even whiplash with its return to the aesthetics of Art Nouveau — a blending of 1910s/1960s/2020s but without the psychedelia palettes of the 60’s. The applications are classed up a little using more restrained color, even when the sinuous variable weight lines are promoting a cannabis product. Interestingly, there’s still a huge amount of design trying to bully its way into some visual corner of ownership in the CBD market and pressing the confidence and medically tested aesthetic in an industry that is the wild west reincarnate.
In terms of color, we’ve seen broader adoption of tri/ quatra/or quintuple color palettes to represent a brand, where a single logo may not have a primary color application but be one of many in its family. There are huge amounts of pink finally being embraced as a corporate color without having a gender whiff. For five years it’s been forecast in color trends and each year the pink gets more intense. I think it is here to stay for a while (get out the guest towels).
More often the logo is playing a subordinate role in the visual vocabulary adopted by organizations. The logos and wordmarks are still great but they play second chair to pattern, color, texture and especially type that has become much more expressive in application. Even motion and sound have become considerations for even the smallest of brands living in a digital world. Whether a sonic logo like the one-note of Taco Bell, Mac, Sony, or Xbox, or the two tones of Netflix — they’ve become synonymous with the logo.
That ability to build memorability and bonding connections with a public are multiplied with the addition of every sensory touchpoint we include. Sound and animation have few borders that linguistics do. They convey personality and confidence as part of a package and we can absorb — whether we are listening from the kitchen or engaged in a brand conversation.
As ever there are the anomaly clusters of logos that tend to defy logic. In our evaluation there were exuberant arrays of exquisitely rendered roosters, hotdogs and Trojans, if that’s not a telling trifecta. A few too many anchors and fishing hooks tried to wedge their way into our visual vernacular and a menagerie of animals were given flags on poles and enlisted to parade their allegiance, or unceremoniously lopped in half. (I’ll take the flag please.)
Remember, just because something is a trend doesn’t mean we have to like it. We are merely the researchers, reporting our findings after thoroughly scrutinizing more than 35,000 logos submitted to LogoLounge since last year’s report. We also review every significant brand introduction and update internationally for the past year — it’s a lot.
And with these observations of trajectory and evolution of key design directions, your task is not to find a shortcut to the top through imitation, but to engage in the climb — to transcend and evolve. Foothold by strategic foothold, you may find yourself at the pinnacle. And through your great design feats, perhaps your work will be featured here next year, establishing your own trend on which future masterpieces will be achieved.
LogoLounge.com is the most comprehensive and searchable database of logos available today. More than 380,000 logos have been submitted to the site by its membership, growing it to the largest online treasury of professionally designed logos. Through their submissions, members also gain the benefit of consideration for publication in the LogoLounge book series, the result of the most prestigious logo design competition in the world.