Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands

on September 30th, 2010

A tetrapyloctomy piece about a very very old trend that came into its own in the past 3-5 years, as the technology stepped in to automate the process. But it all started a long, long time ago, most probably sometime during the second century.

Yes, that far back, when when the Christians started being associated with the cross and subsequently adopted it as the formal symbol of their religion. And before you ask: the cross is a logo, and part of the world’s arguably most successful branding program. And it comes in unlimited variations: short, long, made of wood, metal, drawn and painted, with or without Jesus, ornate or simple, with four arms or smaller branches and decoration elements. And there you have it. A dynamic logo. A logo that changes its shape to suit a given purpose and while shifting perpetually it still remains recognisable and core to the organisation it represents. The most successful example of dynamic logo I know of.

Of course, leaving unintentional dynamic branding aside, there have been more recent examples, dynamic by design. So let’s define this concept of dynamic logo / branding before we go any further.

What is a dynamic logo ?

I don’t speak out of a dictionary here, so I’ll give you my own definition:

A dynamic logo is a logo that changes appearance (shape, colour, wording) based on the context is is meant to be used in. The process of generating every instance of the logo can be manual or controlled by an algorithm, random or following specific rules. Sometimes just elements or parts of the logo are randomised to create a new instance of the brand.

Obviously, I’m sure you can already spot the problem: where do we draw the line between what usual logo applications already are (product branding; subbranding; taglines, logo colour schemes, etc) and a ‘dynamic brand’? Personally I tend to believe a case of dynamic logo / branding is one where:

  1. The logo undergoes a significant transformation (monochrome, reverse or outlined versions of the logo don’t fall under this category.)
  2. The ‘official’ logo either doesn’t exist as such or it is replaced in application by its various components or variants, on a contextual basis.

Examples

Nothing better than examples to illustrate the point. And I’ll use the same brands to illustrate both rules.

Saks

Back in 2007, Pentagram created this beauty for Saks Fifth Avenue. Based on an old version of the Saks logo, they sliced it in 64 individual squares and proceeded to combine the resulting components in unique identities for each product package, banner or gift bag. Please note the entire logo does not appear together with any of the square combinations.

saks logo Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands
saks squares Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands
saks bags Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands
saks boxes Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands
saks bags2 Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands

Casa da Musica

Based on the shape of Portugals Casa da Música Stefan Sagmeister created a dynamic, faceted and endlessly varied identity(**). Complete with a logo generator.

casa da musica Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands
casa da musica black Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands
casa da musica pics Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands
casa da musica bag Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands
casa da musica generator Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands

Note all logos are 1. Significantly different from one another; and 2. There is no preferred version of the logo, all get used as the context requires.

Awards

Created by Interbrands in Sydney, the Awards logo is based on an algorithm that randomises the size and position of the dots for each rendition of the logo (including on the website).

awards logos Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands
awards web1 Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands
awards web2 Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands

Again, quite clearly no official version of the logo, which changes shape quite significantly (at times to the point where it’s not really clear it’s an A).

Griffin Theatre

The logo is always recreated from words and titles specific to each play. Great work from Interbrands Sydney.

griffin 1 Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands
griffin 2 Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands
griffin 3 Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands
griffin 4 Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands

Google

You know this one, of course. It started shortly after Google’s launch in 1998, when its founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, set off for the Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Rather than post an “out of office” message on the home page, they drew images of the indie arts festival on the logo. Google’s “holiday logos,” created by a design team led by Dennis Hwang at its Mountain View, California, headquarters, have been part of the company’s culture ever since. (*)

google logos Dissecting the Trend: Dynamic Logos & Brands

Here, while there is an “official” logo, it is frequently displaced by whimsical and sometimes amazingly beautiful variations. For example this one:

Is it for you?

Most probably not. Harsh, I know. Unfortunately dynamic logos are expensive to produce, tricky to get right by people who are not professional designers and require a very large range of possible applications to justify the expense and headache.

So full steam ahead if you are

  • A department store;
  • A company that produces hundreds of different products, all requiring different branding or at least packaging
  • A technology company that operates mainly in an online environnment where logo implementation does not involve massive printing costs
  • A corporation with an internal design team and an agency at your disposal

Caution if you are

  • A company with very limited logo application requirements (say just stationery and a simple web presence). There won’t be enough space for you to do justice to a dynamic logo, and the implementation will be too complex to handle.
  • A small to medium company that cannot really afford the expense of a full time design professional or team; dynamic logos do require professional attention, especially for print projects (and that includes your office documents)
  • A company where consistency in branding is vital but the number of employees or offices will make the task of maintaining consistency difficult.

Moreoever, there is the issue of advertising expenditure to consider and the associated ROI. A dynamic brand will require more frequent advertising to create brand awareness than a static logo. And so if you know you are Pepsi and your advertising blast will ultimately drill your brand into your customer’s heads, then great; however if your advertising is limited then your best ROI will come from repeating the same static logo to increase familiarity with the brand.

Is it here to stay?

Most probably; with technology allowing for easy implementation of randomisation algorithms and the branding world keep to push the envelope a bit further I think we can safely say this trend is here to stay. The static logo still has its own very solid place in the corporate world, of course; but for the playful at heart the dynamic, whimsical logos are fun and I personally can’t wait to see more of them.

References

* NY Times: The new corporate logo: Dynamic and changeable are all the rage
**Under Consideration: The 17 Sides of a Cultural Identity

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