By Colin Jowell 

Google has released a new logo. Undoubtedly it was motivated by what is a larger and more significant restructure into Alphabet.

The corporate story is an important one, and probably an overdue rebrand for a company that has long been about a whole lot more than the initial search product that branded it.

From a branding perspective, they have always been trailblazers - it’s hard to think of a brand that was more willing to have fun with its design- the “Google Doodles” that changed with every significant event have become the benchmark in how to keep a brand simple and fresh. 

It’s rewritten the rules of what we mean by brand consistency. What is “on brand” is determined by a sense of the values behind the brand, not the faithful reproduction of an image adhering to formulaic brand guidelines.

The age of traditional branding is well and truly over - where the logo could make you stop on the pavement, reach for the supermarket shelf, or admire the fine grade paper of your business card.  

And good riddance too.

There is far too much rubbish written about the “meaning” of colour. Or shape. Even after all this time, modern psychology can only prove that these things are given meaning by association.

Association is undoubtedly influenced by culture. And it’s also driven by precedent and personal experience. Which is why American Express can choose black to represent its premium product. But it’s also associated with the Playboy bunny.

As marketers, we can create our own associations, and so to a certain extent, these things can be given the meaning we choose to give them. So maybe we’d all be better off not thinking about it all so deeply.

On the other side of that coin is the host of crowd-sourced options that are now available - $5 and you too can have a design. Sure the typeface may be just like something the designer forgot he saw on a billboard on the way home, and heck, no-one has thought how it might need to look as an app icon even though that might be essential to your business - but hey, you get what you pay for!

For all the deliberation, the official word around the Google design suggestion comes down to one or two paragraphs.  

There are three versions - standard, dynamic, and compact.  So there is a middle ground between 100 page brand bibles and $5 knock jobs. 

And if behind the scenes, there is indeed some massive guideline bible, they have had the good sense not to over-intellectualise. Why use a million words to describe what the picture is supposed to communicate? 

It’s smart fit-for-purpose design, and it’s where brands are headed.

This means two things for you:

  • Rationally: have you covered the major applications and moments of truth for your brand?
  • Emotionally: is your design a heuristic for the things that are important to your brand - whether you call it your purpose, your values, or your story - what are the things you want your staff to say, and your customers to think and feel when describing you?

You may think the headline of this blog was a bit mis-“leading” for the dis-”kerning” brand designer (last design pun I promise!).  But in truth, the change of the logo means very little - Google do that every week. 

But the story behind this one is what makes it compelling.