Debranding is a Terrible Term and it’s not a Trend
I recently came across a video that tries to explain why companies are “Debranding”. The speaker is referring to how many companies have moved to a simpler logo verses a more detail oriented one. The video itself was informative, though I think he missed some other important reasons.
First things first, lets make one thing very clear. Debranding, is a terrible term to describe this process. A logo is just one important part of the brand identity, the brand identity makes up about 10-15% of the branding process. To claim logo simplification is debranding is a huge overstatement. This is not surprising however, considering many people still believe a logo is all there is to a brand. Even businesses fail to understand the actual branding strategy process. In no particular order branding consist of segmentation, positioning, messaging and identity, just to name a few. Each of these consists of hours upon hours of research, analysis and defining of values that impact a brand and its customers. While a logo may be the most seen element of a brand, it makes up a very small part of the branding process.
The term “debranding” was thrown around throughout the video and in the comments. And sure, because I understand the misconception, I know what they mean, but it’s a terrible use of the word. There has to be a better way to describe what’s happening, because while the logo may be changing, the brand is still very much intact, and in fact most likely even stronger than before.
To address this issue we have to understand why companies are simplifying their logos. For part of that reason you can watch the video linked above which explains one reason, but there are many more important reasons for this to be happening. The video refers to mobile first design. Which is a design strategy that focuses on mobile devices. It pays attention to scalability, responsive layouts and minimalistic design. The video explains that these factors have driven the more simplified logos we’re seeing. But the truth is, it’s so much more than that.
It’s not a Trend
While mobile first design is just one more reason to simplify, a more important reason is memorability. Companies have been simplifying their logos for decades. The reason behind it is science. It’s not a monkey see monkey do trend. It is a result of effective practice with significant results. In other words it works. A simpler logo is easier to remember. The brain recognizes shapes over detail. The detail is just noise and the brain only uses what it needs to identify an object and disregards the rest. When it comes to a logo, a unique shape is more than enough. Study after study has shown a simple logo out performs and complex one. This is the main reason to simplify your logo. Scalability being a close second. A detailed logo rendered at a small size like a browser favicon for example, would not be very recognizable, whereas a simple shape would.
Many commenters in the video were referring to the process as a trend. This is not true at all. For one, as I mentioned, it’s been happening for decades. Secondly a trend is temporary, and while we see trends in branding, a brand should be as timeless as possible, a simple logo actually aides this objective.
Simplifying logos is more of an evolution. We have learned over the years from practice and experience, and this has helped evolve our understanding of what works best. It’s like a construction worker upgrading his hammer to a nail gun. It just works better and more efficiently.
Change is always subject to disapproval or conflict. That is just the way it is and always has been. Anytime a brand makes a change it will have to suffer through ridicule of those that resist it. This is just growth. In the end debranding is a terrible term to give a process that actually makes the brand stronger. Perhaps you have a better term? I simply prefer logo simplification, or logo minimalization, but I will admit, that’s quite a mouthful.