XL Group

In redesigning its visual identity, the Dublin-based insurance giant XL took a calculated risk by adapting the fast-forward sign for its new logo.

Starbucks

In 2011, Starbucks made a radical change to its classic logo, dropping its name and leaving a magnified version of its famed siren. Why? The move is a part of the 40-year-old company’s master plan to expand into other countries and expand its line beyond coffee. It also signaled that it had achieved mega-brand status, as the most established companies can be recognized by their logos alone.

Canadian Olympic Team

Designer Ben Hulse drew from more than a century of stories and iconography for his rebranding of Canada’s Olympic team, using the beloved maple leaf as the unifying element. (The symbol appeared on Olympic athletes 60 years before becoming a part of the nation’s flag.) “The aesthetic needed to be sporty but not futuristic, historic but fashion forward, bold but humble,” the designer told Co.Design. We think he deserves a medal for achieving that balance.

TBS

After successfully courting Conan O’Brien, TBS needed refresh its brand to appeal to its new target audience of 25-year-old males. The L.A.-based agency Ferroconcrete delivered a cheeky, bouncy, animated character based on network’s old smile logo.

Honor

For fashion newcomer Honor, Ro and Co designed an identity reminiscent of an old-world atelier, complete with a family crest, while avoiding old-fashioned stuffiness. The tagline: "Honor the past, honor the present.”

The National

This year, The National received the James Beard Foundation’s award for best restaurant graphics, and we couldn’t find a reason to quibble. For the midtown Manhattan establishment, the agency Love and War conjured up an old-school bistro with a charming hipster twist, decorating matchbooks and drink coasters like with turn-of-the-century etchings. The food, by newly branded Iron Chef Jeffrey Zacharian, is pretty good, too.

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

CAMH gets high marks for effort. The museum may not be housed in an iconic building, but that didn’t stop New York-based based firm AHL&Co from using its 1972 architecture as the inspiration for a new logo: a colorful mash-up of geometric shapes derived from the structure designed by Latvian-born Gunnar Birkerts.

OCAD University

For Canada’s leading art and design school, Bruce Mau Design arranged a series of boxes into a logo that not only resembles a gallery layout but functions as a way to showcase student work: The largest frame is devoted to a graduating student medal winner, who is invited to mine her portfolio and contribute a piece to the logo. That also means that the emblem changes every year.

Rhyl, Wales

Once a thriving seaside destination, Rhyl has seen its fortunes decline, as tourists have left its shoreline for fancier vacations abroad. In an effort to resurrect the resort town, Proud Creative, a London design studio, conceived of this identity rethink, which cheerfully evokes the Rhyl’s bygone era.

MIT Media Lab

Leave it to the MIT Media Lab to use an algorithm to generate thousands of different logos, one for each of the Lab’s brainiacs. The basic framework, conceived by Lab alums E Roon Kang and Richard The, is three intersecting spotlights that can be organized in any of 40,000 shapes and 12 color combinations using a custom algorithm. That’s enough to supply every new student with her very own logo for 25 years.

10,000 Lakes

Designer Nicole Meyer decided to pay tribute to the watery landscape of her native Midwest by designing a logo a day for each of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. At a pace of one a day, the project will take her 27 years to complete. “As tourist destinations, lakes themselves are products,” Meyer says. “Each has a distinct personality, ecosystem, and specialty. There’s a big opportunity within lakes for differentiation through better branding.”

Co.Design

Our 11 Favorite Branding Projects Of 2011

A great logo has staying power, eventually becoming synonymous with a brand’s identity and a stand-in for its name. Just have a look at Saul Bass’s enduring designs for AT&T, Quaker Oats, and United Airlines (which made our list last year for worst rebranding campaign for dropping the Bass’s “U” in favor of Continental’s Wiffle ball). So while it was fun to compile our best branding coverage, the truly interesting part will be watching how they age over time.

In an effort to stack the deck in their favor, some designers created morphing logos with many possible iterations (see, for example, E Roon Kang and Richard The’s work for MIT’s Media Lab and Bruce Mau Design’s campaign for OCAD University). Others borrowed from the past, conjuring an aura of nostalgia and timelessness for new and established enterprises alike. We’ll check in on them in a few years to see how they’ve held up.

For last year’s roundup, go here.

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17 Comments

  • Todd Falkowsky

    Nice to see some Canucks on there...designing during a recession...great to see some much colour!

  • Guest

    Its hard to envision these as "branding job." Some are so abstract, there's not much meaning being created. A lapel pin is a nice piece of ephemera, and the Canadien piece is VERY stimulating. Starbucks is the only piece that shows a revamp, but falls short of the their mission to be "the foremost purveyor of coffee in the world." (Remember Chantico, HearMusic, and Kite Runner / Akeela and the Bee? Stick to coffee.

    These jobs don't offer much navigation in the market to help reinforce purchased decisions nor create relationships.

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  • Ken Peters

    A logo is not a brand, it's only one element of a brand. These are visual identity projects. Fast Company should know better.

  • Simon @ StormStudios

    Some of these are really excellent, my favourites are 10,000 Lakes and Honor, very different styles but equally as grabbing.

  • bartodell

    Loving the selection of the Starbucks rebranding. I was fortunate enough to view some of the process at the HOWLive Chicago event.

  • Lisa Lindquist

    Love the logo review, and you do showcase some truly powerful brands here. But logo is only one part of brand communication. Just wanted to mention since it is very common for companies who have not yet done the in-depth work necessary for true branding to think if they come up with a logo, they have established a brand.