A Student’s Smart Microsoft Rebranding Is Better Than The Real Thing

Last year, Microsoft nabbed some design cred for its Surface tablet and Metro UI, but it’s new branding was, well, woefully uninspired. Andrew Kim, a 21-year-old student, shows the company how it could have been done. The campaign, which Kim threw together during a three-day charrette, uses "the slate"--a parallelogram motif based on the windows of corporate office towers--as the basic building block. Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan writes, "The slate lets Metro, Microsoft’s UI design standard, shine. Introduced last year, Metro sets the graphic standards for the company’s tablet and phone interfaces. But Kim points out that the 2012 logo’s forced perspective conflicts with the colorful, simple squares of the Surface UI. The slate, meanwhile, fits in with the flat Metro style perfectly." If Microsoft doesn’t hire Kim for its next redesign, Pentagram, responsible for the brand’s last iteration, should be next in line.

The Surprisingly Smart Strategy Behind London’s Infamous Olympic Branding

Say what you will about the London Olympics’ branding, the designers behind it were well-intentioned. In an interview with Co.Design, Wolff Olins’s Brian Boylan and Ije Nwokorie explain how their logo, which has been widely criticized for its dissonance, was intended to be something "you could bump into on the street … as opposed to something that felt "official."

Salvador Dalí’s Real Masterpiece: The Logo For Chupa Chups

One day in 1969, Enric Bernat, the owner of the Catalan lollipop company Chupa Chups, was sharing his branding woes to a friend over coffee. That friend was Salvador Dalí, and according to lore, he immediately set about solving Bernat’s problem, sketching on newspapers what would become the company’s recognizable, enduring daisy icon. Read more of the backstory here.

Pentagram And New York City Attempt To Redesign Pedestrian Behavior

Jaywalking is as New York as bagels and yellow taxis. To help curb traffic-related deaths, the city’s transportation commissioner and her federal counterpart, Ray LaHood, launched a quiet campaign to remind pedestrians to stay aware while crossing the street. The ads, which declare "LOOK!" were designed by a Pentagram team led by partner Michael Bierut. “We knew we needed a really simple solution, and that it would need to be visible and memorable despite its ubiquity,” Bierut told Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan. “LOOK! really appealed to me because it seemed like a solution that a second grader could have come up with." Of course, in order to work, pedestrians have to look up from their cellphones in order to see it.

A Radical Police Rebranding That Starts With A Superb Website

The design agency Cramer-Krasselt built a refreshingly dynamic and user-friendly website for the Milwaukee Police Department. As Kyle Van Hemert writes, "It has a striking design, with vivid background images that stretch across the screen. A parallax scrolling effect makes photographs of officers and squad cars slide dynamically into place. And in perhaps the most radical departure from a typically labyrinthine police department site, Milwaukee Police News has only five different sections, and you don’t have to click any buttons or links to get to them." Read more about the design here, and experience it yourself here.

A Deft Rebranding Of Canada Tackles Its Hazy Identity Abroad

What comes to mind when you think of Canada? Maple leaves? That beer with the maple leaf on the label? Not a very nuanced picture, is it? “Studio 360,” a radio program hosted by Kurt Andersen and produced by WNYC and PRI, decided to tackle Canada’s image problem, particularly in the U.S., and commissioned Bruce Mau Design to rebrand the entire country. The campaign includes images bracketed by two red bars and a simple tagline--"know Canada"--reflecting the premise that Canada didn’t need to be rebranded; Americans just needed to be educated. Read more about the design process here.

A Top Nike Designer Rebrands Game Of Thrones

Darrin Crescenzi--the Nike design rockstar responsible for everything from the Nike Fuel gauge to the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball uniforms--is just like you and me: He watches a little TV in his spare time. Unlike you and me, that sparked his creative drive to imagine an entire branding system for Game of Thrones.

A British Town Tries To Reinvent Itself For Tourists, Via Branding

The medieval British town of Shrewsbury might not be known far and wide for anything in particular except maybe its authenticity, which its new branding campaign leverages to bolster its tourist draw. The concept is "a customizable logo that every local business, from bike mechanics to bread bakers, can use," Jordan Kushins writes. The logo is printed on rubber stamps and stickers, giving shop owners the freedom to personalize the slogan (“A Shrewsbury One-Off Since ______") to fit their wares.

A Hyper Cool (And Controversial) Rebranding For American Airlines

Upon hearing that American Airlines was filing for Chapter 11, the Boulder, Colorado–based ad agency Victors & Spoils put out a call for rebranding concepts that would help the faltering airline regain its footing, offering $10,000 of its own money to designers with the most compelling ideas. One of those came from Anna Kövecses, who dreamt up this lovely, retro-looking campaign that emphasized safety in the skies. “I tried to look at the whole problem from a Dieter Rams-inspired point of view and find out what this company is about, what people expect from this company,” Kövecses told Co.Design.

Ikea’s New Food Packaging Makes Crab Paste Look Good

Ikea turned to Stockholm Design Lab to create minimalist packaging that would convey the Scandinavian delicacies inside at a glance, even while retaining their traditional Swedish names. The result: With the visual aid of a fish printed on a can, a consumer can easily translate "skarpsill" into "sardine."

Ikea’s New Food Packaging Makes Crab Paste Look Good

Creative branding campaigns tend to die on their way through the bureaucracy of big companies. Introducing: Visual Identities for Small Businesses (Gestalten) compiles some of the freshest, most inspiring examples of identities from the smaller, nimbler outfits. See more here.

What McDonald’s And Ikea Would Look Like, If Reborn As Hipster Brands

There it is, Kentucky Fried Chicken rendered in a calligraphic font and given a handlebar mustache and wayfarers. It’s part of a series of parodies by Dave Spengeler that pokes fun at the clichés in hipster design. “I’m fed up with the latest design trend," he tells Co.Design’s Mark Wilson. "Everything has to be ‘vintage’ style, type has to be centered, all-caps, or written calligraphically. There are lobsters, birds, ribbons, anchors, crowns, arrows, crests, and the famous X everywhere. Personally I like this kind of style. But slowly but surely these clichés are getting overused.”

Zut Alors! McDonald’s Unveils High-Design Concept Store In France

Like Starbucks (see slide 16), McDonald’s is tailoring its stores to suit the tastes of discerning Europeans who are wary of the mustard-and-ketchup-colored interiors that once symbolized the tasteless, flat hamburger patty. Apart from updating the menu with fresh-baked pastries, this Paris franchise enlisted Patrick Norguet to class up its space with a palette of white punctuated with bold accents.

NASA’s Logo Redesigned To Be Truly Out Of This World

NASA’s logo hasn’t changed in the last 50-odd years. Except when "the worm" replaced it for two decades, the so-called meatball has been the agency’s official emblem. But with space funding drying up, NASA could use an overhaul, figured Viewpoint magazine in 2010, so it tasked Base Design with the job. The result: a neutral mark, befitting the post–Cold War era, eclipsed by a giant sphere (which could be Earth or another planet). Sadly, NASA passed on the idea.

Starbucks Concept Store Is A Lab For Reinventing The Brand

In 2012, Starbucks proved it could rebrand with the best of them. But this time, it didn’t merely update its logo--that was so 2011--it opened location-specific stores to offer a reinvented customer experience. In Amsterdam, that meant a refreshing, multilevel interior full of recycled furnishings, an undulating ceiling made of repurposed wooden blocks, and specially commissioned local artworks. The 4,500-square-foot space is intended to be a testing ground for other outposts throughout Europe, but we hope some of that aesthetic makes it Stateside. Check out the original post here.

Pharmacy’s New Branding Cures The Design Blahs

Most branding for pharmacy chains err on the side of antiseptic and mildly forbidding. Not this campaign, by Stockholm Design Lab for the Swedish company Vårdapoteket, which uses jewel-like colors and cartoonish anatomical renderings to illustrate how drugs act on the body.

Could A Redesign Really Rescue USA Today?

As disruptive as USA Today was when it launched in 1982, it failed to evolve along with the Internet and its revenue has plummeted. Its redesign this year, by Wolff Olins, aimed to correct that course, with a dynamic dot that changes to reflect the news of the day, as well as references to web-only articles and QR codes for online video content. "The brand’s ever-changing new logo," Sarah Kessler writes, attempts to make its static newspaper identity relevant to every day and every niche, like the Internet." Stephen Colbert sums up our opinion nicely.

A “Living” Logo For Wikipedia, With More Than 3.2 Million Variations

For Viewpoint magazine’s "Overhaul" feature, Moving Brands reimagined Wikipedia’s puzzle-globe logo as a mutating mark that changes as much as a Wikipedia article itself. Suzanne LaBarre details the process: "The designers drew a mark out of just five lines, a nod to the five principles Wikipedia operates on. That produces a 'W’ with nine equidistant nodes, one for each of the encyclopedia’s nine sister sites. From there, a second line courses through and around the W, with its precise look changing depending on what keyword you search." That renders 3.2 million different permutations, which may not be enough for a site that, as LaBarre notes, devotes a whopping 29,000 words to 7th Heaven episodes alone.

Co.Design

Looking Back At 2012's Best Branding

It was the year of the unofficial, uninvited branding campaign.

To find out the biggest trend in branding, look no further than Microsoft’s streamlined parallelogram logo, NASA’s new, out-of-this-world identity, Wikipedia’s morphing mark with 3.2 million possible permutations, and American Airlines’ hyper-cool, retro-styled overhaul. They (and a few others included in this roundup) have one thing in common: They’re the hypothetical musing of designers who weren’t actually commissioned for their rebrands; rather, they forewent the high fees big firms command for such jobs (and the difficult clients and briefs that come with them) to fully flex their design muscles and generate the kinds of identities that can result only from creative carte blanche.

Inventive, inspiring identities weren’t solely hypothetical, nor were they designed just for daring small companies (though there were some compelling examples of those). In fact, a few corporate chains overhauled their identities to reflect a sensitivity to local tastes and cultures. Both Starbucks and McDonald’s upended their cookie-cutter approach to the retail experience by unveiling high-design, location-specific concept stores in the Netherlands and France, respectively. And perhaps less surprising, the flat-pack furniture giant Ikea launched stripped-down packaging for its line of Swedish delicacies. We can hope other bigwigs (namely, the ones listed in the previous paragraph) will follow their lead in recognizing design’s potential to change public perception and, in turn, benefit the bottom line.

Add New Comment

20 Comments

  • Despicable

    To me the London Olympic mark has always looked like Lisa Simpson on her knees sucking Bart off. Designed by committee and not a particularly inspired one.  

  • matt_speaks

    What is this article all about? Student projects and self initiated work can't be called branding.

  • VizCab

    With so many designers panning your picks, perhaps it's time to rethink what you think is good design. These are terrible choices. The MS piece tries tries to out-Apple Apple. The NASA work is weak. Hipster brands? Silly. And the Olympic mark is far from an inspiration.

  • Please

    lol "Nike Fuel gauge"... Uh ya. Enough said about this author's credibility. 

  • Thanks, you wasted my time

    "Articles" like this are the reason journalism is dying. The death of writing has nothing to do with the death of print. It has to do with blindly following trends to get the most clicks. But keep following the herd as they jump off of the cliff. Your "top 10 this" or "best of that" articles can be found EVERYWHERE (and yours are particularly bad), therefore I will no longer be visiting this website. You offer me no unique content or insights. 

    I think you'll come to the same conclusion I have when Fast Company cuts your job because the blog ain't making the same ad money it used to.

  • SL

    Come on.. Really, this is the Best Branding of 2012?
    Non-existing projects?

    If i look at the work, i highly doubt if these designs are really effective. Creative? Yes. But effective? Probadly not.

    Disappointing article, just as the UI innovations article which featured the horrible interface of Clear App. A UI that needs so much explaining and practice can't be considered a winner.

  • eriksf

    This obsession with non commissioned work demonstrates a lack of seriousness in evaluating design at fastco. Of course it's much more difficult to evaluate design that actually solves problems and negotiates the hurdles of real world projects. Much more fun to just look at fantasy projects and say what if!

  • KeepAustinWired

    Looks like the link to Nasa's rebranding story is incorrectly linking to the Microsoft story. 

  • Shawn

    To think that you can fix a company like American Airlines with some Helvetica and woodgrain textures is absurd.

  • Luke Tonge

    Compelled to comment. Why on earth is Chupa-Chups included in this round up? Because you posted an article about it in 2012? Perhaps you ought to leave specialist topics to specialist sites? Or at least invest decent time into researching and writing them...

  • Mat Dolphin

    'Best Branding' — And you include a students own view and self briefed solution for Microsoft? I think you need to further define 'BEST'.

    Here's a trend prediction for you — FastCo. to further lose credibility in 2013.

  • Irrelevant.

    Whilst I'm somewhat inclined to agree on the future demise of FastCo, I think the relevance of the work is still paramount, regardless of the fact the project was done by a student, and self-briefed. It still served a purpose, and ultimately landed him a job there. Here's a prediction for Mat Dolphin in 2013 – Still 100% opinion, and 0% work. Your opinion is only as valid as your latest piece of work. 

  • Christian Hermann

    whats all this shallow non-essential journalism doing on fastco-design? since last year's transformation fast-co is almost reading like a mix of fffound, smashingmagazine and mashable, catering the typical non-patient digital content addicted gen-y teen. It kind of lost its unique identity here. You can find the same writing style on the other mentioned sites. I used to read FastCo-design more often, but since unsubstantial (and sloppy) journalism and opinionated writeups made its way into almost every article, it gets boring quickly. 

    As mentioned above, this article is not about branding, its about the best 'shallowness' that could be dug out of last years archive. Congratulations.

  • Tate C.

    Sad list, really. Agreed with DBRM about brands being more than logos. We've gotten over this more than 25 years ago, yet here we are again, with a list of logos that somebody likes.

    Talk about being late, here is a list that celebrates Starbucks and McDonald's as if they weren't behind themselves. "...high-design, location-specific concept stores" have been around for years. There's nothing here we wouldn't already know about from reading corporate blogs like Interbrand's brandchannel.com. Boring.

    Commentary for Known Canada reads right out of a press release. No mention of the fact that Americans do not like being "educated" about anything, especially not by a constitutional monarchy. BMD really had no sense of strategy or cultural awareness whatsoever. Even Canadians are bored by the campaign.

    We expect more of you FastCo. This is shameful.

  • Jamie

    Pretty sure Moving Brands did the Wikipedia work, not 'Base Design' as labelled above. Sloppy.

  • DBRem

    How about if FastCoDesign started off 2013 with everyone repeating to themselves each and every morning, "A Logo is NOT a Brand". Logos are an important component to branding, but I am tired of reading about "rebranding" that focuses only on a logo tweak, or worse, a self-initiated "school project" to update a logo.

    I'm sure many of your readers, myself included, are more interested in learning about "real" design challenges and not just playing with graphics.

    Happy New Year!

  • Mark Rojas

    Apparently FastCo. is off to a slow start.... sorry for the terrible pun.