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.