Co.Design

The Anatomy Of A Successful Logo Redesign

Here, Jessica Hische diagrams every move she made in updating Mail Chimp’s identity—with graphic design tricks for making sure a newcomer is actually welcomed.

Familiar logos are like overly attentive suitors: They’re so naggingly present that their charms are lost to you—until, one day, they’re gone. Then you realize just how much you took a shine to that Gap, Tropicana, or American Airlines icon. The replacement logos only serve to remind you of what you liked before everything changed.

That’s how we usually react when a brand is overhauled—we notice only the "bad" redesigns. But occasionally, a company’s logo undergoes such a subtle transformation that it’s barely noticeable, even though if you were to compare the old and new, you’d see an actual improvement. That was the case with Mail Chimp's recent revamp. The online marketing service commissioned graphic designer Jessica Hische to make their logo look more modern without drastically redirecting it. Writes Hische: "They just wanted a facelift—one of those classy facelifts that make your friends ask you if you’ve been sleeping better lately or lost some weight because you look like a more vivacious version of yourself and not like a different person."

The process, which the Brooklyn- and San Francisco-based designer outlines on her website, demonstrates the power graphic design can have even (or perhaps especially) when handled with nimble restraint.

Here, Hische details every nip and tuck:

At first blush, the old and new logos aren’t radically different, except that the "M" now connects with the "a," while "Mail" and "Chimp" are no longer joined in one continuous stroke.

But in point of fact, much of the lettering in "Chimp" has been opened up.

That not only takes away some of the scrawling nature of the original, it also makes the logo more legible when viewed in smaller sizes.

Hische also straightened out the baseline, making the signature more regular and precise without jettisoning the friendly feel of the flowing type.

In addition to opening up the letters, Hische lightened the weight and the areas where lines intersect.

Check out that "C": Did you notice the thinner profile in the earlier diagram?

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To say that this project was a redesign is a bit of an overstatement. But it does demonstrate how the structure of a logo can be maintained while given a fresh coat. The diagrams can also serve as Exhibit A for anyone who thinks that the art of graphic design consists of merely choosing the right typeface.

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38 Comments

  • Daniel Boswell

    This was a very informative article and gave me points to consider when looking at typography. I do believe this new version is a real improvement to the brand.

  • Henry Flores Blas

    While I understand the comments about how "Chimps" looks more like "Chinys", when trying to cursive write, it's correct in it's flow. The stroke leading out of the lower-case 'n' is at the baseline, then curves up to the lower-case 'y'. I think it's a great refresh.

  • Roberto Blake

    A great example of the logo design process. Ultimately they couldn't do that themselves due to a lack of understand of typography and visual space. The concept of appropriate positive and negative space alludes most people, though they recognize its appeal when they see it, they don't understand it. Only people who score high in visual spacial intelligence are capable of solving such problems, being intelligent overall (logic, mathematics, and linguistics) will not help you see an obvious change to improve a logo or an ad.

  • J. Miller Adam

     ...Just as the correct word sometimes eludes most people :-) (not alludes)

  • Rick Dolishny

    Mail Chimys or Mail Chinys. 

    Love it otherwise but I can't not see a 'y' at the end. 

  • Joecannes

    Looks like "Mail Chinys", not "Mail Chimp"

    The circle part of the  "p" to spread to fart apart...who writes a "p" like that.. Thats what makes it look like "Mail Chinys" 

  • Eight5eight10

    Not too shabby. Though at larger scale the Chimp sort of reads like Chimyp.

  • Jim Gray

    This is a nice refresh. It's similar to the recent Instagram update but I like the simple explanation here.

  • Guillem S.

    Side note: I'd say the Chimp illustration is also an important part of the mark. In fact, that cute little chimp is maybe the more recognizable element and gives the brand its personality. If, in my imagination, I write MailChimp in Helvetica bold but «The Chimp» is also there, somewhere, the brand still works fine. However, if I maintain the actual logo but I get rid of the illustration… the brand looks lame.

  • jmco

    Nice work and typography 101 that a well trained designer will have learned in Typography class 1, 2, and 3.
    But I would say this article is more about a lettering update than a brand update or rework. Both are interesting subjects but, this is about lettering and script lettering in particular. Which, by the way, the designer here is superb at!
    Also, to clarify terminology: a logotype typically contains an image with type. Hence, logo (image). So this might be called a mark or I would call it a signature. Which is entirely typographic. If she did a little swirl or chimp lips with the letters in it (thank God she did not!) then, it would be a logotype.
    The chimp head with the hat is more a mascot in my opinion. Especially the way they seem to use it now - separately from the signature. Think Geico, Green Giant, etc.
    Microsoft's new logo has a symbol, the colored boxes, with a signature. Their old logotype was a true logotype because of that little cut in the name. IBM is a logotype because of the bars. It can be subtle with the letters and be a logotype. FedEX being the most extreme of the subtle logotypes. Target does a great job of often only using the symbol. But, oh what a symbol! Perhaps only Apple comes close to symbol nirvana ubiquity.
    Branding is heading away from just one thing as a symbol for a company or organization. That is, color, typography, symbols, architecture, sound, etc. can all identify a brand as long as visual consistency is applied.
    It is not the latest but it is one of the greatest: Tiffany blue is really THE brand for that store! Color is so important.

  • Guillem S.

    I find really strange the brand-related terminology commonly used in English (I'm from Barcelona). In catalan we usually talk about a "marca" (mark) composed by a logotype and symbol (or, more precisely, “imagotip” from the latin imago, image). The word lógos (λόγος) means precisely “word” in ancient greek (image would be eikon, εἰκών) so it's really annoying when, in English, people talk about «Apple's logo» which is not at all a λόγος (word) but a σύμβολον (symbolon) depicting, well, a bitten apple.

    What a mess… :)

  • Jocelyn Casey

    Normally I do not find myself commenting on things like this but I felt the need to add some praise to the conversation. Mail Chimp and Belinda Lanks, you did a great job redesigning the new logo. In my opinion, the logo reflects the company and the service which is clean, easy, simple, and fun. I find it interesting how some people choose to see the "bad" points and neglect to notice the "good". I would just like to take this as an opportunity express my gratitude for the services you provide as well as creating such a wonderful product with a logo to match. 

  • Joel Alain

     This was exactly what i was thinking. Before, it was "imperfect". Now it tries to please everyone and lose its personality. Also, it's the first sign of bureaucracy and a company becoming heavier and more organized and more structure and more robotized and less human: let's push the "C" away from the "p" 7.5 pixels, because, you know, it's important. Pencil pushers justifying their pays.

    And yes i LOVE change, it's just that this is bureaucratic mental masturbation and reducing the "startup" soul being a great brand.