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Pimp The Logo - Is Gray Dead?




When a carmaker changes its logo design, that's a big deal. Not only does it get car enthusiasts arguing (and debating) on the old vs. new design; it has vast implications on the mechanics of how it will be placed (and look) on a broad spectrum of models; and how it will play out in its massive multi-channel marketing machine. 


In July, Nissan announced its new logo design. Marketers were quick to think it meant 3D logos were dead, and that brands would move to 2D logos for a better 'digital-first' experience.


In the case of Nissan, and most arguably all big brands, the process is long and arduous. Let's not assume Nissan woke up in March and decided to redesign its brand for a digital world. In fact, Nissan began its redesign process (way) back in 2017.  


Here's a snippet of the Nissan logo redesign story published on the company website. It illustrates the complexity and the variables the design team took into consideration.  


"The journey began in the summer of 2017, when Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan's senior vice president of global design, began to study potential changes to Nissan's logo and brand identity. He set up a design team led by Tsutomu Matsuo, deputy general manager of Nissan's advanced design department, to study everything from a subtle evolution to a complete reinvention. Albaisa offered the keywords "thin, light, and flexible," and set Matsuo and his team on their journey.


"Inspiration was drawn from breakthroughs in science, technology, and connectivity. How these have brought fundamental changes to customers," said Albaisa. "As you can imagine, visions of digitalization started swirling in our heads."


The team needed to consider several variables, including an early decision for the logo to be illuminated on upcoming all-electric models. This presented technical challenges, such as gauging the thickness of the logo's outline to ensure a crisp impression when lit, and of course, compliance with government regulations for illuminated elements on cars. The logo also needed to make a strong impression when not illuminated, such as when it appeared digitally or on paper.


Smart logo design begins with understanding how it is used across various mediums, as the Nissan example illustrates. 


With digital playing a more significant role in marketing, it is understandable that even automobile makers are taking the leap to refine their logos to give them a sleeker, more polished look. With Nissan, the new design provides the company with a logo that enhances its current electric car Ariya and future models, moves in unison with its future product direction, and works well in digital usage.


We've seen other brands make major redesigns to fit both the physical and digital look of the logo and reflect product direction. Look no further than your iPhone. Hard to imagine the first Apple logo on today's MacBook or iPhone.


Some claim 3D logo designs are dead. In the case of Nissan, apparently not. Nissan's mix of logo renderings does include 3D, so the company sees a 3D world out there.  


This most likely says that good logo design includes a mix of options to take into account the diverse platforms brands use to promote and communicate in today's multi-channel world. Hello Mars.


While Pantone, the authority on all things colors, predicts the end of gray in the near future, is gray really off the table? Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, says, "now is not the time for grays." She recommends meditative nature shades like blues, greens, and browns as calming options. Pantone's Color of the Year for 2020 is Classic Blue. Selected in 2019 and as a cultural statement, the institute sees it as a color that fosters resilience and is protective.


As an agency CEO stated, global fusion design will increase as remote and dispersed teams come together on projects.


Will logos go towards safer colors in the months ahead, or will grays be seen as a safer bet?.  Time will tell.


Next in the Digital-First World series, we'll examine how sales and marketing and B2B customers are evolving as remote work becomes the norm.