Burger King and Common Motors Kick Off 2021 With Armchair Designer Debates

This year’s logo discourse kicked off with Burger King and General Motors taking center stage. #DesignTwitter quickly endorsed Burger King’s decision to revive and refresh the mark that headed its 1969–1999 identity before the shiny bun logo came into play. The logo’s appetizing warmth and the nostalgic psychedelia of its accompanying typeface are the antithesis of “reblanding,” a popularly-criticized design trend that’s perhaps most famously associated with high-end fashion houses.

The likes of Burberry, Berluti and Balmain have shed their serif skins in recent years, favoring sharper geometric wordmarks—the kind armchair designers like to say they could make in Microsoft Word in a couple of minutes. Burger King and Saint Laurent Paris both revived decades-old marks for a time in which logos often play second fiddle to every other element of a brand’s identity.

The court of public opinion was doubly aghast when another fashion brand, Yves Saint Laurent, dropped Yves from its nomenclature after ditching its vaguely calligraphic logo and went all-in on Helvetica. How dare “Saint Laurent,” as it’s now called, toss away all of that visual history? In 1966, five years after the iconic “YSL” monogram was first drawn, the mark adorned Yves’ first boutique. The signage above the door actually said “Saint Laurent”—in Helvetica, no less. Also, the “YSL” monogram wasn’t completely abandoned; it’s still regularly used today. Anyone who said they preferred the “fancy” YSL mark for its historic relevance did so with the energy of a man opining that fashion models should smile more.

when you nail the final design straight out the gate but they say they wanna see more variants even though you know they’re gonna go with the first one pic.twitter.com/6mHQNe9pS5

— Jeeves ????????????????????️‍???? (@jeeveswilliams) January 9, 2021

You’ll seldom see logos pasted on blank backgrounds. That’s a fact General Motors overlooked. The thumbnail for the Burger King story showcases the logo, typography, colors, illustrations and more, all in one image. A General Motors story? Just the logo.

Burger King published a press release with its rebrand, but you don’t need to read it to appreciate the new direction; visuals handed to the press included photos of new uniforms, packaging, signage and more real-world placements.

General Motors offered the logo on a white background, plus some samples of a custom typeface, a print ad—which doesn’t even use the custom typeface—and an animation of the old logo transforming into the new one (big “Fibonacci spiral on random things” energy). You’ll likely have to read the linear notes to know the logo is intended to mirror GM’s honed focus on electric vehicles. The negative space of the ‘m’ is supposed to be a plug, which is unfortunate, because plugs are different in every country.

In the cold absence of recognizable imagery, real-world showcases, and cool global CMOs, what else could the court of public opinion focus on other than the cheap gradient and haunting bevels? Had the logo been revealed with more confidence, negative reactions might have been dampened.

Of course, Saint Laurent Paris is still here, and General Motors likely isn’t going anywhere. Rebrands rarely break a business, but they’re marketable butterfly effect moments which can help save aging companies—even if they sometimes end up inadvertently looking like elephants.

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