The year may have barely begun, but we've already seen plenty of logo rebrands from a host of big names, including Sears, Sonic, Dashlane, and Shipt. With new brands appearing all the time as well, everyone is feeling the pressure to stand out to their audience.
In 2020, we're all struggling with media overload, and it's tougher than ever for brands to break through. That's why Tech.co is taking a look forwards, and documenting the design trends that will help your own brand logo stand out from the crowd in the decade to come.
We spoke with a handful of marketing and business experts to learn more about the potential trends in logo design that we can expect to see throughout the upcoming year. If you're thinking about what your own business brand could look like, these experts have the hottest styles, along with explanations to back up why they work.
While 20% of small businesses will pay up to $1,000 for a new custom logo, a full 50% prefer to build theirs in-house, whether through an in-house designer or via a logo design service offered by a website builder.
Regardless of which option you settle on, you'll likely need to arm yourself with the latest trends in order to know which design elements can keep your logo fresh, yet timeless. Sure, you don't need to use these tactics – but knowing what's popular can't hurt, can it?
Here are the 2020 logo design trends to know:
A sleek, minimal depiction of some geometrically balanced icon has been a popular choice in recent years, but the trend is expected to continue strong across 2020. Granted, it's a broad category, encompassing any logo that's composed mostly or entirely of circles, triangles, squares, crosses, curves, or spirals.
Logos following this trend are signalling that their brand is as reliable as the math behind geometry itself, while remaining visually appealing as well. Another aspect of this trend is the added complexity that patterns of ultra-thin lines can indulge in: “The extreme level of details of these logos are complex and unearthly, and are taking over your classic logo requirements of simplicity,” says Jennifer Willy, editor at Etia. She's backed up by Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO at Mavens & Moguls, who explained that “thin lines are elegant and produce a visually calming effect, with a more serene and sophisticated feel.”
Avoiding Right Angles in Logos
Part of the idea behind the focus on geometry is to avoid right angles, which don't convey the same sense of flexibility or accommodation that curves or flowing designs offer. Airbnb's entire brand is about accommodation, for example, so you won't see a single sharp angle in its logo.
“We are in an era of ‘no angles,'” says Matt Erickson, Marketing Director at National Positions. “We are basically seeing fewer hard lines and more curves and swoops, as opposed to ‘stronger' points and right angles. Powerful, accommodating, memorable, and… well, iconic.”
“Geometric patterns and shapes demonstrate stability and precision – characteristics that are of the utmost importance in a competitive market. The use of geometric shapes as containers to present and display accompanying design elements, such as typography, will have a moment in 2020. Symmetry will be important to the designs, and can be used as a tool to convey strength and balance to an audience.”
Gradients are notoriously tricky to print, so they haven't been common in brand logos of the past. But now that digital-native brands are on the rise, the power of the gradient can be fully realized.
You're more than likely already familiar with the biggest example of this logo trend: Instagram's 2016 logo redesign went all-in on the trend with a colorful, flat gradient square. Firefox's 2019 logo is another high-profile example – the stripped-down, 2D look pairs well with the gradient, since it keeps the logo from coming across as “busy,” despite the variety of colors it showcases.
Gradients don't have to call attention to themselves, however. The typical consumer might not be aware that Hulu's logo background shifts slightly from blueish-green to yellowish-green, even if they subconsciously register the feeling of depth it adds.
“In 2020, logo design will continue following the clean and minimalist trend, only this time incorporating tasteful splashes of color. Instead of classic black and white, we are now seeing more colorful gradient backgrounds paired with flat icons. This started becoming widely used during the Instagram rebranding in 2016, and it has been making a major comeback. One thing is clear: minimalist logos with flat icons and colorful gradients are here to stay.”
-Hannah Wright, Founder, SaaS Design
This technique combines a futuristic feel with the pared-down minimalist style that's popular with most logos. The dovetailing and intersecting colors imply that the brand's values are just as connected to – and strengthened by – each other.
Bold colors can combine in unexpected ways that catch the eye, and a wide variety of colors can indicate the broad scope of a brand. Colorado state's 2019 logo rebrand, for instance, folds in a sun, water, a tree, and two mountains, all to highlight the diversity of its landscape.
Which colors will stand out in 2020? DesignContest.com notes that the color purple is a popular choice for brand values like inclusiveness, wisdom, peace, and togetherness. Examples include WalkTheRidge.com, a site for teaching civility & inclusion, and domain sales site Gen.xyz.
“The flat and semi-flat design is still ongoing as a trend. [This approach] uses highlight, shadows, and overlapping colors or patterns to communicate more about the brand.”
~Kenny Trinh, Managing Editor, Netbooknews
Nostalgia is a powerful sensation, and brands love leaning into it. Thanks to the 30-year nostalgia cycle, logos have been obsessed with the 1980s for a while, and that decade will continue strong in throwback logo trends across 2020 as well.
I know what you're thinking: A real 30-year cycle would mean we're due for 1990 nostalgia this year. But it's not an exact science, and the 80s have enough goodwill to stay popular for another year or two. Expect plenty of chunky typefaces, emulating classic '80s brands like Nintendo or Sega.
“Some logos resemble 8-bit and vintage console video game graphics, or comic book graphic drawing techniques,” says Jovan Milenkovic, co-founder at KommandoTech, regarding the 1980s trend. “In my opinion, this is a testament to the millennial generation's involvement in online business, with branding that touches on our fond memories growing up in the late '80s.”
80s Throwback Logos
In some cases, brands can simply debut a revamped version of their 80s-era logo, as the Milwaukee Brewers did last year with a streamlined take on the same glove logo that they'd used from 1978 until 1993.
Another popular throwback option? The 1930s, from Art Deco typography to Steamboat Willie-style cartoons. These logos evoke a whimsical tone, but with a historically grounded feel that's popular with hipster bars and barber shops. Now that everything's digital, going for an expressly vintage look can be a refreshing change.
For a more subtle approach, a brand might opt for the “Art Deco lite” typeface, signaling its rich history without highlighting it. Nordstrom's brand name offers an example of this restraint.
And, as the nostalgia cycle trundles onward, we might even see 90s styles come back into fashion this decade.
“History repeats itself, and retro logo design is making a great comeback this year. A grunge effect, retro patterns, and distressed logos will be popular in 2020. While some companies are going for simple, flowing logos, other are going for embellished monograms. This is most likely to be seen paired with vintage-style typefaces.”
~Ayushi Sharma, Business Consultant, iFour Technolab Pvt Ltd
In today's information-dense world, some brands are hoping to stand out by not standing out. They're opting out of an icon entirely, replacing it with just their brand name, represented with a stripped-down sans serif typeface that barely qualifies as a logo.
As a plus, this look works well online, since it's responsive and easy to read at any size.
Luxury Brand Style
The luxury industry in particular loves this approach, perhaps as a way to lean into the “remove one accessory before leaving the house” mentality – big hitters like Burberry, Celine, and Saint Laurent all exemplify the tactic.
Occasionally, a brand might opt for an extra tweak to add a dash of originality, like Nordstrom's Art Deco style or the ligature connecting the two M's in Qualcomm‘s logo.With digital media more dominant than ever in 2020, logos are becoming more minimal than ever.
Mix and Match to Meet Your Vision
As you may have noticed from the overlapping examples offered above, it's possible to incorporate multiple design trends within the same logo. Firefox's gradients stand out, yet it also includes bold, overlapping colors alongside a flowing, circular shape.
But no designer should follow a trend for the sake of checking it off their list.
In the end, there's just one goal – to communicate a brand's values as simply and elegantly as possible. If a modern trend in logo design helps, go for that. Still, if you're designing a logo for your local Kindergarten, there's no shame in reaching for a Comic Sans typeface. It just won't make anyone's 2020 logo trends list.
Special thanks to the good people at DesignContest.com, who also contributed by examining current trends from hundreds of their recent design contests held by individual and corporate clients.
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