The move towards simplifying logos and pared back rebrands has been a consistent trend for several years now. Some have come to label the movement ‘de-branding’ and it can be a controversial issue, especially with big, established and well-loved household names.
However, ‘de-branding’ doesn’t need to be dull and many big brands have launched hugely successful ‘new-looks’ in recent years. Still retaining the essence and distinctiveness that helped to make them successful in the first place, whilst stepping into the contemporary new world of design.
Here are 5 of our favourite pared-back rebrands of recent years.
1. Burger King
Not the only fast food giant to have rebranded in the past few years but arguably our favourite. Burger King’s rebrand in 2021 was their first in 20 years and was received very favourably amongst designers and customers alike.
The new brand identity wasn’t just about simplifying the logo, Burger King’s in-house creative team collaborated with JKR to overhaul every visual aspect of the company. From packaging, uniforms and digital experiences to a rich new colour palette, dramatic close-up photography and playful illustrations. No stone was unturned.
And I think this complete transformation is what makes Burger King’s new brand identity so successful. Yes, the new, stripped back burger mark (which has now lost its reflective shine) is much more suitable responsive logo for the digital age. But the re-brand goes much further to ensure the brand is bursting with personality, story telling and playfulness … across all platforms.
The new brand font ‘Flame’ is a great example of this. The bold typeface was created to reflect Burger King’s food ‘yummy and round’ – and it is organic, distinctive and full of personality. Even more so when teamed with the vibrant, fresh new colour palette introduced to look more ‘edible’. Opting for a bespoke typeface rather than the trend for a clean sans serif demonstrates how Burger King navigated their rebrand so successfully – paring back where necessary without stripping the brand of its personality.
The Mastercard rebrand is a classic example of a huge company simplifying their core logo to take it into the digital-age. Designed by Pentagram in 2016, the new logo kept much of what made it so recognisable across the world – its distinctive, overlapping red and yellow circles. What it stripped back was the additional, fussy detail – primarily the connecting ‘teeth’ along with the capital C in ‘Card’ and the italic font.
As with Burger King, Mastercard didn’t stop at the brand mark. Instead they put the circles at the core of a much broader visual identity to increase its versatility across all touchpoints. The entire identity was built based on the simple, key elements of the logo – the circles and the colour palette.
Another rebrand from 2021 and another from design studio JKR – the new identity for Pringles was the brands first update in 20 years. At the heart of the new identity was the new look, slimmed down Julius Pringles otherwise known as Mr P – the brand’s well loved and instantly recognisable mascot. As is a common theme throughout this post, the old Mr P was no longer fit for purpose when it came to digital. The detail not translating well at the small sizes sometimes required.
To solve the problem the new Mr P went through a radical make over. He had a new pair of expressive black eyebrows, a clean black moustache, oversized bow tie and, most noticeable of all, lost his hair.
Despite the pared-back new look (which was met with some resistance when launched), we think Mr P retained a huge amount personality and fun. The pared back packaging that accompanied the new look felt fresh and modern — with its solid coloured background and clean, simplified design to match. The full brand identity retained its iconic feel while adapting successfully for the digital world with a new brand mark with an almost ‘emoji like’ feel.
JKR have snuck into our favourites list for a final time with their recent Fanta rebrand for 2023. Possibly because it is so easy to use the word ‘playful’ when referring to their work. Collaborating with Coca-Cola’s design team, the redesign for Fanta aimed to create a consistent brand that could be used across the globe, rather than the separate brand identities that were in existence previously.
As with the above logos, the new look Fanta logo doesn’t stray too far from its predecessor. And just like Mr P and Burger King’s burger, the new identity has been simplified and stripped back to a bright, flat new version of itself. The shadow on the letters has been removed but the jaunty slant and the blue pointed shadow (now a brighter shade) still remain integral to the distinctive identity. The orange background circle and green leaf have also gone, allowing the logo to sit clearly on all the colours/variations that Fanta offers, and no longer singling out its well-known orange flavour.
A bright, extended colour palette and set of flat, fruit graphics give the whole rebrand a thoroughly appealing, refreshing and fruity feel! All enhanced by really playful illustrations (often animated) from Lucas Wakamatsu. Last but not least, just like Burger King, the new brand identity for Fanta comes with a bespoke typeface from type foundry Colophon. A custom typeface to reflect the wonky angles of the Fanta logo.
The Fanta rebrand follows a string of new look soft drinks launched this year and we think it does an exceptional job. The rebrand encompasses everything a fruity soft drinks brand should, with a parred back look that feels fresh snd clean without becoming bland in the slightest.
We’re rounding off this list with a fun new look for Leibniz biscuits that was created by branding design agency Auge Design in 2022. The German biscuits are easily recognisable with their rounded teeth-shaped edge and logo printed into the middle of the biscuit.
The logo isn’t too different from the original but has once again been paired back and stripped of any unnecessary detail. The subtle changes to the letters themselves show that the flattened word mark now has small inktraps to reflect the way that biscuit dough swells when baked in the oven. The fresh identity also comes accompanied with a new custom typeface Butter Keks Display which has the same, subtle inktraps.
The distinctive brand yellow remains, although now in a brighter, warmer hue. And an extended secondary colour palette of natural, vibrant colours have been added for flexibility across the different variations. Not only this a playful, hand-drawn-esque illustration style has been introduced to the kids range of biscuits.
The element we are most drawn to though is the new packaging design to compliment the rebrand. Bold, close-up photography takes centre stage and says all it needs to about what’s inside the packet. Delicious!
Rebrands in the car industry
Maybe because the above is a list of our personal favourite rebrand de-brands it does seem noticeably food and drink oriented.
However, it seems unfair not to give at least a nod to the long list of successful car manufacturers who have successfully made the leap into the world of the digital-friendly logo. Renault for example, introduced a new, flat identity that referenced previous iterations of the logo from the 1970’s.
The new look geometric mark is stylish, modern and most importantly, suitable for online use. A big problem with many of the 3D car logos from the 90’s or before. Other car companies such as Audi, Volkswagen, BMW & Mission have all had to flatten their symbols over the past few years for the exact same reason.