The Designer’s Guide To A Successful Rebranding Workflow

A company’s brand—or its allover feel and aesthetic—should connect with consumers in some way. Good branding should jump out and make a statement, whether it’s a text, logo, icon, mascot, or even simply the company’s name.

But when rebranding a company, the creative process can get messy. You may look for ways to maintain solid branding without losing the integrity created by the original brand. How do you approach a project like this?

There is no one right way, but in this post, I’ll share handy tips you can use in any rebranding workflow. These are generally universal tips, and they can apply to any company rebranding, whether big or small.

Map A Brand Vision

Every good brand should evoke a certain feeling or sensation, whether visual or conceptual. All the best brands, from Oreos to John Deere, have a certain “feeling” to their identity.

If you’re re-branding something, then you’re basically reworking the entire concept from scratch. It’s important to craft a vision before diving in, because you can easily get lost along the way. I always try to look for the very core of the brand and what it represents.

So, Oreos might represent childhood and household desserts, while John Deere might represent tools and helpful items for lawn & garden work. When people see these brands, they recognize something, and your job is to hold onto that something no matter what.

There isn’t a right or wrong way to do this. But the final result will always depend on this initial brand vision.

For example take a look at this Instagram logo redesigned with a simpler feeling.

simple flat instagram

This icon feels very approachable and simplistic. Basic shapes and colors stand out against the rounded corners.

But even with all these changes the icon still clearly represents Instagram.

Now consider something a little different that still takes Instagram in a new direction.

white instagram icon

This logo leans towards minimalism and a simple color scheme. It looks a bit more realistic with the shiny lens gradient, and it keeps the same cursive Instagram text logo.

But this brand has a totally different feeling. It comes off as a more polished and artistic brand style compared to any of the previous Instagram logos.

I personally wouldn’t recommend using this white logo for the main Instagram rebranding. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to keep most of the original colors in tact.

But this simple white icon is fantastic, and it shows how far you can go with a rebranding project.

Minor adjustments can have a huge impact on brand style and recognition. Always keep this in mind when designing new ideas.

taco bell retro redesign

The above example is a simple rebranding for the Taco Bell logo. This design borrows ideas from the old retro logo a few decades back.

Most people would already recognize the logo as a retro redesign. But even younger generations know enough about Taco Bell to connect this logo with the fast food chain.

This is the sign of a great rebranding: when everyone can tell it’s the same company but with a new twist.

Big Brands Should Stay Memorable

Sometimes companies actually want a totally new brand design. This can happen after management changes or if the company goes in a new direction.

Smaller brands don’t have much to lose if they radically change their branding. Few customers will recognize the changes, and even fewer will care.

However, more recognizable brands, like Taco Bell, can’t make huge changes without advertising. These major changes can lead to confusion, because most people are already familiar with the original branding. Think about the difference between redesigning the Oreos logo vs. a local cookie shop.

Take for instance the recently updated Verizon logo. Their new update is reminiscent of the prior design, but it also has its own flair.

alternate verizon logos

I personally like these redesigns created by David Kovalev for a fun practice project. All four of his logos follow a similar technique, in which the red check mark and the black text merge to create a new identity.

Anyone familiar with Verizon would be able to look at these logos and instantly recognize the company. When rebranding, experiment with placements, fonts, spacing, icon styles, and orientation, but try to keep similar colors and overall aesthetics whenever possible.

Another good example of this is the Google logo rebranding by Alexandre Nami.

google flat logo idea

This new logo looks very similar to the current design. It maintains a very similar font style, and the colors are true to classic Google.

Anyone could look at this logo and instantly recognize the company without even reading the text.

For an example of a not-so-friendly redesign, check out this iTunes icon.

itunes icon redesign

Let me say this icon is amazingly well-designed. It’s very creative, and I love the direction. But I don’t think this would be an improvement over the current iTunes logo.

Why?

Because iTunes already has recognizable branding. People see the circle with the beamed music notes and instantly recognize iTunes.

If you’re working on a fairly large brand that already has a presence, try not to stray far from the original message.

Instead, work to improve the message with clearer type, colors, and better expression/feeling in the design.

Clear Lettering & Iconography

If you can merge clean lettering with visual graphics, you’ll have one memorable logo redesign in the works.

Icons are not always necessary, but they can be used as symbols when text just doesn’t make sense. For example, the Verizon checkmark is a symbol that can be used in place of text. Same with the Nike swoosh.

But it doesn’t always have to be an ambiguous icon. For example, this Eventbrite redesign uses the uppercase “E” letter as its own branded icon.

eventbrite logo

Eventbrite users can recognize the full logo, but the E can also stand by itself. This isn’t always a great idea because so many companies use a single letter to represent their branding.

However, in many cases, this actually works. Facebook is recognized by the lowercase “f,” and Twitter uses both the lowercase “t” and the popular bird icon.

sweet crude logo

Think about where you can fit icons into your rebranding, but don’t force them.

If you don’t think a brand needs a graphic component, then don’t bother. Many people won’t notice and won’t care either way. Just make sure the design is memorable, and it defines the company well enough to be recognizable.

Deliver A Visual Message

When someone sees a logo or brand icon/symbol, they should connect that design with the product. You could put Nike’s swoosh symbol on a plain white billboard, and everyone would know what it represents.

Growing a brand to this level takes time and widespread recognition. But you don’t always need worldwide attention, so even gaining recognition in a small community might be enough. And with the right style of visuals, you can easily deliver a message like this.

graduate land logo

I like this logo design, because it’s short and sweet. The graduation cap is a clear visual indicator relevant to the logo’s context.

But it also uses oblong shapes and different color styles to create an icon that stands out against the text. This is the type of icon that can work well, even without text on letterheads, business cards, and in a website logo.

If the company already has an existing icon, you can try reworking it with a different design. Here’s a Snapchat redesign with a totally new look on their ghost creature.

snapchat ghost logo redesign

If Snapchat was willing to update their ghost character, then a logo like this could work well. But this also moves in a direction with the ghost becoming a Snapchat mascot, and this can only work if the company likes that creative direction.

Use whatever you have at your disposal to deliver the most accurate message you can. Some logos are meant to be loud, while others should be quieter and simpler.

Take each project on a case-by-case basis, and always try to get to the root of the branding. If you can write down how the branding should feel, then you’ll have a much easier time brainstorming unique ideas.

Now Get Designing!

There’s no better way to practice rebranding than by doing it. Force yourself to sit down with a practice project and nail out some mockups. Follow along with these tips, and see if you can create a new logo for brands you really enjoy.

Also, if you’re looking for more info about branding, you should check out some of our prior posts on the topic.

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