News | 13th January, 2019
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Lawrence Hansford


Are we losing heritage through the typefaces we use?

It’s a question we have been asking in the studio for a few years now. Big brands that completely change their logo typeface are moving away from the traditional serif fonts in favour of sans serif to try and embrace new customers for the future. But does it work? Are we leaving our heritage behind? Or are we simply just moving on?

Type speaks to us in more ways than you can imagine. It sets a tone, an attitude and a voice. Every typeface has a personality and it’s our job as designers to enhance them and make them work for our clients and their customers.

So, let’s look at some recent rebrands and see how their brands have changed.

1. Burberry - Rebranded August 2018 by Peter Saville

Designed by Peter Saville, Burberry has moved away from their iconic Burberry logo in favour of a plain, very straightforward typeface. Just looking at the two beside each other, we can’t help but feel some of the heritage of the brand has been lost. Could there not have been a mix of the two and evolve the older style? (Calsberg has recently done this to good effect). Another thing, maybe this is us getting a bit ‘political’ but if Bunker Creative designed this, would they have signed it off? Peter is a legend in the industry, no doubt there, but is this truly the best option out there for Burberry or is it his name that gives the design its weight and proesse, in a similar way to his Calvin Klein rebrand.

2. Premier League - Rebranded 2017 by DesignStudio

Now this is an interesting one as we like the new Premier League branding and watching it evolve and roll out this season has been great. But we are looking at heritage here. The new identity is bold, confident and uses bright colour to engage - along with additional visual assets. However, in comparing the two, it does feel that the new Premier League branding is best suited to a brand for an entirely new league. Besides the use of the lion (which no one in their right mind would drop), these two are miles apart. The old logo has that authoritative quality to it, which implies heritage, something which appears lacking in the new roll out. We appreciate that brands move on, and perhaps this is just where things are going, but this does highlight the debate.

3. Saint Laurent (YSL) - Rebranded 2013 in house

It was announced in June 2012 that newly appointed Creative Director Hedi Slimane was to change all visual language for YSL. As you can imagine, it was met with disapproval from the fashion industry. Not only was ‘Yves’ dropped from the name but the typeface used was Helvetica. On the face of it, it seems madness to change such an iconic name and logo type to a very stripped back execution, but in fact the design was purely built on YSL heritage, as she was going back to the 1966 collection that set YSL on its way where they used Helvetica and just ’Saint Laurent’.

Even though this rebrand was built on heritage, can a typeface such as Helvetica promote heritage? It’s also worth mentioning that the YSL rebrand won best rebrand in 2013 by judged by Wallpaper.

People will look at the old logos from the past (YSL, Burberry, Google etc) and see such experimentation and distinction, but now, it seems that a more clean cut approach is the order of the day. With brands trying to keep up with technology and cultural developments, it appears that a logo (in its isolation) is to be more neutral than those of the past 50 years. Our view, is that each brand is different and stands for something unique, so as long as you can rationalise decision making on all elements of your rebrand to the benefit of the company, brand, staff and customers - then surely you are onto a winner.