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Tech Companies Simplified Their Logos in 2013

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Out: Shiny and complicated.

In: Simple with fewer colors and a "flat" design that flatters.

apple logo 2012 2013

needs more pillow emboss ;)

Not sure what that is but it scares me.

Microsoft Convergence Europe 2010 kicks off | TopNews Arab Emirates

Microsoft Reports Record Revenue of $21.5 Billion in Second Quarter

Same principle. Fascinating that they all changed their logos this way this year!

Wondering why? (and totally getting distracted from what I was meant to be doing)

"Trend: Back to BasicsLately, we are seeing more and more logo designs go back to basics, using simple flat colors and basic geometric shapes integrated into their design. One of the most commonly featured shapes seen in many emerging logo designs includes stars."

I kept looking for articles that might explain WHY this is happening, but all I could find was more advice as to WHAT to do.

A post on the Discovery Channel site (with a really loud and annoying video ad) says:

"Fashion wasn’t always the quickly evolving thing it is today. In fact, in ancient times, clothing styles evolved slowly, if at all. Back then, clothes were designed for comfort and to allow daily manual work around the house or in the fields. Even among the affluent, fashion was limited by the few materials and dyes available.

Later on, changes in the preferred style of a nation were often connected to social or political changes. For example, European travelers to the Ottoman Empire brought back luxurious materials -- velvets and silks -- that slowly became part of the region’s fashion and were a way to showcase the opulence of the travelers' kingdoms. Contact with the Ottomans also introduced Europeans to outer garments such as coats, which were worn initially by the educated class (including scholars) and eventually adopted by the masses [source: Jirousek].

Today, fashion changes much more rapidly and is heavily influenced by movies, music and famous people. The emphasis on embracing new trends hasn’t stopped old ideas from coming back, though. The adage “There’s nothing new under the sun” could easily apply to the fashion industry. Fashion is so cyclical there’s even a term for it: Laver’s Law. Fashion historian James Laver created the term in the 1930s to define how fast trends of the past become “beautiful” again. Laver claimed it takes at least half a century for something to become fashionable again [source: Winterman]. Things have accelerated in recent decades, though, and designers now look for inspiration to styles that were fashionable just 20 or 30 years ago."

So historically fashion reflected certain socio-economic constraints or perhaps reflections of the 'mood' of a population. Next tried wisdom of the crowd, with Quora

"Sometimes, trends may start by accident, as the natural fluctuation in designs is perceived as signal rather than noise. If there is enough uptake, the fluctuation can become a trend in its own right. There are also subconscious effects, such as the state of the economy affecting the brightness of the clothes designed.Of course with the Internet nowadays, fashion bloggers and other stylish folk can serve as arbitri elegantiae, influencing others and sparking off trends. This is often in terms of the way we wear clothes rather than the clothes themselves, e.g. how to wear scarves, how to tie laces and ties, etc.Fashion is a partially open system, being influenced by culture and economics and the choices of people. These factors may have non-linear effects on what is actually fashionable. Hence, it is impossible to predict with a strong degree of accuracy what is going to be fashionable, short of simulating the entire world. So how do people do it? Some do it heuristically, by looking at what has not been done but which seems like a good idea. And others don't need to predict fashion trends, because they can make them."

Okay, so no real answer there, but I did like the sentence "Hence, it is impossible to predict with a strong degree of accuracy what is going to be fashionable, short of simulating the entire world."

This was a good post:

Fashion changes do not explain why a completely new style emerges and why some people decide to follow it. We borrow ideas from Kuhn’s paradigm shift to explain this phenomenon. We argue that there are people who propose alternative styles; they wish to differentiate themselves from the mainstream style. The alternative followers will chose a set of underlying values that are incompatible in some sense with the mainstream culture. This will assure that the mainstreamers do not follow them.

<other stuff here>

As scientific evolution can be divided into normal and extraordinary science, so fashion and style changes should be seen as separate phenomena.

Thus, fashion changes are analogous to normal science; there is no depth change in the style. The change of the signal comes from insiders as distinguish from newcomers or impostors.

New styles are like extraordinary science periods where the whole meaning of being ‘in’ or ‘out’ changes in such a way that the mainstream could not follow the new style without abandoning some important part of its old style. These changes come from outsiders who are not willing to belong to the mainstream. This forces the alternative style to reject an important characteristic of the mainstream, which they cannot follow.

The main similarity between changes in style and changes in science is the concept of incommensurability. Just as it is impossible to make science applying two paradigms at the same time, so it is impossible to be part of two styles at the same time. Style incommensurability assures that the mainstream cannot assimilate a new style, and thus the new style is a reliable signal of non-mainstream identity.

As in science, the emergence of new styles are not decided by a select group, which plans what the next style is going to be. In a given time, there are multiple people proposing new styles, and most of them never get enough people to become noticed by others. Thus, these are failed styles that never get popularized. Because there are multiple styles trying to emerge and there is not a central command that dictates which style should be adapted, it is possible that in a given time, two alternative styles may emerge. This phenomenon is true in current days where we are seeing multitude alternative styles popping up from multiple sources and with different stylistic proposals. One difference between these two phenomena is who drives the revolution. The scientific changes are started by the community looking for better explanations, it is made by insiders. The style changes are driven by outsiders.

If a new style reflects the concern and interests of a new generation, more and more members of the society will adapt it. When the adapters of the style reach some critical point, the style is brought to the attention of the general public. In this way, the style is not an alternative signal anymore; now is part of the mainstream culture.

Becoming a mainstream style creates an identity problem for the pioneers of the style. At the beginning, the non-mainstreamers create a new style as a reaction to the mainstream, and proudly see their style evolve and become more rich and complex. The new style is very effective in communicating a new set of values against the mainstream. This gets the attention of many early adaptors who understand the values and the attitudes of the new style. The early adaptors learn the secret code that allows them to understand and follow the fashion changes proposed by the pioneers. As time passes, more and more people adapt the new style, but unfortunately not all of them fully understand its underlying principles but nevertheless follow the external changes in the fashion. Thus, the new style has become mainstreamed. The pioneers get frustrated because their style does not serve as a differentiation signal anymore.

At this point new pioneers start trying to create new styles to differentiate from the current mainstream culture. The old pioneer’s values are now a target of critics. Eventually a new style will start to gain momentum and the cycle will repeat again.

Since there are multiple alternative styles emerging all the time, this process is inevitable. Eventually some new style will emerge with an attitude and values that identifies many people. This style will get the critical mass necessary to become mainstreamed – sometimes to the detriment of the early style followers."

I still have no clue as to what these logos will look like in 2015...

That's fascinating. Hard to tell if this move is fad or fashion.

The single biggest indicator is the "flattening" of design from iOS 6 to iOS 7.

Now I can't tell if Apple led this trend or is following it!

This article seems to do a good job of answering the "why?".

tl;dr: Gradients, bevels, and reflections were played out, making flat design seem refreshing.Flat design will also someday fall out of fashion.

Thanks Justin, lots of good stuff in that:

"One of the major reasons that flat design has become popular is because it seems fresh compared to the tacky, and obsolete skeuomorphic designs of the past. Though you’ve probably never heard of it , you’ve interacted with skeuomorphic design at one point or another in your life.""Another reason for flat design’s popularity was that it was a “back to basics”  response to over complexity in design. As our tools became more powerful, designers felt like they had to use them. Pretty soon everyone was using drop-shadows, gradients, beveled edges, reflections and so on… Though these tools were effective, they were certainly overused.""Like all design trends eventually flat too will become overused, boring, and out of style.  Before its inevitable demised however, flat will evolve.  It’s likely that designers will settle on a middle ground, an “almost flat” design. The key to success for this style, will be for designers and companies to utilize the unique advantages that both 3D design and flat have to offer."

So even before a fashion goes mainstream (be it UI or clothing), there are a set of innovators out there working on the next trend. Some of them will fall by the wayside and a few might get picked up. Then the early adopters will select because they want to stand out. The mainstream will follow because they want to fit in. The designs that get picked up will rise up the adoption curve and off we go again.

That's the human herd I guess...

human herd

So someday "flat" will be considered "retro". Cool.

Fancy logos are always more expensive.  The move to flatter and less complicated logo are probably because of more banal reasons than we suspect: cheaper printing costs and quicker page loading speeds on mobile, for example.  

Especially in corporate life, where entire teams have marching orders to chase down logo and brand deviations across all media presentations to absolute exactitude in color, sizing and positioning at a level of behavioral compliance that should make it's own code listing in DSM-IV.

I can believe that quicker pageloads on mobile are a primary motivator.

That's why tech companies all moved in unison: they all realized this together.

And there's the hipster set with their own set of rules.

hipster logo design infographic

Thanks for this infographic, Dennis! It's funny because it's true...

Indeed it is, Adam. They're all over the place now.  

Not sure why logos went flat, but in UI/UX design motion is new skeuomorphism. Simulating momentum, friction, gravity and other forces of nature feeds users' brains the patterns they encounter in the real world and therefore produce stronger emotional reactions than the fake shadows. So to keep it simple, gloss, reflections, etc. had to go. Take for example, newly added transitions for iOS7 Safari toolbars. It would likely be distracting to users if toolbars stayed decorated as they were in iOS6. Performance would also suffer, note that toolbars are animated while the scrolling is in progress.

Overall this streamlining of design seems better for performance and better for mobile devices.

I googled the 'motion is new skeuomorphic' and came up with a couple of great hits:

1. An insightful commentary on iMore on the significance of newly added iOS7 physics engine called UIKit Dynamics governing all the object movements in iOS7, its API available to developers.

2. notes by Runkeeper app devs: "Is Gravity Skeuomorphic? There’s chatter that the layering and depth in iOS7 is actually MORE skeuomorphic than before.  All the screens-on-screens and glass and physics make the design more—not less—dependent on literal metaphors from the real world.  

It’s true; software allows us to create things independent of constraints of physical reality (there is no gravity in the matrix), but that doesn’t mean we need to reject the fact that the operators happen to live in a familiar, learned, unavoidable physical reality.  There is an actual difference between ornamenting a design with stitched leather and simply admitting that light, inertia, and matter exist as fundamental forces of physics in the universe we live in.  Using transparency, blurring, laying, motion, or making objects bounce off one another is not artificial, it’s natural."

Remind me -- what's skeuomorphic?

digital mimickries of life?

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