Hand on papers with logos on them

Traditional v. Modern Logo Design

  • Design Friday
  • 7th, May, 2021

The design of a good logo requires a clear definition of the concept and values of the brand, as well as understanding of the target audience. Every designer’s process varies but the broad steps are usually the same. Research is always the first step in any design to understand what you are designing and for who. Then comes sketching and conceptualization, the initial creative stages where rough ideas are churned out, which leads into ideation and the narrowing down of possible candidates. Once a design is chosen, more ideation and refinement takes place, usually followed by user testing, final revisions, and then implementation. 

Graphic designer development process drawing sketch design creative Ideas draft Logo product trademark label brand artwork. Graphic designer studio Concept.

Traditional Logos

Traditional logo design has a variable definition, as current trends may become traditional in time, and past traditions may become trends once again. In general though, traditional design focuses on making the logo feel older, reminiscent of the past, and the inclusion of classic elements. 

Pros of Traditional Logos:

Traditional logos succeed the most when they connect past experiences to a current brand.

Nostalgia is a large part of traditional design, as elements that feel familiar and beckon back to old times can excite joy in viewers and drive them to love a product. Traditional design can exude elegance that modern designs just cannot. Whether it be architectural motifs of classic structures or hand painted advertisements from the 1800’s and 1900’s. Vintage designs have an elegance to them that modern, sleek designs simply do not have

Cons of Traditional Logos:

Since traditional design centers heavily on nostalgia and older elements, the main con is that traditional design can look dated. A poorly designed traditional logo just looks old and in dire need of an update. Like a faded sign, they need a fresh coat of paint or a complete overhaul. Traditional designs can also alienate younger audiences who have no connection to older eras. They have no nostalgia for the older elements, thus traditional logos seem like relics of the past.

Modern Logos

Modern logo design also has a variable definition, as trends do not last forever, new ones emerge, and old trends eventually become traditional elements. Overall though, modern design focuses on modernist principles, namely rejection of realism and the embrace of abstract elements. Modern logos are often sleek, minimalist, and blend new trends with classic ones.

Pros of Modern Logos:

Modern logos offer sleek, clean solutions to modern day design problems. The advent of the Internet and advanced computer technology in general has shifted how logos are designed. Modern logos showcase how a brand stays up to date, oftentimes invoking feelings of cleanliness, professionalism and slight playfulness. From angular, sharp shapes, to bold patterns and textures, modern logo design is visually interesting and can draw a viewer’s eye straight to it. Standing out in a crowd is especially important in a digital era. Having interactive and instantly recognizable logos is what modern design allows.

Cons of Modern Logos:

Modern logos may be sleek, clean, and professional, but they can also feel less personable and cold. It is easier to identify a realistic element than an abstract one, thus making it more pleasant to view. Modern logos can fade into the background by trying to be too all-encompassing and all-appealing. Simplicity can make a logo forgettable or even look like a mistake. 

Which is Best?

The answer is: it depends. It depends on the brand, the target audience, the product, and a multitude of other factors. Neither style is going to be able to appeal to everyone and be successful all the time. Brands across the globe are widely recognizable with both traditional and modern logos. The success of a logo depends on its recognizability, whether or not the style has an impact is another discussion entirely. Regardless, every designer will have different opinions on which style would be more effective for a solution. However, that’s the beauty of design, there is never just one right answer.

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