Redesign vs Realign

One of the most crucial questions to ask when designing a new corporate identity or any of it’s constituent parts is, “What of the old identity still works?  What needs to stay, and what needs to go?” Often, a company already has a strong brand presence or a large customer base, and therefore needs to remain recognizable.  Other times, as demonstrated in the article below, a client may have a good web presence, and simply needs to “realign” their site to better meet their customers’ needs.  The question at this point becomes one of “Do I redesign their site, or do I realign it?” The difference between those two terms is actually quite large.  A redesign could be compared to starting with a clean slate, while a realignment is like taking an outline, and erasing the sub-headings, but keeping the main points unchanged.  Many designers automatically jump to a redesign because it puts the designer in complete control, whereas a realignment takes more work and thought to get a company’s identity to morph into a more effective one.

Take, for instance the United Parcel Service (UPS) logo:

UPS Logo - Old and New

UPS Logo - Old and New

The old logo, designed by Paul Rand was actually amazing.  It’s actually quite a bit stronger than the new logo, but the change to the new logo was the right move to make.  UPS successfully grew it’s “UPS” brand to be a globally recognized force.  It’s rare to hear someone call the company “United Parcel Service”; rather, everyone instantly equates “UPS” to package delivery.  The old logo was a big part of making that happen, with the symbolism of a package at the top and a shield on the bottom, combining the ideas of parcel, strength and safety.  As the company came into the new century, their customer base had grown younger, more modern, and more demanding.  In addition, UPS no longer had to “spell out” the parcel nature of the business.  Therefore, the shift away from depicting a package, and more toward a modern interpretation of a shield was an excellent choice.  The new logo is a perfect example of a design realign – it kept the “soul” of the original identity, but got rid of extraneous elements.

Here’s a link to the article that got me thinking about this:

My one disagreement with the List Apart article is that I think there are more times where a redesign is necessary than Mr. Moll gives credit for.  There are internal company issues that can be helped by a redesign.  Often a company can become mired in sundry ruts, from the way employees view the company, to the way customer support treats their employess, and often a corporate identity redesign can help everyone in the company to get jolted out of those ruts.  Therefore, often times a redesign benefits the company in ways other than attracting new clientele or better serving the current customer base.

However, it remains a good question to ask, and a good reminder to all of us designers – don’t jump the gun to a full redesign!  It will require more planning and work, but it could be that a realignment will better serve your clients.

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