When your brand is feeling stale, dated, or like it’s no longer resonating with your customer base, a brand refresh may be in order.
A refresh is a great way to reinvigorate your audience, reintroduce your company and its mission, and create consistency across all your materials without completely overhauling your brand. Whether you change your brand color palette, a logo, or another branded image like an app icon, a refresh gives your company the opportunity to present your brand in a new way visually.
Every once in a while, though, a brand refresh is released and it’s anything but refreshing. In this article, we’ll outline eight of the worst redesigns we’ve seen from major corporations to uncover exactly what went wrong as well as what the companies have done, if anything, to fix them.
This redesign is up first both alphabetically and in level of egregiousness. We all remember the blowback when Amazon updated its app icon earlier this year—only to find out that their customers thought the new background behind their “Amazon smile” made it resemble the mustache of one very infamous historical figure.
The brand quickly pivoted, quietly rolled out a new app icon that fixed the faux pas, and will likely be more mindful of how their public-facing imagery looks in the future.
The beloved TV channel Animal Planet had a block logo that did a lot of heavy lifting for many years. It featured the channel name, an elephant silhouette, and the entire Earth, telling a great visual story about the mission of their brand. When they rebranded in 2013, however, the new look wasn’t well-received by fans.
The lack of any animal imagery was a strange decision for a company focused on educating viewers about animals, and the sideways “M” seemed a choice made for no reason. (The “m” in the logo was made green to match the “m” in their associated slogan, “surprisingly human.” That seems to be the only reason for the color and directional shifts).
Thankfully, the newest iteration of the Animal Planet logo does a great job of harkening back to their roots while opting for a sleek, modern design. Although it looks like it could be a distant cousin to Larry, the Twitter icon, returning to elephant imagery helps express the Animal Planet’s global focus and pairs well with their mission of “keeping the childhood joy and wonder of animals alive by bringing people up close in every way.”
Black + Decker
Black + Decker was one of the most trusted names in tools before merging with Stanley Works to become Stanley Black & Decker. To this day, Black + Decker still manufactures a full suite of products, so when they rebranded in 2014, it came as a shock to many that they did away with the bolt icon that had been associated with their brand since the 1930s.
The new wordmark with rounded corners doesn’t look as “tough” as the older logo, which featured bold, rigid text alongside the bolt pictorial mark. Replacing the ampersand with the addition symbol has also created some confusion about how the brand should be written in copy, and it has been written in a variety of ways online since.
As of now, the 2014 logo redesign is still the current logo for the brand, and it’s used across their website, marketing materials, and products.
The CIA is an organization whose name connotes mystery and secrecy, and for some, those connotations are less than positive. Before the rebrand, previous logos fell in line with similar intelligence agencies and departments both foreign and domestic. Typically, historical iterations featured an eagle on some kind of crest emblazoned with the name “Central Intelligence Agency” or, in some cases “United States of America.”
Now, however, the bright colors and eagle imagery have been replaced by a logo truly made for a spy agency—because they won’t even reveal who designed it! Their stated goal for the redesign was to attract a more diverse range of recruits to the agency, but with a logo fit for an evil empire and a controversial reputation to boot, the new look may be damaging to that effort.
With the rebrand, the CIA went full “dark mode,” using stylized iconography that looks like it belongs in a sci-fi film, but whether or not the effort will help bring in new recruits is up for debate. Currently, the CIA plans to continue using their new logo with no expressed intention of rebranding again.
The blue square and white font used for Gap’s logo is instantly recognizable. So when they tried to reinvent themselves in 2010, it was hardly a surprise that fans of the brand were taken aback by the new look.
The new design felt similar to what tech companies were projecting at that time. Moving the blue block into the upper corner and adding a gradient is almost reminiscent of a Microsoft Windows logo, but the change did little to improve the aesthetic of the clothing company in the eyes of their audience.
Thankfully, Gap scrapped the new look less than a week after the big reveal. Good thing they hadn’t removed the tags or the return process would’ve been much more difficult!
Oxford Dictionaries (now Oxford Languages)
Oxford Languages, formerly Oxford Dictionaries, works with the tech sector to provide datasets that help translate definitions, translations, phonetics, idioms, and more into 54 of the world’s most popular languages. While other brands under the Oxford University Press umbrella maintained the classic lettering style traditionally associated with Oxford, a rebrand in 2014 left the look of this laudable initiative lacking.
The round, open design was intended to denote accessibility. However, critics were quick to note the youthful appearance of the brand no longer projected the same credibility and maturity of the original wordmark. In fact, the icon is almost the exact inverse of the Beats By Dre logo, and while both products are innovative, their target markets are very different.
Oxford Languages seems to have noticed a lack of enthusiasm for the 2014 redesign, because their updated website features a logo that uses a similar serif font to the one used in the original.
Reebok has a lot of stiff competition in the athletic-wear industry, and they’ve updated their logo multiple times over the span of more than 50 years in business. To stand apart from other big names like Nike and Adidas, they introduced their new “Delta” logo in 2014.
The redesign transformed their original vector logo into a triangle: a shape that doesn’t exactly connote “movement” or “athleticism” like the linework in their original design. While the move did make them stand out from competitors’ logos—like the Nike swoosh: a singular angled line that’s simple in design and effective in denoting action—it didn’t resonate with their audience in the way they expected.
In 2019, the brand returned to a logo that’s almost identical to their previous logomark, proving that “new” doesn’t alway mean “improved.”
Prior to 2014, the Spirit Airlines logo was blue and red, colors common in airline branding, and it was a reassuring, albeit safe, option for the company. When they decided to rebrand in 2014, the airline made some great choices—and one that wasn’t so great.
By updating the brand colors to black and yellow, they got the dual benefit of standing out from the competition and portraying a friendlier, happier brand persona than other airlines.
However, the “sketch” style font used in the new logo led many online to make a correlation to “sketchy” service by their team. The attached slogan, “less money, more go” only further cheapened the overall look of a brand already sometimes associated with cheap or poor service. Spirit made the simple mistake of positioning their low prices as their top selling point—even above the convenience of their customers.
The brand now uses a solid black version of their logo on most materials. The sketch version is still an acceptable variant for use on Spirit Airlines marketing and promotional documents, but you’re unlikely to see it used out in the wild.
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