The rise of abstract logos

Many brands are ditching their well trodden logos in favour of a more abstract approach. Here we unpack this trend and examine whether legibility should be a concern

As in any field, trends in graphic design come and go, and a more abstract outlook with wordmarks, logos and branding is happening right now. While we’re seeing a slight rejection of minimal, sans serif identities, it seems there’s still room for complete abstraction, especially within the car and tech worlds, potentially due to the influx of new brands popping up in these spaces. 

“I believe at the root is the obsession we hold with something being original or unique, when this is almost impossible to achieve,” says James Greenfield, CEO and co-founder of design agency Koto. “Every new logo is welcomed with a chorus of lookalikes and designers are hyper aware about this. As a result they are looking to play with all the elements at hand and ride the line on legibility, while they try to create a more unique form from typography.”  

Greenfield sees logos as more than just the name of a brand, and done well, believes an abstracted logo can elevate typography into something that makes a statement. He cites the Sony Vaio logo as a classic in this genre, designed in the 1990s by Teiyu Goto. “It took the name and added another layer of meaning where the ‘VA’ forms an analogue sound wave and ‘IO’ represents the 1 and 0 of binary, reflecting the integration of two technologies,” he explains. “This was used prominently on many Sony products, without many consumers probably understanding the meaning overtly, but feeling the technology and its innovation.”  

Sony Vaio logo designed by Teiyu Goto