WeTransfer branding - Is originality in branding dead?

Is originality in branding dead?

We look at how ubiquitous design trends and increasing client pressures have led to the rise of branding déjà vu, and why it’s important for designers to fight against familiarity

In a world where there are more opportunities for brands to stand out than ever, distinctiveness is undoubtedly one of the most powerful tools at their disposal. It seems counterintuitive that some companies would actively embrace a visual aesthetic bearing more than a passing resemblance to others within their sector and beyond, and yet this homogenised attitude towards branding has increasingly pervaded the business world in recent years.

One of the defining design trends of the 2010s, ‘blanding’ quickly became synonymous with big tech and startup culture. In turn, it was adopted by everyone from car brands to fashion houses, as they sought to present a uniformly modern face across an array of digital platforms. More recently, the blanding backlash has seen designers embrace the return of the serif font and ditch the now ubiquitous Corporate Memphis illustration style in favour of branding with more ‘personality’.

The ongoing debate around originality in branding has reared its head on several occasions this year. Design studio Koto was on the receiving end of criticism (as well as praise) off the back of two recent projects; firstly, its lightning bolt-inspired visual identity for checkout platform Bolt, which drew comparisons with live sports app Buzzer and broadband service Volt, and secondly for its illustration-led rebrand of Glassdoor that was held up alongside Puck, another smaller brand within the employment sector.

Top: Illustrations for WeTransfer by Alva Skog. Above: Bolt branding by Koto