New can be normal.
Nike’s logo is perfect. It exudes innovation, strength, and perseverance. People wear it proudly as an announcement of their choice to join the tribe of those striving for more. It fits and nothing else would do. Or would it?
Nike’s swoosh fits Nike because for as long as any of us can remember, the swoosh has been Nike. We can’t fathom any other shape in its place, because we’ve built our image of Nike around that swoosh. Yet if Carolyne Davidson had decided to use a different shape in 1971, we would connect it to the same connotations of innovation, strength, and perseverance. We would wear it just as proudly.
The brand is bigger than the logo. The logo is the totem for the associations we have with the brand.
When we get to know someone — or a brand — we build an idea of who or what they are based on what we know. I’m a Jen and I have red hair. My name and appearance — like logos — are used as representations of me, but are not me. When people refer to me in text, they write “Jen.” But, their mental model of me is more complex than the colour of my hair. But if I were to change my name to Stephanie and dye my hair dark brown, people who know me would likely respond in shock. In contrast, those who’ve never met me wouldn’t bat an eye.
When we have no connection with a person — or a brand — their “logo” is another face in the crowd.
When we read fiction, we’re getting to know people we’ve never seen. We develop fuzzy, but never fully-formed images in our heads of who they are, based on their personalities, behaviour, and speech. We don’t know exactly what they look like, but when the movie comes out, we know the actor they cast in the role is definitely not it.
When the cast of Harry Potter was announced, I couldn’t believe it: “That’s not what Hermione looks like!” But as more movies and books came out, I watched and read and my image of Hermione adjusted with Emma Watson in mind. When Noma Dumezweni was cast to play Hermione in the Harry Potter stage show, many die-hard fans balked: “But Hermione is white!” JK Rowling never explicitly mentioned Hermione’s ethnicity. We decided that all on our own. A combination of our own fuzzy images and Emma Watson’s 7-movie run convinced us that Hermione is white and that’s just how it is.
Logos that have always been there seem to fit just so because we came to know the brand with that logo in our head. As we develop relationships with brands, we associate our feeling of who they are with their logos and visual identities. We feel offended if they swap out one totem for another. Suddenly, everything that we associate with the brand doesn’t stick to this new shiny surface that doesn’t match with our memories and attributions.
If Coca-Cola’s script wordmark changed to Helvetica Light Neue, the world would melt down. The hole it would tear in our hearts!
New logos — if designed well — can stand the test of time. I don’t stop hanging out with my friends because they dyed their hair, and I hope they wouldn’t stop hanging out with me if I changed my name to “Stephanie.” It might feel odd at first, but over time, we’ll carry over our the associations and perceptions that we hold to the old logo to the new. New eventually becomes normal.