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Logos: What’s Trending, What’s Trailing

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

This is the window of the year where I drop into a trance to fathom the relevant branding trends for the next year. Or, at least I presume that’s how a handful imagine the fabrication of our annual trend report. Reality has much more to do with equal parts objective data analysis and subjective intuition from having tracked logo design trends minutia the last 18 years.

Let’s start with the comment that this is a never-ending process; the flux of trends don’t start and stop on an annual calendar. As soon as a report is complete, I place a folder on my desktop with the title “Next Year’s Trends.” A perfect gathering point for those inklings and suggestions that crop up from our own discovery as well as those unsolicited perceptions our thousands of LogoLounge members are glad to offer up.

Keep in mind that our website LogoLounge.com provides us a perfect platform for generating this report. With better than 300,000 logos submitted by our members globally, last year alone we had nearly 35,000 logos submitted for consideration since the last report.

LogoLounge also has unparalleled analytics to show what industries and keywords are being searched and which ones are being submitted to our database. We can identify insightful data points – including prevailing colors, styles, and concepts based on countries and regions, type of clients – which often validate or inform trend assumptions.

After strapping into my chair with copious amounts of coffee, I literally review every logo uploaded during the last year and save each logo that strikes me as having something I haven’t seen time and again. For the last report, that came in just at 2,400, my largest first-pull ever. I also go into international news archives and pull the logos of major brands that have surfaced or been re-imagined during the last year.

Then arranging those logos in neat groups, I begin the true work. This is akin to playing the world’s largest version of Match-Game. Taking one logo at a time and looking for other marks that share similar attributes. It could be geometry, or line weights, or maybe a unique way of demonstrating a shadow or some other unexpected design aesthetic. But finding commonality of characteristics is key.

I refer to these as my ‘clusters’ and name them to keep them straight and remember why I pulled them out. These cluster names help me differentiate, like Blurple, Tumbled, Quarters, Spot Drag, or Orphan Shadows. After naming some 300 trends over the years, my biggest challenge is finding names that I haven’t already used. To be completely honest, it’s important to recall all past trends since some are now rolling back through for their second pass.

After a week of sorting, the clusters may number 100 plus, and it’s time to find out the trends that will make the cut. Too many examples may actually indicate a trend is too well established to mention. On the flip side, if I can’t find enough examples of a direction, it may be premature.

Once the clusters have been reduced down to 30-40, they are put to a higher authority. After years of producing this report, we have a tremendous stable of designers who are experts we’ve come to trust. To them, we drop out these potential trends for a second party evaluation, and with their input, we’re able to reduce the options down to a strong group of fifteen.

Though every report takes on a different complexion, there are some commonalities that always catch me off guard. Invariably, some shape rises to the top. There may be an abundance of hexagonal marks, or rectangles with a clipped corner, or shields with a base that look like the back pocket on a pair of Levis. I don’t mean just a few, I mean these appear like a conspiracy was in play, just to see if I’d catch them.

Because I research the origin of many of these trends I can identify lineage that is usually evident. We can tell when a prior trend starts to fork into multiple new iterations, and that is what truly excites me about the process. The foundation of this report has never been to suggest people follow a trend but to show what we are seeing so that designers can stand on the shoulders and extrapolate a design’s trajectory. To imagine it forward to its next generation, or to discover a way to evolve it forward.

Our report is only as good as the input we have to evaluate. One of the great pleasures of crafting these reports are the suggestions we have from the design community. My eyes have been opened many a time by the suggestions of others, and I always cherish input in the creation of our report, much more than the day after. Here’s to an exceptional 2020 report with equally perfect forward vision.

View previous years’ LogoLounge Logo Trend Reports. The 2020 Report will be released at HOW Design Live and on LogoLounge.com in May.

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