As with almost anything in marketing and branding, there comes a time when your logo needs a refresh. It can be subtle, like how Bing changed its logo color from yellow to green.

Or it could be bolder, like the new IHOP logo.

But changing a logo can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, a logo update can be the perfect way to launch a rebranding effort and stay relevant. On the other hand, the refresh may be poorly executed or end up irking your customers.

The key, then, is proper timing. Below are a few indicators to help you figure out if it’s time to update your logo for a rebrand and what you should consider when choosing it as the reason for your logo change.

1. Your Logo Is Old

Perhaps the most common reason businesses update their logo is because of age. Ask yourself: When was your logo first introduced to the public? If it has been updated before, when?

A logo, along with a tagline, is often the single biggest identifier for a business. And like any identifier, these things just don’t stick around forever. Your logo is a marketing tool in and of itself, so at some point it will have to be revitalized.

The question, however, is how. As many brands have learned, this undertaking can be rife with mistakes. Consider Gap’s much-maligned logo refresh.

While there’s always a good chance that some people won’t be pleased by a logo update, what Gap did wrong, at least according to many designers, is replace an iconic logo with a forgettable one. The choice of Helvetica (a typeface more than five decades old) as the font, for example, didn’t do the clothing company any favors either.

It didn’t help either that Gap executives responded to the backlash by attempting to crowdsource logo ideas, which only made the rebranding decision look clumsy, if not foolish.

The lesson here is that if you’re going to update a logo because of its age, it should be new and make sense. Google’s logo update, a simple evolution from a serif to a sans serif typeface, is a good example of this.

2. Your Logo Looks Dated

Note that a logo that’s old and a logo that looks dated are two different things. The Twining’s logo, for example, still looks perfectly acceptable today, despite it being more than a century old.

A dated logo, on the other hand, is usually one that looks like it was clearly inspired by designs or styles that were trendy at the time.

Consider Instagram’s old logo, which was inspired by skeuomorphism—designs that imitate real-life objects. In Instagram’s case, the logo took inspiration from the old Instamatic cameras of our youth.

Skeuomorphic design, however, eventually went out of style and was replaced by Flat Design. And so, the Instagram logo evolved and was inspired by flat designs favored by both the iOS and Android operating systems.

In Instagram’s case, the evolution of its logo came at a time when mobile phones were also moving to flat interfaces, so the refresh was a matter of keeping up or looking dated. Business owners should take note of this. If your logo is beginning to appear stale or out of place with your competitors, a sensible refresh may be in order.

Not-so-good-looking logos are a common problem with small businesses. Oftentimes, small business owners either design their logos on their own or micromanage the design process, which can lead to a muddled logo that only confused the public.

If your logo looks like it has too many things going on at the same time, replacing it with a cleaner, simpler version may work wonders. Here’s an example of a logo that has too many visual elements competing with one another.

While the logo looks it was professionally done, it still too busy, with too many details vying for your attention. It ignores one of the fundamental rules of graphic design: simplicity. Indeed, less is often more, especially when you consider where your logo will appear.

It’s a given that your logo will appear on your website. But how will look it look when it’s smaller? Think of letterheads, stationary, and business cards? Will the logo still be readable?

Remember, the more complicated your logo is, the harder it will be to remember. Think of the most iconic logos out there and take note of how simple yet striking they are. Again, less is more.

4. Your Company Is Going Through Changes

Another common reason organizations change their logos is due to dramatic changes happening to the company. This can include mergers, acquisitions, restructuring, or a pivot to a new direction. It’s major events like these that can benefit from a major rebranding effort, which is where a new logo comes in.

For example, the merger of food companies Kraft Foods and H.J. Heinz in 2015 was marked by the unveiling of a new logo. Sure, the difference may not have been significant, but it’s still a new logo showing the merger of two companies.

On the other hand, Mastercard’s decision to take the text out of its logo came at a time when the company acknowledged that the future of cashless payments is 100 percent digital, so the logo was as much as statement as it was a subtle pivot into uncharted territory.

The takeaway here is that if your business is undergoing changes, a new logo may help set the tone and direction of your company moving forward. This benefits not just your customers, but also your internal stakeholders as well.

Is Now the Right Time for a Logo Change?

Whether you want to revamp your image, breathe new life into your brand, or simply make a statement about the direction and future of your company, a rebranding effort and logo update can be instrumental in grabbing the attention of both old and new customers. Use these best practices as a guide when deciding whether now is the time for this effort. When you’re ready, be sure to work with a skilled graphic designer to bring your vision to reality.

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