It started with the shock announcement that Google had rebranded itself. The news and subsequent revelation of the new identity sent shock waves around the branding world. Some designers were aghast at the fact that the logo had become sans serif when serifs were clearly back in vogue. Others argued that losing the serifs was absolutely the way to go because it communicated a jauntier, more open personality to Google’s billions of users. The rest of us used Google to discover that the word “serif” just means the little pointy leg things at the bottom of letters.
Google’s rebrand – massively different
But Google wasn’t done with the serif killing. Oh no. There was more. It also announced it was going beserk with the logo too. The Google G which represents the brand on phones and tablets went from being a blue tile and lower-case letter “g” to an upper-case and multicolor “G”. Again there was frenzy. Was this the right move? Did it look too much like the Groupon logo? Was it too gay? Was it possible no-one would actually notice the change without the four thousand articles from graphic designers and unemployed social media commentators critiquing the move?
I thought the big news was over. How wrong I was. Suddenly the UK was abuzz with the news that HSBC had finally decided how they were going to rebrand their British retail bank in response to the new ringfencing legislation being introduced by the UK Government. There had been feverish speculation about the new move for months – I even wrote a column about it – because all the signals from HSBC were they were planning something big. Would we get Midland bank back from the dead? Would they invent a completely different brand?
Artist’s interpretation of how the new HSBC UK brand might look
Well, last Thursday we got our answer. And who could have believed it? The bank had thrown out the rule book and gone totally fucking mental. The rebranded HSBC bank was to be called: HSBC UK. It took brand experts several hours to digest the news, but gradually the insane genius of the move became clear. The brief had been to find a way of separating HSBC’s UK business from the rest of HSBC. So why not combine the name of the bank and the country into one? While many experts critiqued the move as “obvious” others pointed to the subversive nature of being so obvious that it was actually subversive.
To be fair, at this stage the design community is still unsure if the final rollout will include the all-important space between HSBC and UK. At design consulting firm Cobblers & Co there was genuine hope this week that the bank would “break with tradition” and collapse the two acronyms into one, thus communicating a more “hi-tech, futuristic feel” and a “better sense of brand purpose”. Design guru Ian Bonkers, however, was having none of it when I spoke to him on Monday. Bonkers was convinced that removing spaces has had its day in design terms and a return to “genuine 20th Century spacing” would help stabilise HSBC’s brand image in the tough times ahead.
Amazingly, we weren’t finished yet. A few days later came the announcement that award winning integrated communications company The Agency was also about to take the identity plunge. A shock announcement from MD Sammy Mansourpour confirmed that his company had decided to change the name of his firm from The Agency to AgencyUK. “Who knows what those crazy bastards down in Bath were thinking,“ was the sage comment from one brand consultant on hearing the news. “It defies logic that you could push the envelope this far with rebranding, but that’s The Agency, sorry AgencyUK, for you.”
So dear readers, inspired and excited by the brave new world of rebranding that we are now living in I would like to announce that my own personal brand is changing. It’s simply no longer possible for me to operate within the constrained identity of Mark Ritson any longer. From this week’s edition onwards, I am removing the space between my first name and surname and, what’s more, I will be using only lower case letters from this point onwards in all my communication and presentations. I’m nervous about the change. I’m excited by the possibilities. I am markritson.