Rebranding is not just a useful tactic when things are going wrong. It can also bring change when things are going too well.
You are a global brand, 2.4 billion users spending on average an hour with you a day. They think they know you, however, the majority are unaware that there is more to your brand. You’ve been through some major strategic investments, and you want them to really know just how far you have gone. The power of creative thinking, applied design and a calculated roll-out is what you need, and it’s what Facebook have just put their trust in.
Know too well ? It’s time to rebrand.
Up until now, Facebook’s core visual assets are its logo and its colour. In both cases, they are pretty dismal and non-descript – a condensed sharp-edged lowercase typeface, coloured in a safe and simple mid-blue. And, it doesn’t take too much time to summarise the overall take-out, the brand from a visual perspective is lacking a bit of distinction. But Facebook’s decision to rebrand isn’t based on a facelift achieved by softening typographic edges, or a Google refinement of character space. The rebrand is because Facebook want to be known for bringing more to the world than expanding our online sociability. Today, Facebook provide other things too – WhatsApp, Instagram, Oculus and Portal – all have been recently acquired, but as yet, this is something that is not widely enough known – the ‘from Facebook’ tagline, that each app quietly runs, just hasn’t made things clear.
Start with the problem.
Facebook’s head of design Luke Woods says, “When folks hear the word Facebook, they immediately think about Facebook the app. They don’t find the connection to all of the other products and services that are part of the larger Facebook Company. And that’s really what we’re trying to solve here.” It was also integral that the new branding sat comfortably within Facebook’s suite of other apps. Woods says, “We want this Company identity to have a connection to all of our product brands and their visual language so you get a little bit of the horizontal of Oculus and the pure geometry and softer radius from Instagram and Messenger. It was interesting to have this diverse ‘ecosystem’ of visual elements to work with, and to try to create something that can have a good level of harmony and contrasts with each of those distinct product brands that people are already familiar with.” At the start of 2019, Facebook assembled different areas of the business to work on the rebrand – it’s the same approach that Facebook have to prototype their digital products. Facebook employees, app users and businesses that use the platform provided their brand perceptions, that translated into three brand attributes that the new brand needed to embody : ‘Clarity’ (to simplify and build understanding) ; ‘Empathy’ (to respect context and environment) and ‘Creating space’ (to support users’ stories).
It’s always important to keep your users, customers or client up-to-date, no-one spends too long with a brand or Company that stands too still for too long. Facebook is a big example, as is the scale of the challenge, and undoubtedly the apportioned budget – but their original problem is perhaps familiar. If you plan and develop a clear strategy, wind-in some clever creative thinking, channel it through powerful design, and roll-out to the masses, your audience will see how you’ve changed, how serious you are about why you’ve changed, and what it all means to them.
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The Facebook conundrum is a great example of strategy and design working together to bring real change at critical times – Let’s not forget the rebrand comes after Facebook have been through the mangle both politically and morally – and It does now seem that the genesis of Social is starting to get the thumbs down, with a drop-off of an estimated 15 million users since 2017 – The timing of this new branding informing users of Facebook’s wider world seems pretty good to us.
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Facebook’s repositioning has a clear goal – to distinguish a new Company from a globally recognised app. It features a bespoke typeface, with a logotype set in caps, and a chameleon colour palette that changes the way the logotype looks, depending on where its seen. Capitalised characters used in the new logotype have wider forms, rounder corners and open spacing, as Head of Design Woods explains “ the typographic styling provides a bolder surface on which we can place the vibrant and iconic colours from our app and consumer product brands”.
As well as the custom logotype, Facebook has adopted a new people-centric approach to how the new branding will be used, which Facebook Creative Director Zach Stubenvoll says is intended to reflect “openness”, “positivity” and “emotive moments”. “The art direction was inspired by the communities and people who use our technologies every day. Through casting and research, we found people who are using Oculus or WhatsApp or many of the other technologies in really beautiful ways to build community, to have a closer connection or to empower you themselves and others, create change in their communities.” In some environments the new logotype will be animated, it will expand, fill and fade. The new branding will be introduced across all new Facebook apps, to coincide with the launch of a new Company website on 12 November 2019.
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