Recently, I saw a rebrand for Burberry and it struck me as odd because not long before I had also seen a rebrand for Burberry. The rebrand from 2018 was part of a larger trend – companies abandoning serifs and script fonts for sans serif fonts that all looked alike. Lots of brands started doing it over the next few years – creating a sea of sameness. Why?
You could argue that it was about simplicity. High-end brands tend to use a clean aesthetic with lots of white space to communicate luxury. But this trend really seemed to be stripping away not only their brand history but also their brand personality.
But again, why is this happening right now? Let’s go back in time to this article from 2021 which I never stopped thinking about. It’s a great read on the subject of creativity and why “we are in a valley of low creativity.” The Burberry logo is a great example of this and also why the newest rebrand gives me optimism that we’re climbing out of the valley.
I don’t need to tell you that the past few years have seen a lot of uncertainty. Jennifer Mueller has a Ph.D. in social psychology and is currently a professor in management at University of San Diego.
“What she discovered was that, under uncertainty, many people have an implicit bias against creativity. An implicit bias is one that we are not aware of. She tested this with an implicit attitude test or IAT. Test subjects were shown words that were associated with creativity or practicality and asked to pair them with positive or negative words (cake or heaven are positive words, rotten or vomit are negative). The subjects almost all said they loved creativity, but when they were primed with uncertainty, their IAT test results suggested they felt negatively about creativity.”
So, in highly uncertain times, people really latch onto the kind of sameness and comfort that making every logo into a similar looking sans serif provides. It may feel reassuring, but at the bottom of the creativity valley, your brand loses personality, and innovation also tanks. I can’t help but think about this year’s Super Bowl commercials which overall seemed way more about booking a celebrity than an idea.
Burberry’s most recent rebrand has gone back to a serif font and also brought back their “prorsum knight.” There’s a nod to their distinct history, but it’s with photography that feels very fresh. Whether or not you like either rebrand doesn’t matter. The point is that you can truly feel their personality when it was impossible to decipher before – and it’s proof that we’re climbing out of the creativity valley.
The world is ready for innovation and for your brand to have a distinct personality they can feel.