Identity practitioners are very lucky people.
When we are invited into an organization, we are one of the privileged few advisors that has been given a mandate to break with the past and invent the future, usually in any way we see fit. Changing things is what we do, and what energizes us intellectually and emotionally.
In this regard, identity practitioners are perfectionists, always unsatisfied with the status quo. We feel compelled to look at a new identity and immediate identify the flaws, the missed opportunities and the technical shortcomings. Critics abound in our profession, not because we are a negative bunch, but out of a genuine yearning to make things better.
With this context, I began thinking about whether there are identity solutions, designed with the best of intentions in mind, that have achieved a kind of Aristotelian perfection in their completeness, simplicity and elegance. More than just being strategically correct or creatively brilliant, are there a handful of identities that should never be changed?
We can debate the meaning of the word “never” in this context, but for argument’s sake, let’s stipulate that never means “as long as the underlying organization remains in its current line of business” - for example, assuming IBM stays in IT and doesn’t become a hotel chain, its identity should never change.
Herewith, then, are my own 10 candidates for identities that should never be changed:
Pirelli - the overhanging P is one of a kind
Johnson & Johnson - a distinctive script, direct from the hands of the founders
IBM - the Paul Rand masterpiece, still going strong
Everlast - known by boxing fans everywhere
Caterpillar - A well-done Landor creation from some years ago
CBS - The iconic eye, watching over the ever-changing media landscape
American Airlines - simple, clean and no plane painting required
Ford - Now that the Ford Motor Company script has been retired, long live the blue oval as both corporate and product brand
Target - brash, bold and bracing, especially in contrast to Walmart
3M - It sticks to you
I welcome your comments. Effectively designed corporate brands… what are the all-time greats?