The trend for flat design that began a few years ago continues to drive automotive brands to embrace this style. Mini, Toyota, Volkswagen, Citroën, BMW, Audi and now Nissan have all lost their colours to become much more readable, light and pure. Why has this centuries-old industry changed so radically in recent years?
One of the big carmakers we saw adapting its logo to this new trend was the new MINI logo, which was launched in 2015. According to the head of design himself, the new logo emphasises traditional values, combined with the spirit of future-oriented evolution. We can’t notice all this information in a single logo, but what we do sense is a change towards only the most essential shapes, moving away from special effects and towards an emphasis on legibility as being first and foremost in their designs.
From a practical point of view, chrome designs are impossible to adapt to digital media. Considering the boom of digital media and seeing that this is the number one reference in the customer journey before buying a vehicle, car brands have had to adapt to be easily visible.
This is how Dan Becket, the designer of the new Toyota logo explains it: “With the advent of digital brand touchpoints, and especially small mobile screens, all those fiddly bevels and gradients meant the logos became little grey smudges, indistinguishable from one another.” Whether it is a trend or not, through the use of flat imagery, designers have found a way to adapt century-old brands to the new digital era.
Another curious fact is that both Volkswagen and BMW launched their respective brand redesigns coinciding with the launch of their respective ranges of electric models. Coincidence, or an attempt to approach new audiences?
Pollution, the introduction of restrictive car access measures in many cities, the shortage of raw materials and pricing by organizations that control oil production have made consumers seriously consider taking the next step and buying an electric car. The car companies know this, and since the great Tesla leads the way all along, brands are making an effort to get their electric alternatives launched before anyone else does.
In their previous state, the old logos reminded us of an industry that has polluted since the beginning. A change of image also leads to a change in consumer perception, and this is only more so if they are simple, honest and without any other artifices, just their name and a couple of lines.
As we can see, being flat in shape also means being flat in colour. Car brands that have gone through a redesign in recent years have chosen to create as much contrast as possible, with the background using only one colour, either black or navy blue.
However, when all brands change and do so in a very similar style it is easy to play “who copied who”. In our opinion, regardless of whether flat design is fashion or convenience, the truth is that it is a trend that is here to stay, or at least for a long time. It is synonymous with modernity and adaptation to a new, much more connected social environment. It is a far cry from previous effects-laden designs. And it is not only present in the automobile sector, many other sectors are also being transformed: fashion, food, mass consumption, etc. So, the key to change lies in the strategic phase. Embracing flat design will be better or worse, depending on your strategic objectives and the consistency of your brand positioning.