Image of a pink clock

What Associations Can Learn From ABC’s Rebrand

The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) television network recently revealed a refresh to their logo. Their solution? Draw from the past.

The current and most recognizable version of the ABC logo was initially designed by esteemed art director Paul Rand in 1962. Since then, the logo has only experienced modest modifications. Specifically, gloss, bevels, and color have been adjusted to match evolving advertising and marketing trends over the years.

In the fall of 2021, ABC announced the return of Rand’s 1962 flat version of the logo, with slight tweaks from agency Trollbäck+Company.

There is much to learn from ABC’s decision.

1. Function First

Why does an organization rebrand in the first place? To signal that change is afoot. For example, perhaps your services have evolved. Or you’re seeking to attract new customers. In the case of associations and professional societies, your current mission and member demographics may no longer be accurately represented in your brand. When was the last time you refreshed your organization’s brand?

Of course, an organization shouldn’t change their brand just for the sake of changing – there should be a strategic plan in place that considers how your new visual brand will better serve your members, community, and industry.

In the case of ABC, they saw a strategic benefit to following the likes of Apple and Starbucks by “flattening” their logo and in doing so emphasizing their role as a modern, global entertainment brand.

This is both an aesthetic choice and a functional one.

While the gradient shine effect in the previous ABC logo may have been more on-trend when it was designed, today it appears distinctly dated. From a practical standpoint, the new mark has improved legibility and scalability in digital and print applications. Paul Rand was known for practicing the Swiss Style of graphic design, which highlighted legibility and function over ornamentation and illustration. The modern “flat design” style is similarly utilitarian—recognizable by the absence of glossy effects or textures and use of simple shapes, the style strives to minimize visual clutter and streamline the user experience.

2. Consider Context

Let’s look at the actual changes made to the ABC logo. Although the redesign did remain true to Paul Rand’s original 1962 design, ABC’s design team did adjust the proportions of the logo to ensure readability at smaller scales. The padding around the logotype has been increased, and the removed gradient improves the overall contrast of the mark. The ascender of the “B” has been shortened. An update that may not serve ABC as well is that the counterspace of the “C” has been even further enclosed. This adjustment may make the logo less legible at a smaller scale.

To further extend their brand, ABC also introduced an alternate outline version of the logo, which is used in creative applications, including as a window through which photography can be highlighted. Overall, these optimizations have been made to better serve the modern context of where this logo will live – from television to large-scale billboards, to their app icon, to the favicon on their site.

3. Plan for Longevity

The ABC brand has been stripped of the ornamentation and effects that dated it, and while the actual updates may appear minimal, the purposes they serve have set the visual identity up for success over the next several years.

Many associations have a long legacy and history that holds the trust of their members. In many cases, the solution is to retain some of that history and essence in a visual form that is streamlined and optimized for a digital age.

Take note of current design trends, but do not overly rely on them. Your association needs an enduring brand that resonates with your members, community, and industry, and ideally that visual identity will serve your association well for the next ten years.

In what ways can your association benefit from an updated, modernized brand? If you think it may be the right time for your organization, set up a free consultation.

Want to spitball a few ideas and see how we may be able to help?

Let's Talk