The Next Dimension - Logo Design Goes 3D


Ok so three dimensional computer design has been around for ages. It is used for everything and anything, on print design and on screen. So why is it that we still design flat 2d logos? Is it because our clients like to be able to go to print with just one PANTONE colour - surely not in today's technologically advanced printing era. Whatever the reason it occurred to me when reviewing Vodafone's new logo that suddenly corporates have actually started to utilize the 3rd dimension in their re-brands and new logo designs.

To be fair this is not a movement that has started this morning - its been building for a while now like the distant rumble of thunder on a warm afternoon. You may recall that Windows have had a 3D element in their branding for ages. Also Apple have really pioneered the glass 3D style. However large corporates and organizations using 3D styles have been very few and far between until recent years. Consider the list below who all have added slight 3D effects to their brands recently:

Vodafone
Quark Xpress
UPS
Wikipedia
Firefox
BT
Sony Ericsson
Nvidia
Logitech
Skype
AT&T
Volkswagon

A pretty impressive list and there are many more. So is this trend going to escalate? Historically companies have been hesitant to choose brands which have more than 2 flat colours. The reason for this is because of the cost of printing in 2 colour is cheaper and easier to achieve the desired effect. 2-3 years ago the price difference between printing 2 colour then 4 colour was immense - but in my experience the price difference isn-t that much nowadays. Also with the maturity of digital printing, 4 colour printing is becoming cheaper and cheaper. There is also the factor of many new brands being displayed on screens for the web and on mobiles - the flat 2D brands are being freshened up for this medium which has in turn influenced the brand styles. Also the increase in the ability of manufacturing technology has meant that on packaging and signage 3D brands can really be given some impact. For example the Sony Ericsson phones hold an actual 3d logo on their cases. Volkswagen cars also are a good example of logos being actually manufactured in 3D as part of the product

For all of these reasons (and - I suspect the urge to move forward and appear fresh and innovative) brands are giving themselves this subtle third dimension. Incidentally these brands can also work in the flat 2 colour traditionally printed styles- any good brand designer would ensure that this is the case. So these guys are getting the best of both worlds.

What impact does this have on us all then? Well I think we need to be careful before we all rush off to buy 3D Studio Max or start a Google search for some extreme Photoshop bevel styles. Its way more clever then that. Subtlety is the way and these brands show this. Soft shadows and minimal gradients is the way. I think that we will see these effects being played with and I'm sure we will have a few hideous mistakes appearing soon as it is a difficult style to harness. I also think we will soon be seeing some clever use of shapes and as the public get used to the styles, companies will want to wow them and push things forward in new directions. From a design industry perspective then I think this trend is fantastic.

However I think we will, as a society, mainly continue virtually oblivious. Subconsciously however we may become more and more attracted to the 3D brands because the image is becoming associated with large corporates and professionalism. Trust, quality and peace of mind is also being built around this style with these quality brands adding to its persona. I think that soon many smaller businesses may look to refresh their image in this way and that eventually the flat 2D style will be a distant memory of the 90's and early 00's.

So, dear reader, what do you think about this trend? Will this rumble of thunder pass us by or will it soon be raining Third Dimensional Logos? Do you like these 3D logos? Where will this trend end? Share your thoughts on the next dimension...