By Nick Hobson
Kia violated these four basic design principles.
Kia redesigned its logo in January 2021. The change was met with criticism and confusion. With its trendy, angular font, the stylized version resembled a space-age type signature. The K in Kia was clear. But regrettably, the IA looked more like an N. It even led to a spike in Google searches: “What is the new KN car brand?”
The rationale from the company was that the new logo represented its commitment to innovation and its ambitions to become a leader in the automotive industry. But it was a flop. It violated four basic principles of brand design.
1. Lack of clarity
The emblem was designed in an abstract and asymmetrical shape, leading to the confused “KN” interpretation. This lack of clarity made it more difficult for people to recognize and therefore remember the logo.
Brands like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Nike have logos that are instantly recognizable. These logos use clear and simple shapes and fonts that help people quickly identify and associate the logo with the brand.
2. Inconsistency with brand history
The new logo represented a significant departure from Kia’s previous logo, which was well-established and recognizable. The new logo was too great a departure from the old version. It lacked continuity for loyal customers.
Brands like Apple and Mercedes-Benz have logos that have evolved over time but still maintain a sense of continuity and connection to the brand’s history and values.
3. Difficulty in reproducing
The new emblem has intricate and complex lines and curves that could make it difficult to reproduce in smaller sizes, on merchandise or promotional materials, or in certain printing methods.
Nike has a logo that is easily reproduced across a variety of mediums, from billboards to merchandise. Such a logo uses simple and clear shapes and fonts that make it easy to read and reproduce in any size or formatting.
4. Overly complex
Some designers might argue that the new emblem is overly complex, with multiple layers and intricate details that could be distracting or confusing to customers.
Brands like Apple, Target, and FedEx have logos that use simple and minimalistic designs. These logos are easily recognizable and memorable, with clear and uncluttered designs that are easy for customers to visually process.
Brands undergo logo redesigns all the time. In the past decade or so, there’s a general pattern emerging: Brand logos being changed are becoming simpler. Mastercard, Instagram, and Google are all good examples of successful logo redesigns. They went more modern by simplifying. Elements of branding are getting flattened out, minimalized, colors reduced, and white space increased.
If Kia only knew this before they launched KN.
Feature Image Credit: Getty Images
By Nick Hobson
Chief behavioural scientist, Apex Scoring Solutions, BAD Sciences at Potential Project. @NickMHobson