This is a very old entry — images are small, formatting is off.
To end the year on a positive note here are The Best Identities of 2011. As much as I enjoy posting the train wrecks, the Bests are more fun, mostly because my selections tend to generate plenty of disagreement. You can catch the worst here. Enjoy and see you in 2012.
No. 12: XL Group
A global insurance company that isn’t afraid to look serious or even mean, with a super sharp and blacker than black logo. The applications added some levity and a playful animation showed its flexibility.
No. 11: Atlassian
Jeff Kriege (in-house)
Where hundreds of swoosh-based, humanoid-shaped logos have gone horribly wrong, Atlassian succeeds with a very excellent execution in form, counterforms, and typography. In-house designer Jeffe Kriege even posted a behind-the-scenes look at the design of the identity.
No. 10: CooperVision
While a lot of commenters moaned that this was the opposite of “seeing clearly” — after all, who wants to think about their vision looking like a smooshed grape — I thought the idea of being able to see even the most delicate detail of the watercolor communicated the right thing. Plus, I just want to eat all those colorful blobs and wash them down with a glass of rainbow.
No. 9: Voices of Youth
The logo played with all the elements of the name: An implied “V”, a Gestalt-ish “Y”, and a speech bubble for voices. While it could have been cliché, the logo was one of the crowd favorites of the year. The applications and supporting icon system made this one of the best rounded identities.
No. 8: Little Chef
I’m a sucker for both monoweight script wordmarks and happy, chubby mascots. This revitalization of UK roadside food chain fulfills both of these personal attractions with colorful joy.
No. 7: OCAD U
One of the best, and truest, flexible identities of the year. Simple, solid, and malleable. But most importantly, student, faculty, and alumni approved.
No. 6: Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art
Although it had a luke-warm reception when we first posted it, due in part to lack of proper materials to show, the Mathaf identity got a second wind after taking Best of Show in the 2010 Brand New Awards and we were able to post this comprehensive follow-up.
No. 5: MIT Media Lab
A nerd-fueled flexible identity with a web interface that allows people to generate their very own iteration. The logo is kind of ugly, but you can’t stop looking at it.
No. 4: Current
A logo designed first to live on screen through beautiful, bold typography mapped on a waving flag. Even in static form it’s pretty badass.
No. 3: IFC
Just like its tagline, “Always On. Slightly Off.”, this identity is so on it hurts. Smart, funny, and totally unsexy (in a good way). One of my favorite aspects of the identity is that it uses like five different sans serif typefaces, sort of a big no-no but it works remarkably off here.
No. 2: Peru
How do you capture the essence and totality of a country? Like this. Exactly like this. Something that no other country could own, rooted in the tradition and visual culture of the place, with a sophisticated modern touch. A remarkably comprehensive identity.
No. 1: Starbucks
Lippincott + Starbucks Global Creative
From the moment this rolled out I loved it. You can’t really revolutionize a global brand like Starbucks, it would be too hard and risky. This was the perfect evolution to elevate it into an iconic brand, one beyond coffee. Losing the name around the siren allowed the icon to be the star of the brand and it performs like one in all the applications — see here. This may not be the identity with the most visual pow of the year but the sheer effort it takes to move a brand of this size into a more refined and sophisticated aesthetic, especially for a brand that takes up so much of our visual landscape, is well worth applauding.