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The Best and Worst Identities of 2016, Part 1: The Most Notable Reviewed

Announced Dec. 19, 2016 by Armin

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This first installment — of six total coming this week and next — looks at the most notable projects in terms of notoriety and media attention received. These are neither the best nor the worst, although a few make repeat appearances in other lists, but simply the most visible. Listed very much in order.

We will be back with regular posts around January 4, 2017.

See also:
Part 2: The Best Reviewed
Part 3: The Worst Reviewed
Part 4: The Best Noted
Part 5: The Worst Noted
Part 6: The Best Friday Likes

Regardless of the design, it’s the unprecedented opening of the design process that has made the collaboration between johnson banks and Mozilla notable. Sharing work-in-progress with a client is hard enough behind closed doors that to do it out in the open and inviting critique takes courage. And/or insanity.

With Apple and Microsoft taking over most hardware and software conversations, it’s easy to forget about this other giant. Never considered a “design” company their latest update at least starts to move them in the right direction but still with plenty of catching up to do.

The biggest airline redesign this year went a little far with the abstraction of its well-known kangaroo icon — some of the 3D renders are like concept art for the next Stranger Things monster — but it still remains unmistakably Qantas. The wordmark was a huge improvement.

This is one of those where time has been kind to the 10-month-old controversial redesign. What seemed crazy at the time, feels oddly familiar now. I had the chance to visit The Met recently and the new logo and identity work great in situ and in applications. It helps its case that I considered the old logo to be more archaic and less nostalgic than most detractors made it out to be.

Not being an ardent soccer fan limits either my appreciation or (the mostly) apprehension this redesign received in the media. I’m still undecided on how much I like the new logo… I’m somewhere between a little and medium but I do know that I don’t dislike it. The identity got a nice assist from the on-air look by DixonBaxi.

Of all the logos worthy of joining the questioning of “why bother?” this is one of the top. The old logo was fine and the new logo is an improvement in no way. It’s not that it’s a terrible logo — although, maybe, yeah, it is — but, at least so far, it has done nothing to move the brand in any direction… perhaps because it’s pointing it two opposing ones.

Just when you thought it was safe to forget about Kodak — and you probably already had — it came back with a nice revival of its icon and some promising new packaging approaches.

Somewhere between a punchline and a legitimate source of nutrition, Taco Bell made news with a head-scratcher of an update.

After a string of minimalist logos this and last year, Mastercard and Pentagram pulled off the most convincing case of the trend through a logo that supported and benefited from the drastic reductionism.

Already a top source for media frenzy, Uber’s logo redesign got a lot of attention and thanks to an in-depth article in Wired we got some rare insight into How Not to Design Identities 101, with a controlling CEO and weekend work sessions in full display. To add insult to injury, Uber dropped its well-known “U” app icon in exchange for an atom, or a bit, or a… forget it, it doesn’t matter.

Speaking of app icons… Instagram changed their vintage-looking camera, along with a redesign of their app, for an abstract icon of a camera. Not bad, not great. Effective due mostly because it’s probably one of the most pressed app icons in users’ phones so it was bound to become second-nature quickly, efficiently, and fairly effortlessly. For how drastic a change this was, it didn’t face the negativity or friction many of the others on this list did. #blessed

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