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The Year in Review, Part 10: The Best

I realize December 31 may not be the most heavily trafficked day to post the most significant Year in Review list but there is something very satisfying about ending this 10-part series on the very last day of the year. Philosophizing aside, I think this was a really strong year with a lot of great work that has benefitted from stronger working relationships between design firms and clients’ in-house teams that allow for more ambitious identities that will be able to be implemented consistently. In contrast to last year, where only 3 out of 15 selections were not U.S.-based companies and design firms, I love how much more global this year’s selections are, with 8 of the selections coming from outside the U.S. and even the number one selection could be considered global. Anyway, here are the best 15 projects of 2021. (Also, at the end of the list is a summary of the most favorited posts of the year with some additional thoughts.) I wish you all the best for 2022 and want to thank you for your support in this very weird year.

All Year-in-review Posts so far

Part 1: The Most Notable
Part 2: Recurring Trends
Part 3: The Most Not Great
Part 4: The Best Friday Likes
Part 5: The Best in Icons, Monograms, Wordmarks, and Mascots
Part 6: The Best in Proprietary Type and Use of Typography
Part 7: The Best in Color Palettes, Illustration, Photography, 3D Elements, and Motion
Part 8: The Best in Logo Evolutions, Logo Animations, Introduction Videos, Busiest Firms, and Post Titles
Part 9: The Best in Packaging
Part 10: The Best

 

 

New Logo and Identity for Gage & Tollner by Order

 

While the design was indeed beautiful and expertly crafted, this was one of the best presented and documented case studies of the year, showcasing the archeological approach to this storied establishment. See original post

 

 
Kaapelitehdas by BOND

 

In terms of bucking trends and offering a completely novel take, this wordmark and the supporting headlines in the same approach, provided a great plot twist to cultural space branding.See original post

 

 
Sweetgreen by COLLINS and In-house

 

As I was scrolling up and down this project to try to put into words what made it stand out, I realized there wasn’t a specific application or layout approach or hero identity element that stood out but it was the general approach and variety of elements that made this come together as a whole. See original post

 

 
New Logo and Identity for Story Espresso by For The People

 

Putting copywriting at the center of this identity paid off with a typographically-dense range of applications perfectly suited for a coffee shop encouraging patrons to linger and take the time to enjoy the many narrative styles presented in the various touchpoints, from the paper cups to the receipt. Also, that monster… so good.See original post

 

 
New Logo and Identity for Next Insurance by COLLINS

 

In a year that saw so much good use of illustration, Next packed the biggest visual punch and the identity supported it with big, bold, confident type and a striking color palette.See original post

 

 
New Logo and Identity for Papier by Ragged Edge

 

Bringing to life the tactility as well as ephemerality of paper, Papier presented its range of products as elegant, contemporary, and highly covetable.See original post

 

New Logo, Identity, and Packaging for Le Puzz by Little Troop

 

Perfectly nostalgic but without being a replica of vintage packaging, this brand of puzzles was pure joy and it managed to evoke that with a minimal color palette of black and yellow and two of the most basic type families available. See original post

 

 
New Logo and Identity for Canal Brasil by Tátil Design

 

Featuring one of the most ambitious variable type families to date, this identity could have rested on that alone but when activated through motion it took it to the next level and in its non-stop visual diversity is a great representation of the cultural richness of Brazil. See original post

 

New Logos and Identity for Derwent Valley by For The People

 

A stunning set of spot illustrations provide a rich and exciting textural foundation for beautiful layouts punctuated by great typography. See original post

 

 
New Logo and Packaging for New Holland Brewing by Design Bridge

 

Pound for pound, this might be the best evolution of the year, both in logo and packaging, taking the previously cheap look into a perfectly crafted system that is much more sophisticated but still very much approachable as a local, craft beer. See original post

 

 
New Logo and Packaging for Bahlsen by Auge Design

 

Breathing new life into the logo with improved beziers and the simple act of putting it an angle, this packaging system made old-fashioned biscuits feel exciting and even a little edgy. See original post

 

 
New Logo and Identity for hcma done In-house

 

A super weird wordmark serves as the cornerstone of an ambitious identity that puts production value front and center by avoiding mass-market vendors and instead partnering with specialists to create useful and beautiful objects but, aside from that, the identity positions hcma as an architecture and design firm that does things differently.See original post

 

New Logo and Identity for Squirrels by Supple Studio

 

As far as feel-good stories go, none felt more gooder than Squirrels, the new branch of the Scouts in the UK for 4- to 5-year-olds, that delivered a burst of joy and optimism through a smile-inducing logo and a brightly colored identity lead by a vibrant red. See original post

 

 
New Logo and Identity for San Francisco Symphony by COLLINS

 

This identity hits a high note thanks to a stately yet contemporary serif that comes alive in motion but that is equally energetic in static applications, reaching a crescendo that matches the stature of this symphony. See original post

 

 
New Logo and Identity for Burger King by Jones Knowles Ritchie

 

Released at the very start of 2021, the Burger King redesign boldly set the tone for 2021 and that celebrated a nostalgic desire most consumers didn’t know they had. It also set the standard by which most other major redesigns were measured and few — at this scale — delivered as resonantly as JKR’s fantastic reprise of Burger King’s bun logo that served as the building block for a playful identity that reinvigorated the second largest fast food hamburger chain in the world with a confidence and personality lacking in its main competitor that had the misfortune of releasing its lukewarm packaging redesign a month later.See original post

While the above selections and their order are strictly personal — taking into account, to a certain degree, everyone’s comments and poll results — I thought it would be interesting to compare my selections with the 15 most favorited posts of the year. There are two or three projects below that I may have controversially left out, like Piedmont Art Walk or Exposure, both of which I really enjoyed and that excelled in most aspects but that, in my view, didn’t face the broader challenges presented to most of this bigger-scale clients. The good news is that there is no one final answer or a single valid way to rank these projects and we all win from being able to learn from them and enjoy.

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