Global ad agency DDB has gone under the knife and emerged with a new logo that harks back to its earlier years.

Rebranding is always contentious with well-established companies – even more so when the company is itself in the business of rebranding.

While a changing logo can easily be dismissed as inconsequential, it's worth remembering that it's the visual cue representative of a company. It's on the website, on every letterhead and it's plastered outside the building. If it's aesthetically ugly or utterly mundane, people will notice.

DDB's rebrand, which rolled out globally across all offices including Auckland, gives a nod to the company's founders, featuring the names Doyle, Dane and Bernbach on the new logo. This departure from the simple DDB initialism aims to acknowledge where the company came from, according to DDB Worldwide CEO Wendy Clark.

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"Great brands have a foot in their past and a foot in the future," she said, commenting on how the contemporary design coupled with founders' names expresses this idea simply.

DDB's old logo on left compared to the redesigned version on the right. Image/DDB.
DDB's old logo on left compared to the redesigned version on the right. Image/DDB.

DDB has also released a video clip alongside the rebrand, which shows the creative journey of the company from a single Manhattan office in 1949 to the juggernaut it is today.

The short clip features ads from around the world, and Kiwis will likely recognise a few from the local market.

Among the local ads featuring in the global rundown of the agency's best work are snippets from Lotto NZ's heist ad, Netsafe's Re:scam initiative, Steinlager's campaign calling on rugby fans to claim their territory at the airport and Speight's ad featuring a bloke teaching his mate how to dance.

What makes a great logo?

International graphic designer Michael Beirut recently told online publication Vox that he is often ambivalent about logos.

Using the example of the Nike swoosh, he says that it's important to remember that logos are rarely celebrated from the day they're made.

"People come to me and they'll say, 'oh, I want something like the Nike swoosh'. They think that the Nike swoosh was the Nike swoosh from the day it was drawn, but it was nothing the day it was drawn," Beirut says.

Interestingly, it was a design student who first drew the Nike swoosh and the company's founders weren't that fond of it. The story of Nike was far from an overnight success.

Beirut explains that the recognisable mark on the side of the company's shoes only garnered its meaning once the Nike marketing machine kicked into gear and associated the symbol with "the very idea of athletic achievement itself".

"That's exactly how religious symbols work," Beirut says in the interview.

"It's not just inherent in shapes, but it's about what those shapes have come to represent in the minds of the people that are looking at them."

The onus lies on the company to give the logo meaning.

"It's really about thinking of these symbols as empty vessels and then you pour the meaning into them," Beirut says.

What this means is that initial revile that people might have at logo change is often misguided. If a new logo is to be seen at first as an empty vessel, judgment is better reserved for when it has actually been filled with something.