We’ve noticed and commented on a variety of branding techniques and trends over the past couple of years:

Here’s another, on this self-appointed red-letter day: "Red & White Letters Forming a Two Word Brand — Often on a Black Background."

The first time I noticed this form of visual identity being repeated was when SmashBurger rolled into Minneapolis. I specifically recall pursuing a double-take as I drove by, having great interest in the close similarity to the GameStop visual identity:

During this particular period of time I was spending a lot of time patronizing both brands with my boys, which got me wondering whether there must be some marketing science in support of using this red/white lettering visual identity for a specific demographic — boys between the ages 10-16.

Then, I really thought I must be on to something when SportClips came to town, a new haircut spot geared toward essentially the same demographic:

But, as I started paying a bit more attention, I realized there may very well be marketing science behind this popular look and feel, but it most certainly isn’t tied to the demographic I had thought:

Is it possible all these were inspired by the distinctive Verizon Wireless visual identity?

What brands have I missed using a similar red/white lettering form of visual identity?


Hat tip to Chris in Michigan on the Coke Zero visual identity:

Another UPDATE:

  • James Mahoney

    Interesting post, as always, Steve.
    I think a couple of things might be happening here. Awhile ago, I noticed an uptick in logos that eliminated word spacing through the use of color or shading. It’s a handy device for shortening multi-word phrases and such, and can make for some interesting, word-based visuals. I also wondered whether the ridiculous convention of presenting URLs as a string of all lower-case words had something to do with triggering the visual explorations.
    In addition, and separate from this, is the question of color. I suspect a lot of the work we’re seeing today is predicated on “web safe colors.” Since the web-safe palette is (or was) comparatively limited, it drives a lot of similarity. For example, a design colleague and I had a string of clients who adopted blue and orange for their corporate colors. These colors show well, and accurately, across the multiple browsers. The downside is that it breeds lots of visual sameness.
    A third element in what you’re seeing is undoubtedly the copycat effect. “Geez! That red and white on black with striking typography looks really cool! Let’s do that!” Never underestimate the siren lure of a powerful or evocative presence. (By way of illustration, and to badly paraphrase a classic question: How many swooshes and arcs can you fit on the head of a logo?)

  • James, I always enjoy your insights — thanks for sharing. I hadn’t considered the “web safe colors” aspect — good information to know. Makes a trademark type wonder what kinds of functional arguments might lurk when one digs into the reasons behind the color choices being made.

  • Randall Hull

    What you are seeing is yet another trend. The design industry is prone to this practice. My opinion on these trends has changed over several decades in the industry. It used to bother me but now it seems more like a rain storm — wait awhile and it will pass.