This week in the internet: Google just messed with your logo.

As of last week, your logo has never looked worse.

Time was, a prospect’s first exposure to your brand identity was on a slick business card or on a finely crafted print ad. A website perhaps.

Scrap that. Last week, Google changed the game.

Now it’s going to be a crappy, blurry, twenty square pixel blob next to your business name in search results. Automatically scaled to size. Nasty.

That’s the world your brand lives in now.

Google claims ‘the change clarifies the source of information that surfaces when a user enters a search query’. Which, you know, begrudgingly makes sense. Bad actors propel themselves to the top of any search query if they choose to manipulate SEO through fair and nefarious means. I don’t love what they’ve done, but I get it.

What it means for us concerned with branding is that scalability has to be top of mind from now on. A cursory look into how some of the largest brands on the internet are working at this scale is truly revealing. I’ve divided them into three camps.

1. Brands that already have simplicity in their DNA

Us pesky designers have always been on our client’s cases about keeping identities clean. Now it’s paying off. Brands with simple colour schemes and easily identifiable shapes are by far working the best.

Of course you’d expect tech brands that are native to the screen environment to do well. Google, Atlassian, Instagram and Twitter are great examples (Apple, surprisingly, haven’t done a great job of it at all. That grey they’ve used is a trifle insipid, don’t you think?). But brands with strong, bold design such as the Commonwealth Bank, ABC television, BP and Woolworths are also transitioning well.

2. Brands that took on the challenge and did it right

Some legacy brands have the kind of logos that don’t naturally scale to such a small size. The best design responses have found a unique element of their logo, so that the scaled down version identifies clearly as the brand despite being only partially rendered.

Westfield is a great example of this. They took the uniquely designed ‘W’ from their wordmark and used that by itself. Simple, elegant, identifiable.

3. Brands that simply haven’t bothered

Unfortunately this list is long and varied. And it’s not just small players either.

It’s patently obvious that no-one at these businesses has looked at how their logo works at mini-blob size. If you’re one of the largest companies in the world, the instant this change arose someone should have been on it. The longer you leave it, the more it makes you look lazy and unprofessional.

The Hall of Shame: Coca-Cola, BHP, Caltex, Hyundai, Aldi, VB, ANZ, Zara, Adidas and, possibly the worst of the bunch, that one on the bottom left. See if you can guess what business that is. It’s an enormous global brand.

Now, I doubt these large companies are going to suffer a major loss in shareholder value because of a dodgy logo on Google. It’s a bad look, but it’s not a fatal misstep.

But what about you, Small to Mid-Sized businessperson?

If you’re in a competitive category you need to look more stitched up than the other businesses fighting for eyeballs in a search result. It’s worth taking a look at your logo and getting it optimised.

Don’t expect miracles from your designer. Nothing you do will make it look fantastic. This is an exercise in making your logo look the least bad it can be. That’s honestly the best you can do.

1. Ensure it’s simple , even if it is only part of your logo.

Particularly if you have a vertical logo, such as a logotype, you might need to find the essential element that acts as a shorthand for your brand. Remove the superfluous and be as bold as you possibly can. If there are spaces between different elements, consider whether to emphasise them to make the discrete shapes clearer.

2. Remove excess colours.

Simplicity is key. If you can use one bold colour, great. If you need to use two colours, I’d suggest that a good idea would be to make one of them black.

Of course there are exceptions – Microsoft has used four colours in the windows icon. But because it is so simple they get away with it.

3. Only use typography if your logo is only typography.

Here’s the big reveal. That strange rectangle I asked you to guess earlier on.

The definition of worst practice for scaling an identity at every turn. To solve this, perhaps you’d suggest having only the ‘H’ in a box by itself. It might work better in positive or negative as well. Are there any other brand assets that can be used? An icon that looks like a key? Nonetheless, they have to do something. And soon.

Good luck.

Scalability in search results is just a minor detail, but you don’t want to be known as the kind of business that allows minor details to slip, do you?

If you’d like to know more about creating a beautiful, bulletproof identity, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Mike Lind at Thunderous for a chat.