If you have used Google over the last couple of days, (so that’s all of you then) you may have noticed that Google has taken it’s logo experimentation to another level of evolution. First up was Monday’s joyful little play around with the dots reacting and expanding to your mouse/hand/pad gestures. Much buzz ensued about the meaning behind such a cute example of coding, was it another trailer for HTML5, or something else? Well, The Huffington Post (of all places) revealed it was for the launch of CSS3. Mystery solved then.

The next day however, another, albeit much subtler logo experiment surfaced. I’ll be honest, I missed this one, until of course I started typing in and lo-and-behold the familiar colours of Google sprang to life over the monotone grey. Cute. The question was; why?

The answer revealed itself the next day. What we had just witnessed was, to all intents and purposes, a ‘trailer’ for Google Instant, the new updated search service, that predicts faster than you type. (As speedily illustrated below) but exhibited through the logo itself. Super smart I thought.

Then I thought about it a bit more, has this done been before? Maybe it’s a really obvious thing to do. I acutally don’t beleive, that. It takes guts, and a clear understanding of your brand to have the verve to experiment with something like this. It’s not like Google haven’t done this before, from the moon landings to the anniversary of the release of The Wizard Of Oz, google has consistently done cool, cute things with it’s logo. Yet, somehow, this all feels different. It’s not just reskinning a logo for commemorative purposes. This is the future of logos, and as such Identity systems as whole.

The key difference is the evolution of the logo from a 2d (or 3d) flat, fixed object, to something more liquid, a movable evolving entity, is that it can take on or disrupt it’s form while still evoking the personality of the brand at it’s core. This involves and evolution of design thinking as well. This technology is suddenly unleashing a new dynamic for brands. It’s use as a live product demonstration also pushes the role of a logomark much further than previously thought. The standard perception of a logo (indeed where the word ‘branding’ derives from) is a mark of quality. In it’s strong rigid form, it is meant to express confidence, assuredness, an anchor in an ever revolving and changing marketing mix.

It’s inevitably easier for Google to do this than thousands of other brands. Billions of eyeballs every day are intimately familiar with the Google logo. It’s subtle (read: traditional) evolutions would, to the untrained (or not bothered) barely register. Especially since the last update had been a decade in the making. That doesn’t make it an easier thing to do. That takes (if you pardon the pun) balls to radically reshape and play with your most identifiable asset.

The play point is key here. Back when I wrote about Open Source Branding last year, one of the slides that resonated most with people was this;

“Open Source Brands provides gaps for people to play in.”

The notion of ‘play’ can be multifaceted in itself, but these cheeky little experiments with twist and distort the notion of traditional idenitity schemes in exciting ways. It helps show not only how far the web is evolving our perception of brands, but also how the standard tools of the digital world, with a little bit of guts an imagination, can help us rethink our own industry for the future(present).

Google might ‘just’ have been trailing a new product and new coding system, but in doing so they pointed out just where the future of Branding is now.

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