Dropbox launched in 2007 and since then, has been a go-to for file storage and file sharing. They have more than 500 million active users, with this number set to grow to some 540 million until the end of the year. It is estimated that the company makes more than $1 billion per year.
Having all this in mind, it’s clear that Dropbox is a true file storage giant. And they decided it’s time to do a little bit of logo redesign once again.
Credits to the original logo go to the CEO and co-founder Drew Houston. Since then, it has been revamped three times, in 2008, 2012 and 2013. And in 2017, people at Dropbox concluded that it’s time for another redesign.
The new identity was created by NY and San Francisco-based COLLINS and shared with Dropbox’s in-house team, the Dropbox Brand Studio. Instrument, XXIX, Sharp Type and Animade also share credits.
This time, the redesign was more than just about the logo. The whole visual identity was substantially shifted.
The reason for this move was an overall rebrand that Dropbox tried to carry out. Let’s see why they did this and whether this was the right move.
As it was said, for years Dropbox was perceived exclusively as a file storage and sharing business. Now they’re trying to reinvent themselves and change the way people see them.
They launched Dropbox Paper, a collaborative document editor. This is a signal that they’re trying to broaden their field of operations and create a completely new story to enrich their brand.
A new visual identity was supposed to reinforce this attempt. As people from Dropbox admit themselves, they’re trying to present their service not only as a “place to store your files”, but “a living workspace where people and ideas come together.”
However, as a company that’s widely thought of as merely a cloud service where people keep their files, shifting this kind of perception may be a very difficult task.
At the first glance, the new logomark looks very similar to the old one. It seems as if Dropbox didn’t want to give up on their famous box-shaped logo that made them recognizable among their competitors.
Nevertheless, there’s a slight change that, when interpreted the right way, makes all the difference. The logo designers claim that their new identity echoes how they evolved from “keeping files in sync to helping keep teams in sync”.
Simply, the old logomark was an actual box. Now they changed it to only resemble a box and look more like a mere collection of surfaces.
This symbolizes an important transformation of the company. Instead of a closed box that’s meant for piling things up inside it, now it’s an “open platform”, a place that helps creators work, communicate and connect.
The new, modern logo is simpler and cleaner. The blue-tiled surfaces are elegant and polished.
They create a stacking illusion. Upward and outward. The spreading of ideas.
This is now supposed to be a platform to build upon, invent and create. It’s a great example of how a slight change, hardly even noticeable to the naked eye, can make a huge symbolic difference and be a great starting point for an overall rebrand.
However, great rebranding work the designers did with the logomark might’ve been somewhat undermined by the way they handled the alternative logo colors and the logotype.
Namely, the primary logomark colors have remained virtually the same – blue geometrical shapes on a white surface, although with a slightly darker shade of blue. These are the colors we all associate with Dropbox.
And this basic logo still looks very neat, as blue and white create a nice contrast. It’s not the aggressive and disturbing contrast that makes you want to avert your view, but rather a calming one that’s pleasant to look at.
Nevertheless, along with this basic logo Dropbox now also offers their users to customize their interface by choosing one of the numerous color combinations, apart from blue and white.
Doesn’t seem like they did something wrong there, right? And in fact, they seem to have a perfect explanation for this:
“Our new design system is built on the idea that extraordinary things happen when diverse minds come together. We communicate this visually by pairing contrasting colors, type, and imagery to show what’s possible when we bring ideas together in unexpected ways.”
So, this huge choice of colors, some of which are quite vibrant and intense has a justification. It should illustrate the company’s will to encourage diversity, as well as reinforce collaboration and exchange of ideas between different people and different minds.
There may be a slight problem with this, however. Namely, the designers’ community has always rated Dropbox’s ingenious minimalism and simplicity and that was the main reason why they embraced them. This move was obviously atypical and a bit out-of-character for the company.
While the idea behind the color choice is clever and noble, the execution may have been a bit over the top. It breathed some fresh air into the brand, but it also somewhat made the company look like they’re too anxious and nervous about changing the brand image as quickly and abruptly as possible.
Sometimes, this is simply not the best move and most brands prefer this change to happen gradually.
But at the end of the day, the real judges are not brand experts or the designers’ community. The judges should be the users and the amount of loyalty that they choose to show for the revamped brand in the long run. We’re yet to see how this works out for Dropbox.
As for logotype, it also underwent a slight modification.
First of all, the old wordmark was the same color as the logo itself, but the designers switched it to black now. Not much of a change at the first glance, but it’s nice to have a logomark and a logotype distinguished as two parts to the same whole.
Dropbox also employs a new typeface – Sharp Grotesk. While the logomark is more geometric than the old one, it seems that the logotype was meant to be more irregular and playful.
This is visible in the clipped bars as well as in the counters in the p and b that are not really perfectly balanced. All in all, the new font is refreshing, more emphasized but still quite simple.
Although the logotype is still minimal, the fact that users are offered all the possible weights and widths of the type family seems a bit problematic. Namely, this basically means they can use 259 different fonts.
This does offer a whole lot of variety, but this approach is again a bit different from what Dropbox used to stand for design-wise. Also, some of these fonts are so unlike each other that they may seem like they don’t belong to the same brand. Once again, whether this amount of variability is good for the brand or not remains unclear.
All in all, Dropbox’s logo redesign itself seems to be a success. It’s a proof how a very small, almost trivial modification can serve to mark a significant shift in the branding strategy.
At the same time, the fact that this modification was so miniscule means that the logo is still well recognizable and associable to the brand.
What remains problematic is that it will take a bit more than a slight change of logo for people to start seeing Dropbox as a creative platform instead of a file storage service. It will take some time and serious marketing efforts to change the image of the brand in such a radical way.
Moreover, the whole rebrand has maybe gone a bit too far from the Dropbox’s old design philosophy, with a huge variety of colors and fonts. It can be difficult to balance out the old and widely recognizable visual identity on one hand with the need for design innovations on the other. Time will show whether they did it properly.
In any event, it doesn’t take away much from an otherwise great logo redesign done by Dropbox. In combination with the typeface, the entire logo still looks clean, simple and straightforward, yet very clever and intriguing at the same time.
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