Game development company Ubisoft received heavy criticism and applause when it unveiled its latest logo. Ubisoft’s new logo design, introduced in May 2017, stands out for its minimalism. It discards the trappings of a 2003 shiny swirl while retaining its essential shape. The colors and tone are different as well. Ubisoft’s new design brings simplicity to the brand and expresses old values in a more straightforward manner.
Ubisoft adopted the concept of a swirl back in 2003. The colors in the new brand logo, however, are a new concept for the brand. The new logo uses a single black color on the logo itself, set against a white background. The colors are deliberately simple to carry the minimalism of the design to near its limits.
For the designer who has been paying attention to design trends, the switch to what is essentially a flat design will not present as much of a surprise. Using flat design brings the Ubisoft logo in alignment with a trend that has been dominant in design over the last six years. While flat design existed before then, it was not a popular style until major tech companies began using it in their designs. With Microsoft applying flat design in their Windows Mobile OS, and Apple shifting iOS to a flat design, others caught on at last.
Flat design as applied to the current Ubisoft logo looks most elegant in the version of the logo that has a white swirl against a darker background. The simple thick white line paints a minimalist object that is expressive despite its simplicity. White lends itself well to flat design and works very effectively with this logo.
The white Ubisoft logo is meant to go on top of video game images and video. Having it appear in white makes it unmistakable. The color, therefore, serves to make the brand concept visible in a variety of environments where many colors may be jostling for attention. For example, it may be used on videos and as a preloader in games, making it vital to have something that’s easy to see.
Flat design is not without its critics. Some designers have noted that it can lead to serious usability issues with click elements that have no interactivity cues. Flat Design 2.0 attempts to fix that, with recommendations for subtle shadows, highlights and other techniques that add depth to flat design. In the absence of skeuomorphism, the shape and structure of the Ubisoft logo are more overt. Users unfamiliar or unimpressed with the flat design were quick to express their distaste for this new logo. When a new game loads and the user is confronted with the flat logo, that’s a moment of truth for the swirl logo.
While it’s not the most complex logo design, the shape and its flat execution are instantly recognizable. In addition, it’s easier to customize this design with unique animations for each individual Ubisoft game. Given that game players prefer good animations at the beginning of a game, a white shape can be animated in countless ways. It could change color, morph, and do a variety of sleek transitions. Simplicity is, therefore, an asset, and the company explained there would be cool animations of the logo inside video games.
In addition, Ubisoft explained the motivation behind the swirl shape. The company explained that the swirl shape is deliberately made to look hand-drawn rather than smooth. Likewise, the letter “O”, in the text underneath the swirl, has a cracked edge on the left. The hand-drawn look represents Ubisoft’s valued “human qualities.” These are:
For a gaming company, being identified with a bit of madness is not as bad as it would be for, say, a bank or a construction company. Rather, certain fans will value the brand for exactly that. Gaming is not meant to be a coldly logical experience.
You will also notice that the new Ubisoft logo has an evenly balanced swirl with its origin at the center. This was the case in the earlier version of the logo but becomes clearer in the current iteration. The swirl features a curvature that falls short of the Golden Ratio. The effect is playful and pokes fun at the “perfection” of spirals representing the Golden Ratio.
The lettering under the shape is in a white sans-serif font. The white color unifies both the image and text. The font is simple and, except for the broken letter “O,” easy to read. It fits in with the flat design of the swirl, which is, likewise, simple. It is this consistency in design philosophy that signifies a well-thought design.
To better understand the context of this new Ubisoft logo, you will need to take a trip back in time, to the first Ubisoft logo from the 1980s. This was a true retro-style logo with impressive block lettering and bright, attention-grabbing colors. It had super-hero like characteristics, with the special giant font announcing a larger-than-life brand. “Ubisoft” was divided into two words, “Ubi” and “soft”. The 3D design of the block lettering was nonetheless cartoon-like, which was consistent with Ubisoft’s games and entertainment focus.
In 1995, Ubisoft adopted a more corporate-looking logo for the roaring nineties. While this version of the logo was not very inspiring, Ubisoft came out in 2003 with the idea of the swirl for the first time. The 2003 logo had a purple, detailed swirl. This was a swirl with a blue color and plenty of depth to the picture. For the time, it was very futuristic and thrilled Ubisoft’s fans when used inside video games.
The 2017 iteration of the Ubisoft logo takes away the blue color of the previous logo but the basic shape remains the same. It is a stripping away, to achieve a result the company has described as “minimalist, modern and monochromatic.” While it will take some getting used to for many fans, the logo design is a logical evolution from the previous swirl.
The simplification embraces human imperfection. Rather than draw perfectly smooth lines like a computer would, it uses broken lines on the swirl itself. You can clearly see where the line starts and ends. In the previous logo, the ends could not be discerned. They blended smoothly. In this new design, the flat design and perceptible ends create the impression of simplicity. It is this feature, above all, that binds the design together and defines a more resolute image for the company.
This logo design succeeds because it defies the previous bombastic brand images to tell Ubisoft’s story simply. The dedicated fan will get it right away. Ubisoft is about delivering a thrilling experience through games like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Rayman and Prince of Persia. When it delivers on that simply-defined mission, it fulfills its mission, and there is no need to complicate things.