It has been quite some time since the City of Melbourne rebranding project, which has arguably popularized the concept of branding design that is adaptive and modular enough to be used in a variety of physical and digital settings.

Is there an accepted term for this philosophy or style of branding design, which focuses on identity and logo image branding that produces similar types of results? I have seen the term modular logo and rule based design used to create similar concepts, but I don't think it is inclusive of the design style that influences such types of design directions.

If there are some other well-known examples and references to such design styles that would be most helpful.

A similar question on Dynamic Identities was previously asked before that might be of interest.

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    Dynamic identities sounds like a good term to me. Dec 12, 2019 at 1:41
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    ReaIly good topic - thanks for this post, I hope you get lots of interest. I was just looking at an article the other day on the evolution of the MTV branding advertwiki.com/2019/06/07/the-evolution-of-mtv and also the indent branding of BBC2 superunion.com/work/bbc-two
    – Mark Read
    Dec 12, 2019 at 4:02
  • Hi Michael, are you a student or a writer by any chance? this has great legs for a juicy study. If it is can you keep this thread updated with findings, wish I had time myself for this one. Thanks, Mark.
    – Mark Read
    Dec 13, 2019 at 1:10
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    @MarkRead I am just a humble UX designer :D There are plenty of interesting questions I want to ask over at UXSE but some are better for GDSE :) Dec 14, 2019 at 1:29

2 Answers 2


Dynamic identities / flexible logos / flexible visual identities

The increasing ubiquity of screens allowed dynamic identities to really take off. While brands have typically invested to maintain highly coherent looks, logos have long been delivered in different color schemes (B&W, CMYK, Pantone, RGB) and sometimes orientations (landscape, portrait). The way we design logos is adapting to our current reality which involves all sorts of media and platforms.

Irene Van Nes published one of the first books (2012) about these and calls them "dynamic identities", as part of "living brands". However, brands used this strategy as early as the 60's with Priba, a belgium supermarket and later, MTV in 1981.

These dynamic brands do not necessarily consist in moving identities, but instead introduce variability on at least one of the six components Irene Van Nes (2014) has categorized as:

  • logo
  • color
  • typography
  • graphic elements
  • imagery
  • language

Together, these form a

logo system [which] acts as a 'graphical framework' that can shift and change for different situations, allowing brands to start a conversation beyond it's own name, pointing to other ideas and issues that are important to them on any chosen day. (Paget, 2016).

Flexible logos are listed in Dieline's 2020 Trends. This is not really surprising given that logos now need to be able to accomodate all sort of platforms and sizes (responsive web design, social media icons, apps, and more.) And as we often witness with trending ideas, buzz words seem to be multiplicating, making discussions about them more complicated.

Irene Van Nes has categorized various variability introduction methods:

  • container or capsule: where an element can hold variable content (MTV)
  • wallpaper: where the logo is displayed over on a variable background (Aol.)
  • DNA: where a defined set of elements (eg. shapes in various positions) introduces variations (IDtv)
  • Formula: where the overall identity can be modified momentarily but is still is recognizable (Google Doodles)
  • customizer: where variability is not a predetermined input (OCAD)
  • generator: where the identity may vary in real time based on some uncontrolled external input (weather, noise, tweets...) (Nordkyn)

An article by Davis (2015) summarizes these methods very nicely.

One of the challenges of living brands obviously consists in finding a way to ensure recognizability, regardless of their aliveness. Other challenges include patenting and sustainability.

Variable logos

Variable logos were featured in 99design's logo trends for 2019. They build on top of dynamic identities by taking into account user personalization, and use data about the viewer to adapt.

Variable identity is responsive to a user’s behavior and knows how to recognize when it’s the right time to be there and say something and when it’s better to stay out. (Kim, 2019)

As such, variable logos add a layer of complexity by taking into account viewer preferences. They may use any of the previously dynamic identities methods of introducing variability but are not constrained to these. One promising typographic development for variable logos are variable fonts. In essence, variable logos are not so much concerned with recognizability as much as offering a tailored experience to viewers. In fact, each variation may be completely unique.

There is big potential in this approach. Each new release becomes an instant collectible and adds to the brand’s communication environment. (Plau Type & Design, 2019)

It makes sense that this may be one of the next steps in the logo design trade, when we look at how everything we see online is increasingly getting tweaked to fit our preferences.


Brand architecture is the relationship between brands within an organization and how they interact with one another. five Different Types of Branding Strategies Company Name Branding. Well-known brands leverage the popularity of their own company names to improve brand recognition. ... Individual Branding. ... Attitude Branding. ... Brand Extension Branding. ... Private Label Branding. What is hybrid branding? The hybrid brand architecture is a mixture of two or more brand architectures: masterbrand, sub-brand, endorser brand and freestanding brand. It is typically used when a firm is changing brand architectures, or acquiring existing brands through mergers or acquisitions. The best corrolary for this type of brand identity system is found in large consumer corporations carrying multiple brands, otherwise known as a “house of brands.”

Companies like Proctor & Gamble or Nestle have their own core brands, but the products themselves carry the core weight of consumer-facing brand value.

In the digital product world, a perfect example of this is Stripe. Their mark is perfectly suitable, but it’s intentionally vanilla. Stripe’s identity is based on color and shapes, which is seen throughout their site. These elements are then used to create branding around each of their products Visual Categorization For many product companies, iconifying your products might not be necessary at all. Instead, you may choose to leverage a base logo and tweak its visuals in a meaningful way. In traditional brand architecture, this is more akin to a “branded house” strategy where the core brand serves as the driver for all sub-brands.

Back in 2012, USA Today dramatically simplified their previous mark into a filled circle with supporting type.

It may feel like they totally lost the brand equity they’d built with their iconic globe logo from decades before, but the intention was to re-architect their brand to better support the content they served.

There are three main types of brand architecture models: the branded house, the house of brands, and the endorsed brand. Each option comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.

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    Welcome! The self-promo stuff -- logo, phone, etc. -- is inappropriate in questions/answers. If you wish to add promotional information you can do that in your profile.
    – Scott
    Dec 5, 2021 at 3:51

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