Clients generally want their logos to be simple, understandably, because a simple logo is easier to digest and is often easier to like. Simple logos aren’t always right for a brand, but they are often what the client, product and audience want to see.


However, there are only so many geometric shapes in the world that can be put to use in a visually simple design, and this desire for simplicity can have knock on effects elsewhere: namely logo designs that look a lot like existing logo designs.


It is the worst case scenario for both designer and client, to find that their best efforts in producing something unique is already being unique for someone else. A timely case in point, with only five years to go you’d expect the logo for the 2020 Japanese Olympics to be locked down. Except a designer (Olivier Debie) who created a logo for the Théâtre de Liège in Belgium has pointed out the striking resemblance between the two logos.


The Japanese Olympic logo designer, Kenjiro Sano, claimed not to have seen the Belgian one – which is quite possible, but the similarity is there for all to see. Famously, Airbnb found themselves in a familiar situation last year when they revealed their new logo, only to discover that it resembled quite a few logos already in use. Their stout defense revolved around the specifity of the brief – it was “designed to abstract the shapes of a person, a heart, a house, and a location pin, all while evoking the shape of the “A” in Airbnb”. And yet… Automation Anywhere (in particular) may offer a very different service but they have an almost identical logo to Airbnb.


Back to the drawing board for the Japanese Olympic committee, and a lesson learned for anyone interested in the benefits of making sure that your new logo is as distinctive as possible before the (in this case huge) unveiling.


We like the way that Mike Davidson (head of design at Twitter) has it:


Tell yourself at every step in the design process that someone has undoubtedly already thought of this and what can you do to really set it apart. In design, and particularly logo design, the pessimistic axiom that “everything has already been done” is becoming more and more true, and it is only the virtuous designer who can continue to stand out in a sea of sameness.


No matter how smart the idea, there’s a chance that someone has come up with something very similar. Of course a unique logo is possible – but just because it’s unique to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t already exist. As logo designers, it’s beholden on us to really know our field and to do our homework.