Refresh vs. Redesign: What’s Right For Your Brand?

Sep 11, 2023

We’ve seen the scenario before: a client approaches us for a branding project. Their company’s brand has been around for quite a while and their team is torn about whether they need a light brand refresh just to bring them into this century or to start from scratch and dive in for a total brand redesign. How do you know when you need a refresh or a redesign?

Let’s start with scope. What exactly is a brand refresh? When we think refresh, we’re talking about an update to an existing brand that may be looking dated. Perhaps the style of your logo mark was trendy during the days of Netscape but has not withstood the test of time. Or maybe your color palette is looking stodgy. And then there’s typography. Thinking a font can’t look out of style? Think again. Brand refreshes, at their most basic, can start with simple stylistic revisions to a brand that is basically in good shape. 

But brand refreshes can also take a few baby steps further and still be considered a “refresh”. Take, for example, our friends and clients, Piscataqua Savings Bank. When we first discussed a brand refresh with them, we weren’t entirely sure what they meant when they used the term “brand refresh” and didn’t want to shock them with more of an update than what they were hoping for. Here is the old Piscataqua Savings Bank logo. 

Old Piscataqua Savings Bank logo

The only non-negotiable that we knew of was that the ship needed to stay. But beyond that, did they want just a few tweaks to the existing logo mark? Or did they mean they wanted a more heavy duty update? Because of this, we’ve found that the best way to determine what a client means when they throw out the term “brand refresh” is to feel them out on it in a round one creative presentation. 


In our first round of creative for Piscataqua Savings Bank, we presented three logo options, all of which we felt were viable solutions. 


As you can see, each option took an extra baby step away from the existing Piscataqua Savings Bank brand. This exercise helped us to gauge their comfort level with change and preferred direction. And here’s the final product…

Piscataqua Savings Bank Brand Refresh

As you can see, the ship stayed but saw a major upgrade.

Just to hammer the point home, here are a few other brand refreshes we’ve done that bring new life to brands without losing the equity they’ve built over the course of their existence. For even more Stout Heart work, check this out.


But what about a brand redesign? 

This one requires quite a bit of soul searching. The very first question that needs to be answered is: what is the goal of your redesign? Is your business making a major change or pivot? Are you gearing up for major growth? There has to be a good reason for a brand redesign, particularly in a case where a business has built substantial brand equity over the years. A few more questions to shed light on direction for your brand::

Where are you in your brand journey? It is not uncommon for a brand redesign to be a good idea for a business emerging from its startup phase, particularly if branding was not a priority in your early days. If your best friend’s cousin who wanted to get some graphic design experience did your logo (not making that one up- we’ve seen it before), then now may be the time to do your housekeeping (and do it right).

How long has it been since you updated your brand? A long, long time? Then see above re: doing housekeeping.

What does your brand look like amidst your competitive landscape? A brand should help communicate what makes you different. If you make a collage of your logo amidst those of your closest competitors and they all look basically the same, the time may be right to change up your entire look and feel.

Are you prepared for the ripple effect of a brand redesign? Changing a logo and brand identity system can mean you’ll need to invest in updating signage, merchandise, business cards, vehicle wraps, packaging and beyond. While a brand refresh can cause a domino effect as well, it doesn’t always have to be major.

Do you feel your brand is still reflective of your brand’s values? This is a big one. Often a shift in brand values can call for big changes elsewhere. If your business has recently become a B Corp or realigned itself in other ways, it may be a good moment to ensure that this is represented within your identity.


Why Updating Your Brand Matters

Both brand refreshes and redesigns can help keep your brand relevant and can even improve brand recognition. They can improve brand perception and the way a consumer views your business and help reposition the brand in subtle ways. 

Either way, whether you decide a refresh is what’s best or you’re ready for a total redesign, we’d love to chat. Check out more of our work or get in touch.