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Is Burberry’s New Identity the End of the ‘Serif Wars’?


Design and branding experts weigh in on the British nostalgia of Daniel Lee’s new direction for Burberry

Is Burberry’s New Identity the End of the ‘Serif Wars’?
Photography by Tyrone Leboy, courtesy of Burberry.

At the start of this week the aesthetically-minded parts of the internet were set abuzz as Burberry wiped its social media accounts clean and proceeded to unveil its new identity.

A modernised logo and a campaign leaning heavily on the fashion house’s Britishness signalled a new era under new chief creative officer Daniel Lee.

The campaign stars British talent including musicians John Glacier, Shygirl and Skepta, actor Vanessa Redgrave, models Lennon Gallagher and Liberty Ross, and footballer Raheem Sterling. Also featured is Jun Ji-hyun, the South Korean actress Burberry named as a brand ambassador in 2022. All were photographed and filmed by Tyrone Lebon in undeniably British settings.

A refreshed brand logo also dropped on Monday featuring Burberry’s famous equestrian knight design, which was first created in 1901 and last changed in 1999 when the brand updated its name from Burberrys to Burberry. In 2018, the equestrian knight was removed.

There are no new designs in the campaign though. All the stars wear existing Burberry products for now. The new creative director’s collection for the house will not be revealed until London Fashion Week on February 20th.

LBB’s Alex Reeves spoke to some of the creative industry’s sharpest branding and design experts for a reaction.

Thomas Wilder

Global principal, Wolff Olins
Formally, I like the new mark. The move to a serif is a welcome change during a recent sans-serif frenzy. The proportions, spacing and weight are nice, although the E sticks out to me. It’s a bit hesitant overall but a nice improvement that feels more ‘Burberry’. What’s more interesting is this rebrand is the collision of two pervasive industry trends. The first, an incredible desire for nostalgia and second, a consistent need to keep pace with culture.
Nostalgia – When there is societal uncertainty, we tend to gravitate towards signals of comfort. It’s then no surprise some of the recently most celebrated rebrands leverage cues of more ‘idyllic’ times. Burger King, Co-op, Chobani, and now, Burberry.
Speed - It’s been five years since Burberry’s last evolution. Culture moves faster than ever and brands like Burberry must keep up. What was in vogue for a decade, is now several entertaining minutes on TikTok. The speed of evolution will only increase in the future. In short, Burberry leveraging their past has never felt more like their present.

Jill Verberkt

Glad to see the serif war is finally over. Brands are creating their own identity again and stepping away from ultra minimalistic logos.

The Equestrian Knight dates back from 1901 when the brand was still called Burberrys. The flag reads ‘prorsum’ – meaning forward in Latin. With the new identity, Burberry pays homage to its heritage while also setting the tone for the future.

It’s great to see them bring back such a complex piece of iconography. These days we tend to make logos as adaptable as possible, but the new Burberry logo manages to strike a perfect balance between versatile and distinguished.

Blake Kotenbrink

SVP, luxury practice, Momentum Worldwide
The launch could not have been better timed (new CEO and creative director, and on the heels of Lee’s debut collection). In 2023, luxury acknowledges heritage but always through fresh and innovative interpretations. Lee seems to have achieved this with great consideration to Burberry’s steeped in history and legendary brand codes. From the ad campaign, utilising iconic London landmarks and British faces, to the refreshed equestrian knight logo and new electric blue typeface, the aesthetics are all there to bring the brand forward, but more so, to tap into a new generation of Burberry fans who believe dressing today is not just about a great outfit, but more so about how to express their self-identity. This is what the rebrand will hopefully accomplish for the 100+ year fashion brand.

Alex Shifrin

President, LP/AD

I wouldn’t call what Burberry did a rebrand. They’ve updated and brought back some traditional iconography in replacement of what they did back in 2018. I have to guess that given the hyper-distraction of the pandemic and war in Europe, no one really noticed the 2018 changes in the first place. It’s still called Burberry and the subtle changes to its iconography are no different than the subtle changes to a fashion’s spring collection. As for the campaign, it looks like the pages of Vice Magazine circa 2008. Are we back to trust-fund chic again? Great. I miss those days.

Naeem Alvi

Founder and managing director, Notepad

In a world of very samey and very dull brand identities, Burberry’s new direction is great to see.

In recent years we’ve seen countless brands suck all the distinction out of their identity in favour of a sans-serif font with no logomark or something very simple and stripped back.

While I understand this trend was partly driven by a need to deliver clarity at smaller screen sizes (particularly on digital), and our growing preference for minimalism, it’s baffled me to see some truly distinct brands follow this move towards a simple font with nothing unique to shout about.

Burberry’s new serif logo gives them a much more distinct aesthetic and by bringing their iconic horse-riding knight back from the ashes, they’ve leaned into the very things that Burberry should be known for – Britishness, luxurious detail, and a sense of freedom.

Here’s to more brands having the bravery to break the mould of boring brand identities. I really hope we see more of this. 

Fara Darvill

Growth director, Structure

New creative director? It must be time for a rebrand, and this one is about bringing back tradition.
Burberry is no stranger to controversy but has proved to be a brave brand, not afraid of reinvention. It has succeeded in turning negatives into positives with strong leadership and great marketing and branding strategies.
This new identity and campaign are retrospective and ‘steeped’ in Britishness. The rebrand, while not a reinvention, taps into the brand’s tradition and historic values. The return of the knight feels like a reminder of Burberry’s heritage, exclusivity, and luxury positioning.
The full campaign rolls out later in February and will be one to watch.

Alixandria Wolfe

Associate design director, Re

Daniel Lee is really leaning into Burberry’s British heritage, and thank God. The new serif logo is inspired from type used by the brand in the early 20th century. With a slightly high x-height and some unexpected serif shapes it’s got a personality Burberry can really own. And that ‘prorsum’ emblem. It breaks all the rules of icon legibility when it comes to scaling, but for all the right reasons.

Going forward I hope more brands will reach into their arsenal of goodies for what makes them unique. Homogeny no more. It’s what all the cool kids are doing.

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Categories: Clothing and Fashion, Designer

LBB Editorial, Thu, 09 Feb 2023 14:26:30 GMT