MasterCard unveiled its new logo earlier this summer, and as far as rebrandings go, the tweaks were subtle: The company kept its overlapping red and yellow balls intact, and moved its name, which was previously front and center, to beneath the balls, while making the text lowercase. With increasing frequency, MasterCard said, it would do away with using its name in the logo entirely. The focus would be more on the symbol than the words.
MasterCard’s move reflects a wider shift among some of the most widely recognized global brands to de-emphasize the text in their logos, or remove it altogether. Nike was among the first brands to do this, in 1995, when its swoosh began to appear with the words “Just Do It,” and then without any words at all. Apple, McDonald’s, and other brands followed a similar trajectory, gravitating toward entirely textless symbols after a period of transition with logos that had taglines like “Think Different” or “I’m lovin’ it.”
This shift is ostensibly in accordance with a more streamlined approach to design, as well as certain features of the modern economy: Symbols work better than long names on computer screens and apps, and they allow for greater flexibility if a company wants to dabble in multiple industries at once. For instance, names like Starbucks Coffee and MasterCard are tied to specific products in ways that symbols are not, which can be a disadvantage at a time when it’s perfectly plausible for a company that makes phones to make cars too. Additionally, visual cues can travel across borders more easily, because they eliminate the need for translation.