Visa has unveiled a new design for its corporate word mark, dropping the color gold from the design entirely for the first time. This might seem like an arbitrary corporate tinkering at first, but there may be more here than meets the eye.
First unveiled two weeks ago, Visa has not only dropped Pantone 1375 from its word mark, it also incorporates a deeper shade of blue, shears some of the lettering slightly, and introduces a horizontal gradient. So far, reaction has been ambivalent at best, and hostile at worst.
“Talk about a totally unnecessary change,” writes Armin Vit of Brand New, a division of UnderConsideration that covers redesigns of well-known brands. “Removing the yellow strand makes no sense […] Now it just looks like the worst single serif on an italic sans serif ever.”
Visa removing the gold from its word mark shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. Visa has been dimming the gold from its logo for years.
The blue and gold colors associated with the brand actually predate the “Visa” name itself. The color choice extends back to 1958, when Bank Of America began mailing unsolicited credit cards called BankAmericards to customers. These first cards were blue and gold after the blue skies and golden hills of California, where Bank of America was based. That use of gold would go on to have a more obvious interpretation in Visa’s logo: it represented the luxury and prestige that having a credit card once represented.
Yet over the last 55 years, Visa’s brand has consistently evolved towards eliminating the use of gold and replacing it with more blue. In fact, each revision of the logo has trimmed more of the gilding away from the version that preceded it.
Now, Visa has finally killed off the use of gold in the word mark entirely, with the only a hint remaining in the font of the new tagline, “Everywhere you want to be.”
But why? I asked Visa’s chief marketing officer Kevin Burke about Visa’s decision to get rid of the gold in the brand after so many years. The response was vague. “As we evolve our positioning for the future, we want the strongest visual representation of our brand to align with our vision as the best way to pay and be paid, for everyone, everywhere,” said Burke. “The updated logo is simplified to reflect how consumers interact with our brand over mobile and digital channels and now works in all sizes and on all backgrounds.”
As near as Burke wants to be pinned down, then, the elimination of gold is primarily about “reflecting how consumers interact with our brand.” Paired that with this statement from Visa’s chief brand Antonio Lucio, and it starts to make more sense: “We recognized that, for the first time in Visa’s 55-year history ‘everywhere’ is now within reach of ‘everyone’,” said Lucio.
What Visa may be saying, then, is that in an effort to be a brand for “everyone,” they are simplifying the palette. The implication being that gold is not for everyone. The move to drop gold from the word mark is an egalitarian one, then. As a color, gold is traditionally associated with exclusiveness and wealth. There was a time in which having a magic card that allowed you to buy things with money you didn’t actually have seemed impossibly luxurious, but over the years, having a Visa card has gradually stopped being viewed as a gold-encrusted perk.
Like many redesigns, Visa’s new brand mark is going flat to make it easier to translate to other media. But that doesn’t account for why the blue has slowly consumed the gold in Visa’s brand for the past five decades. Could the real reason be that the decline of gold in the Visa logo is mapped to democratization of cheap credit, charted in the palette of a single corporate word mark? There was a time when a credit card seemed gilded, but not anymore.