Consistency vs. Evolution (in branding)

I've been thinking about branding lately, and how much a brand should continue to evolve as it tells a story versus remaining consistent/static for the sake of its strength & distiguishability in the eyes of the audience. Most of what I currently do in the design world involves the branding of events that repeat annually, so the greatest challenge is continuing to come up with fresh and unique ways of presenting the same event while maintaining boundaries that help it to keep its identity. For example, you can cook an omelette a hundred different ways with endless possibilities of ingredients, but no matter what, it is going to be made with eggs and it will most likely look and taste like an omelette (we hope!).

Below is an example of an event at Sac State that has become an annual tradition at the Rock Climbing Wall — The Mile High Climb. Participants are challenged to climb a vertical mile over the course of one month. In order to maintain consistency over several years, the same logo has been used and all of the promotional printed materials have been slim and tall in dimension in order reinforce the vertical nature of the event. On the other hand, in order distinguish between the years and keep the look fresh and exciting, each year a new color palette is introduced and a new "rocky" textural image to fill in the mountain part of the logo. The structure/form of the logo never changes (consistency), but the style and feel of it is altered (individuality). 

Another thing to think about is how much should brands change as the businesses, events, and cultures they represent change. Should a brand be progressive and move forward with the story that is being told, or should it be more of an anchor that remains fixed, keeping the company safely afloat in the sea of inconsistency, short-term design trends, and style wars? I think that the most successful brands have discovered how to balance the two. Leaning too far one way will cause a brand to become outdated and irrelevant to its audience; leaning too far the other way will hurt the loyalty and trust that the audience has in the brand. Both extremes cause the brand to be weakened in its ability to effectively communicate why it exists and what it represents.

My example below is not the most thorough example of brand evolution over time, but nevertheless, it is what inspired this post. If anyone has anymore thoughts on this, please join the discussion by commenting below or shooting me an email. I'd love to hear what other creatives think about this.

2011 Mile High Climb Logo


2012 Mile High Climb Logo & Application