Comparative Critique: Burton

1977 Londonderry, Vermont is where Jake Burton Carpenter spent his days making ‘Burton Boards’ in a barn and testing them in the backcountry of southern Vermont. Over 40 years later and Burton is an international corporation with factories and offices around the world. Burton has used their reputation in the industry and international presence to advocate for human and environmental rights by giving back to the community as well as making strides in sustainable production and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Burton’s logo-mark has seen dozens of iterations throughout the company’s history with the famous mountain icon making its first appearance in 1979. The latest redesign done in-house goes back to the company’s roots with a modern, geometrically balanced look; emphasizing the role of the environment as a uniting cause.

The mountain icon used in Burton’s new logo comes from another iteration of the original from 1983. The previous version was unbalanced and the points lacked consistency in sharpness but more accurately reflected the rugged nature of the mountain. The left side of the icon extending lower than the right made it appear titled when used on products or placed as a sticker. The refreshed mountain was constructed on a grid to maintain balance and the points were made a consistent shape to make the icon appear more uniform. The return to the mountain icon signifies the re-focusing of brand values to align with current issues like climate change and human rights; the mountain being a central environment where those ideas come together. Similar to previous versions, the mountain is always to be accompanied by the word-mark; although it is now located underneath the icon instead of being incorporated into the shape. This allows for clear legibility and the elements to be more easily recognized independently. Going in a different direction than their 2000’s skate inspired graphics, large bold letter marks like B that looked like a 13 or the weird arrow thing they had when I was introduced to their brand. More geometric direction, balanced for easier application, matching better with lineal typeface and following the modernization minimalist trend. Bar logo and all caps word mark, bold and provocative while clean and organized, coming from 90s counterculture expression and snowboarding being an emerging sport and increasing in popularity with younger audiences because lame old skiers just don’t understand.

Constructed on the same grid system, the secondary logo separates the two elements of the primary logo and uses them in specific instances where vertical space is limited or certain stylistic contexts. The two elements are used together but placed separately, one usually contained within the corresponding shape in negative space. This allows for more clear use and identification of the word-mark and the use of the mountain icon as a compositional element.

A horizontal tertiary logo is used when both elements need to be represented but vertical space limits the use of the primary; placed side by side with the mountain icon first (reading left-to-right) is referred to as the horizontal logo and is used on things like product tags or web-page footers.

Burton may have returned to an 80’s inspired logo but they ditched the disco poster, bubbly serif typeface. In place of the retro style type is Helvetica Now. 

“Our typeface is central to our brand expression, and essential for our brand to show up loud and clear. Adherence to our typographic standards is how we show up with a superior quality look and feel and avoid looking generic.”

Avoid looking generic? Burton has followed in the footsteps of countless companies over the years in transitioning from a hyper stylized font that stands out on a poster and early 2000’s webpage ad — to an organized, linear, and corporate identity; Helvetica is just about as generic as it gets. “Similar to our own identity, refinement of a timeless classic” is pushing for modernity and following the minimalism trend. Burton’s choice of a geometric font looks cohesive with the mountain icon and does a good overall job of representing the company as one that provides trustworthy products and has decades of experience in the industry. The modernization of Burton’s identity is no surprise as the company takes its role more seriously in the industry, as they become more and more involved advocating for human and environmental rights around the world.

The only official colors listed are black and white, colored use of the logo is found in clothing applications and some forms of media but most commonly be used as black and white to ensure clarity and consistency. Makes sense but seems pretty lazy, but also smart, an easy way to make use of a variety of colors in products and media while the brand maintains a clean and unified appearance.

Burton’s refreshed identity pays homage to its origin and represents the brands core values; after Jake, the founder of Burton, passed away in 2019 the company has worked to honor his legacy by continuing their efforts of inclusivity and environmentalism. Following corporate modernist trends seen throughout the decades, Burton’s redesign does a good job of representing the cultured history of the brand and sport while maintaining a cohesive identity that represents more than just quality products.

Note: A small glimpse into the evolution of Burton’s identity

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